WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Journalists or Advocates?

Oct 25, 2016

Some protesters have been arrested in North Dakota and Iowa while demonstrating against the Dakota Access crude oil pipeline.  Some people who say they’re journalists have also been arrested, though the Shop Talk panelists wonder whether some of them are truly journalists or advocates.

Panelist Rich Egger said the people claiming to be journalists in southeast Iowa are with an organization called Unicorn Riot.  He said its website seems to be more about advocacy than journalism.  And he pointed out the Lee County Sheriff’s Department warned in advance it would arrest anyone who trespasses on private property.

Panelist Will Buss said a trained journalist generally understands the boundaries of where he/she can go and where he/she cannot go while covering an event. He said reporters who step onto private property should know they’re risking arrest. 

Panelist Jasmine Crighton said one of those arrested in North Dakota is Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!  Crighton said Goodman has done journalistic work in the past, but she feels Democracy Now! sounds more like an advocacy group than an objective news organization.

Egger said Democracy Now! leans to the far left, but on the other hand Fox News advocates for causes far to the right and that network seems to be accepted as part of the mainstream media – one of its reporters even moderated the third presidential debate.  So he questions whether it’s fair to say that Democracy Now! is not doing journalism.

Buss said perhaps a news organization needs to prove itself.  He said The Huffington Post and Politico were regarded as outsiders not too long ago but now they’re generally accepted as a credible news sources.  And Crighton said TMZ used to be disregarded by most journalists but now is considered a legitimate source for news regarding celebrities.