By Joergen Ostensen
Environmental activist, Erin Schrode, spoke to me on December 13, in an interview for The Anchor. Previously, she had been the subject of an Anchor editorial which condemned the actions of police at Standing Rock, North Dakota. The police shot her with a rubber bullet while she was overtly acting as a journalist. The editorial also discussed that the lack of coverage of this event was a disservice to democracy. This is the third part of a four part series of articles resulting from my conversation.
Although activists, Erin Schrode included, have been consistently putting their lives on the line to oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline the media overlooked the situation as constant election and post election coverage overshadowed Standing Rock. Many have criticized the lack of coverage Standing Rock garnered especially with the near war zone footage that dominated the niche and alternative media.
Erin Schrode, who worked to raise exposure of the Standing Rock issue through her journalism and social media presence, was particularly incensed by the lack of coverage. “I’m appalled,” she said. “By the lack of…mainstream media coverage of Standing Rock…really up until the veterans arrived.”
Schrode was shot by police in early November while acting as a journalist. The attack on her person occurred in the middle of an interview. That is the sort of attack that would be typical of Aleppo or another war zone, and it is abnormal, if not disturbing that it occurred on U.S. soil. However, even that was not covered fully let alone extensively by the mass media. Schrode, who was a guest on CNN Newsroom hosted by Carol Costello on the morning of the day she was shot by police, reached out to CNN after the attack only to have them not pick up the story. Schrode said also that “a lot” of the mainstream media did at least write about the attack. She cited NBC, ABC, Elle Magazine and the BBC who all covered the story.
Schrode also pointed out the unusual nature of even that much coverage, “A lot of big time media wrote about the fact that a white female was shot. I got notes from a lot of Native Americans saying, ‘thank you for taking a bullet because if it was me it never would have gotten any coverage.’ The coverage was not adequate…but there was coverage.”
Schrode, went on to say that the coverage although present should have been far greater. “It should have been everywhere…an innocent journalist being shot in America should make headlines and nightly news…” Schrode did point out that her shooting occurred only a few days before the election which caused some news organizations to give the story less attention than they normally would. However, she also said that both her shooting and the Standing Rock issue as a whole deserved more coverage.
There is a direct correlation between the public outcry to a police shooting and the amount of media attention a story gets, particularly in this instance where there is a video. “Everybody who saw the video was…incredulous…absolutely lost their minds…how in America today can this occur? Please remember, this is not…a war zone…this is the United States of America…[Standing Rock] effectively became [a war zone].” The niche media that did put this video out into the cybersphere have audiences that lean heavily to the political left meaning that in many cases seeing the video only reinforced beliefs. If a larger audience had the same opportunity the outcry of Schrode’s shooting would have been far greater.
As a result, of the lack of mainstream media attention of Standing Rock many began or continued to lose faith in the ability of networks, such as CNN, FOX News, and MSNBC, to rightly inform the electorate of important iss
ues. Schrode was one of the disillusioned, “I lost a lot of faith and a lot of trust in mainstream media…because of their lack of coverage of Standing Rock.” The Dakota Access Pipeline issue would have been resolved far earlier had the coverage been greater.
Erin Schrode believes that another issue with the media in relation to Standing Rock is that events were mischaracterized. “There is a false narrative in the media that is perpetrating lies about any sort of violence coming from water protectors at all. There is a false narrative in the media saying that police are justified…that’s not right…that’s wrong…period.” This false narrative transcends the pipeline and the associated fight. According to Schrode, Native American issues as a rule are undercover and misrepresented by the media and by society. She gave the example of the Thanksgiving holiday which natives referred to as “thankskilling” at Standing Rock. The perception is that Thanksgiving was a peaceful meeting of Europeans and Native Americans when in reality it was a “massacre.”
Schrode was able to find hope for Native Americans and their associated issues in the many indigenous people that were united by Standing Rock and their efforts to “change the paradigm.”