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How the news is often constructed: Deconstructing the WZZM 13 story on the MMIP rally and march for May 5th in Grand Rapids

May 8, 2023

One major element of Media Literacy is the idea that all media is constructed. There isn’t a 360 degree video shot that is unfiltered. The news media essentially gives us what they want to give us and when they want to give us the news.

A clear example was the recent Missing or Murdered Indigenous Person’s awareness day action that took place on Friday, May 5th, in downtown Grand Rapids. I was at that event, so I decided to record the full interview that WZZM 13 did with one of the organizers of the event, Jade Green. Here is the unedited interview that channel 13 conducted with Jade.

Now, here is the WZZM 13 story as it aired later that night for their 11pm news broadcast.

After looking at the unedited version of what Jade had to say and what they included in the channel 13 news story, one can see/hear that they use just a few seconds of what the Indigenous Youth organizer had to say. The portion of the interview was a pretty good one, since the comment from Jade challenged the Federal and State governments to do more than just pass resolutions. 

However, had channel 13 stayed for the entire program, which included several Indigenous speakers and a march through downtown Grand Rapids, they would have captured a great deal more that would have provided viewers a more complete sense of what Indigenous people are demanding. For instance, speakers hit a several important issues during their talks, such as:

  • Making sure that people understood that MMIP included, men, women, children and two-spirit members of the Indigenous community, something that is important, especially since there is a great deal of backlash and the LGBTQ community, particularly the trans community. 
  • That Line 5 must be shut down immediately, since it directly impacts Indigenous communities and violates numerous treaties.
  • In edition, pipeline projects and other fossil fuel extraction projects, like the Willow Project in Alaska, which one of the speakers addressed, is important because it means that camps are set up for oil & pas workers, what are general referred to as “man camps.” It has been well documented that the presence of oil & gas workers always increases the possibility of sexual assault and murder of Indigenous people, which has been well documented, like the findings in this article by the Center for Public Integrity.

A fourth, and last point, was the fact that the WZZM 13 newsreader stated that the youth organizer who was interviewed said that the violence against Indigenous people is genocide. Now, it is a common misunderstanding that when people hear the word genocide, they think that means the outright extermination of a group of people. However, genocide, as was determined by the 1948 United Nations Genocide Convention, means more than the killing of a group of people. Here are the ways that genocide can be perpetrated against Indigenous people.

Article II 

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: 

  1. Killing members of the group; 
  2. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; 
  3. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; 
  4. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; 
  5. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. 

Overall, the WZZM 13 story was not an awful story on the MMIP rally/march, but it was fairly superficial, missing an expanded critique of how violence is being perpetrated against Indigenous people in North America, along with no real list of demands or concrete examples sexual assault and violence that several speakers have experienced, along with the lasting trauma they must live with for the rest of their lives. All news agencies can and must do better when reporting on critical issues that affect communities, particularly communities that are highly marginalized in the dominant society.

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