February 12, 2009

Native press shut out at DOI

First lady’s interior visit highlights lack of Native press access

By Rob CapricciosoMany tribal and national American Indian media outlets knew beforehand that first lady Michelle Obama would be making a Feb. 9 visit to the Department of the Interior. But, due to roadblocks set up by the White House, Native media were shut out at an event, during which Obama would reveal big news for Indian country.

Indian media have long been denied access when attempting to cover federal government events. At Obama’s inauguration several tribal papers could not get press access to the swearing-in ceremony–and many were left to rely on mainstream coverage to help tell their stories.
Comment:  Read the article to learn the details of how the White House wouldn't let the Native press cover Michelle Obama's visit to the DOI.

Capriccioso contacted me for my thoughts on the subject. Read the article to see a rare quote from me in the media.

Here's my full answer to Capriccioso's questions:I didn't know that Michelle Obama's visit was invitation only. Or that the invitations extended only to the mainstream press pool. This seems wrong on the face of it. If an administration event involves Natives and the rules prevent Native press coverage, make an exception to the rules. Better yet, change the rules.

I'm not sure I even knew that there are no Indians in the press pool. My rule of thumb on this subject is proportionality. Since Natives make up roughly 1% of the US population, someone from Indian Country should fill one of every 100 slots. If that isn't happening, I'd say it's a problem.

So far I haven't been impressed with Obama's efforts to include Natives. I know he's busy, but he should think about the message he's sending. Balanced against his appointment of Jodi Gillette, there are the questionable lines in his Inaugural Address, the lack of mention in the WhiteHouse.gov agenda, the careless vetting of Bill Richardson and Tom Daschle, the controversial consideration of Larry EchoHawk as head of the BIA, and now the prevention of Native press coverage at the DOI. If Obama doesn't improve his record on Native inclusion and access, people may start wondering.
For more on the subject, see Native Journalism:  To Tell the Truth.


Anonymous said...

Not to mention he's sucking up to the lincoln mythos and lincoln's 'strong' union; a union that was kept together by genocide and war mongering

Rob said...

A response via e-mail:

Thanks for sharing this troubling news. I wish Obama could read Newspaper Rock!