During the 24 hours we spent in North Dakota last week,
I filmed a sacred fire in ceremony, not realizing what it was, even though that was exactly what I wasn’t supposed to do. My camera was not confiscated. I was not escorted off the camp. I think the man who stopped me saw the shock on my face when I understood what I’d done.
I filmed children, before being told that they could be taken from their families if the footage reached the Internet. Later, I covered my lens as a toddler ran across the gymnasium floor straight through my long shot depicting hundreds of clergy gathered for a single cause.
You cannot be unbiased in media.
I thought about turning my camera off, but even though I was uncomfortable, terrified of messing up and offending people, I knew I was there to spread, not exploit, the story.
Many people cried on camera. Others turned me away. Some thanked me for listening. I thanked them for taking the time to explain, again, what their people have been explaining for hundreds of years.
There is no such thing as unbiased coverage.
No matter the camera size or the distance from the subject, if someone cries in response to a question I have asked them, I will feel it.
That is a necessary function of being human, and of being a journalist. Empathy, the ability to push when necessary and to carefully ask the questions that dig deep, makes for good interviews.
Journalism is not unbiased.
While I am not unbiased, I am also not fully in the moment. The days in Standing Rock are a blur for me due to lack of sleep and the juggling act of simultaneously occupying the roles of student among peers and journalist embedded among subjects. Serving as navigator for our van from the passenger seat while also diving for the record button when we approached unexpected police checkpoints. Wondering if my camera and microphone would get us pulled over, but still holding it steady above the dashboard as we drew closer to the flashing red and blue lights.
The whole time I am asking myself what I’m doing: should I put the camera down? Am I here for the right reasons?
I did not leave Standing Rock with a clearer picture of the situation. Misinformation abounds among groups of this size and when the mainstream media takes photos of the “action” and mace and rubber bullets, they miss the peaceful, lawful protest. The nation will not see what we did, the moments of trust between the Standing Rock Elders and law enforcement, standing on a bridge that a week ago was a war zone lit aflame. Now, the burned out shells of trucks stand as a barricade between them.
There is so much documentation, information, misinformation flying around Facebook and the web. Here, we offer you what a group of Knox students saw when they abandoned days of classes because they decided to answer the call of something they believed was greater. This is our tiny angle on history, printed here and on display in a virtual timeline on our website.
See it, or don’t, but hundreds are living at the Oceti Sakowin camp as you turn through these pages, scroll through your feed. The Sioux tribe at Standing rock has no running water. They’re paying thousands a day to provide protesters with portable toilets. A woman is roaming camp, inviting others to join her tent for dinner. She’s made cabbage soup, and has plenty to share.
There are no meal swipes here, and very little cell coverage except for the location of the media tent dubbed “Facebook Hill.” Thirteen hours from us, people are traveling across the country, the world, to join Standing Rock. Here at TKS, we can show you what the Knox students who joined them saw. Since this group has returned, more have left, and more will continue to go.
Tune in. Take five minutes and learn how what it means to be an American is so different from our understanding only thirteen hours from here.