March 02, 2010

Native journalists = foreigners?!

A congressional bias against certain press

By Rob CapricciosoI was reading an interview with Ana Marie Cox, of Wonkette fame, the other day. Before losing her job with the shuttered Air America, she said she had a difficult time getting a congressional press pass because the people in Congress who dole out that special access “considered Air America to be too close to advocacy.”

She made the concurrent point that Fox News gets in, no problem, and so does The New York Post.

I’ve also faced difficulty getting a congressional press pass as a Washington staff reporter for Indian Country Today. Not because the powers that be say we’re advocacy-oriented, but because they flat out equate tribes as foreign governments and/or lobbyists. No exceptions. Because the paper I work for is owned by a company that’s owned by a tribe, somehow that means our journalism is tainted. No matter our principles, no matter our aim for truth and accuracy, no matter our awards—there’s something wrong with us.

The U.S. Senate Periodical Press Gallery says those are the rules. But what the situation really boils down to is a U.S. government bias against tribes. The same U.S. government that strives to protect the 1st Amendment; that holds freedom of the press up as an important symbol of our country’s greatness; that likes to say it has a special relationship with tribes. If special means unfair, then that’s news to me.
Someone named Paul posted the following comment:...Wait a minute. Aren’t Native American tribes always trying to be seen as sovereign nations with exceptions to all kinds of US laws, with the ability to govern themselves with their own police force, education, etc.? Why wouldn’t Congress treat you like a journalist from a foreign country?To which Capriccioso replied:Because tribes aren’t foreign countries, Paul. They are domestic sovereign nations. The special relationship tribes have with the U.S. government under the Constitution does not mean they are foreign countries. That the rule makers who oversee congressional press passes think tribes are foreign countries is quite telling. And that those rule makers are circumventing 1st Amendment rights for tribal newspapers in the U.S. is just a shame. Even more eye-opening: if a non-Indian-owned company were to open a tribal newspaper, it could hypothetically get press passes without problem, yet a tribe that opens a business to practice sound journalism is punished by being treated in a biased way.Comment:  As someone (John Echohawk?) said recently, we need a Tribal Sovereignty Education Act. To inform people how a dual-citizenship arrangement works.

Of course, I don't see a problem with letting the truly foreign press cover the White House too. Freedom of the press means letting everyone in: from the august New York Times to Chinese and Native journalists to bloggers in their pajamas.

For more on the subject, see Native Journalism:  To Tell the Truth.


Giishnasi'dood miknoot said...

As much as NDN Country tries to cooperate within the realm of the US and laws of our soveriegn/citizen "dualship", it's my honest belief US never had nor will ever have intentions of us truly being considered a part of the US. The fact the White considers our press a "foreign entity" is just another stone in the foundation of proof that US doesn't want us around, at all.

dmarks said...

"Freedom of the press means letting everyone in: from the august New York Times to Chinese and Native journalists to bloggers in their pajamas."

Great point. Something forgotten by those who oppose the recent Supreme Court free speech ruling by claiming that it will allow more foreign views/speech into the US.

Rob said...

"Everyone" refers to every person, not every corporation, robot, or dog. The latter three aren't human beings and don't have the same constitutional rights.

For more on the recent Supreme Court ruling, see:,0,5829403.story

dmarks said...

There is no clause in the First Amendment to allow individuals to be censored if they are members of an organization. The ruling was a victory for First Amendment rights, even if I don't like the corporate personhood part of it.

And yes, I've had several argue that the ruling is bad because it will let more foreign ideas into the country.