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Dakota Access Blackout Continues on ABC, NBC News

Neil Young’s song about the Dakota Access pipeline fight is 5 minutes, 39 seconds longer than the combined coverage of the controversy on the ABC and NBC networks. (Screenshot: Slate)

The Sacred Stone Camp established by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in North Dakota has brought together thousands of demonstrators in opposition to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, a 1,172-mile conduit designed to carry some 200 million barrels of crude oil per year from fracking fields in North Dakota to Southern Illinois. An unprecedented coalition of hundreds of  Native American tribes has faced down attack dogs and pepper spray in defense of sacred and historic sites, irreplaceable water resources and the planet’s climate.

The action has won the support of environmental groups, some labor activists and numerous celebrities, and has halted pipeline construction at least temporarily. The Obama administration issued a statement calling for a work stoppage and saying, “This case has highlighted the need for a serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects.”

Nevertheless, to this day, ABC News and NBC News have yet to broadcast a word about the pipeline struggle, according to searches of the Nexis news database.

FAIR noted on September 7 that CBS, alone of the three major broadcast news networks, had aired anything on Dakota Access—and that was a lone report on CBS Morning News (9/5/16), amounting to 48 words read at 4 o’clock in the morning. Since then, CBS has returned to the story repeatedly—including two medium-sized reports on the network’s flagship news show, CBS Evening News (9/8/16, 9/10/16).


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The pipeline issue did receive lengthy (by TV news standards) and sympathetic reports on MSNBC‘s Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell (8/25/16, 8/29/16, 9/6/16, 9/9/16) and Maddow (9/9/16) . It also appeared on CNN, including The Lead  With Jake Tapper (9/5/16) and Anderson Cooper 360 (9/8/16). Even Fox News brought it up (Special Report, 9/15/16), challenging Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein as to why she had been charged with vandalism for spray-painting construction equipment at the protest. The PBS NewsHour  took a more than cursory look at the Dakota Access controversy on September 16.

As of this writing, no TV outlet included in the Nexis database has mentioned that independent journalist Amy Goodman was charged with trespassing for reporting on the pipeline protest (, 9/15/16)—though Lawrence O’Donnell (Last Word, 9/6/16, 9/9/16) did twice mention the footage Goodman shot for Democracy Now! of Dakota Access guard dogs with bloody mouths after being used to attack protesters. Nor has any national newspaper reported on North Dakota’s legal assault on newsgathering.

Rock legend Neil Young released a song called “Indian Givers” in support of the Dakota Access mobilization. The chorus of the song repeats, “I wish somebody would share the news.”

I wish more corporate media decision-makers were Neil Young fans.

Jim Naureckas

Jim Naureckas

Jim Naureckas is editor of EXTRA! Magazine at FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting). He is the co-author of  "Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error," and co-editor of The FAIR Reader. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website.

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