Media slammed over coverage of natives
Group claims local TV, newspaper not fair in reporting
Posted By JOANNE MILTENBURG, EXPOSITOR STAFF
The mainstream media came under fire from native media outlets for their coverage of land claims protests in Caledonia and Brantford at a forum Thursday night.
The meeting was organized by the citizens group TRUE (Two Row Understanding through Education). The group is trying to bring natives and non-natives together to understand the historical perspective natives have on development.
Thursday's discussion focused on coverage of land claims in Caledonia and the conflicts between natives, residents of Caledonia, and the police.
About 100 people gathered in Laurier Brantford's Odeon Theatre for the meeting.
"The media hold great responsibility in shaping the opinions of non-native residents," said organizer Jim Windle, who works for a native weekly paper. "Unless you were there, all you can do is believe it."
Windle criticized CHCH News of Hamilton for inflammatory coverage of the events in Caledonia, and for covering only the white residents' side of the conflict.
"As soon as you go to Caledonia, you're going to see black smoke and destruction and people dying in the streets," he said of CHCH coverage.
Windle acknowledged that some of the unbalanced coverage stemmed from the natives refusing to speak to the station. "I'm not sure it's a great policy. By not allowing CHCH anywhere near what's going on, they couldn't help but be biased."
Windle said television stations also used images of police in riot gear, without mentioning they were facing a crowd of angry Caledonia residents -- not natives.
Windle also called on The Expositor to account for its coverage of the ongoing land claims protests in Brantford.
He highlighted the "sensational picture" of police officers arresting a native protester that ran on the front page of the newspaper.
While acknowledging it was "a great picture," he criticized The Expositor for incorrectly reporting that the protester had punched an officer in the face. Police issued a news release saying an officer had been assaulted. Expositor managing editor David
Judd asked to respond and reminded the audience that The Expositor has been covering land claims long before Caledonia and the newspaper has several native freelancers who write columns for the paper.
Windle was joined by Al Sault, news director of CKRZ radio, Donna Duric, former Turtle Island News reporter and Sandra Muse, former Tekawennake reporter.
The group recounted stories of being harassed by Caledonia residents while covering the standoff because they worked for native media.
"If we were working for the native media, we were seriously accosted and attacked," Duric said.
Musa said she was confronted by a Caledonia man who was angry that she had taken his picture and the man had to be restrained by police. "I never expected to be afraid for my life like I was in Caledonia," Muse said.
Duric, a non-native, said despite the intimidation, the three years she spent working for Turtle Island News were incredibly valuable.
"What would I be thinking about the issues if I never had the opportunity to work on Six Nations?" she asked. "I wish everybody in Canada would have the opportunity to learn what I've learned."