October 22nd, 2016

Muckraking is a proud and storied tradition for Journalists in America. Perhaps my favorite example is Ida Minerva Tarbell, the woman who singlehandedly brought down the giant that was Standard Oil. In my lifetime I have followed the journalistic careers of I.F. Stone and Roldo Bartimole.

Judge John Grinsteiner threw out rioting charges related to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests against well-known journalist Amy Goodman. Not well-known journalist Deia Schlosberg may not be so fortunate.

Deirdre Fulton, writing in ‘I Was Doing My Job’: Climate Reporter Facing 45 Years Speaks Out for Common Dreams, explains:

Schlosberg, an independent filmmaker and climate reporter, was arrested last week in Walhalla, North Dakota for filming the unprecedented #ShutItDown protest held in solidarity with the Dakota Access Pipeline protests.

“When I was arrested, I was doing my job,” Schlosberg said in a statement released Tuesday. “I was reporting. I was documenting. Journalism needs to be passionately and ethically pursued and defended if we are to remain a free democratic country. Freedom of the press, guaranteed by the First Amendment, is absolutely critical to maintaining an informed citizenry, without which, democracy is impossible.”

That is absolutely true. Full stop. Tarbell understood that. Stone knew that. Roldo knows that.

Thieves and despoilers cannot easily operate in the bright light of journalism. Schlosberg told Fulton:

I am a climate reporter; my specialty is following the story of how humankind is creating a grave problem for civilization by continuing to flood the atmosphere with greenhouse gases through the burning of fossil fuels and other industrial processes. I don’t think there is nearly enough reporting on climate change nor the movement of people around the world working to lessen the impacts of climate change.

It is the responsibility of journalists and reporters to document newsworthy events, and it is particularly important for independent media to tell the stories that mainstream media is not covering. The mainstream did not break the story on fracking nor did it break the story about what is happening at the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota, nor the stories told in my most recent film with Josh Fox, How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change. Accordingly, I felt I had a duty to document the unprecedented #ShutItDown climate action, which stopped all Canadian oil sands from entering the United States. Canadian oil sands importation is a controversial issue that is not getting the coverage it warrants, especially considering that the extraction and use of oil sands has a profound impact on every person on this planet.

Schlosberg is not alone. In addition to Goodman, others are feeling the corporate wrath of those who wish to exploit and despoil with impunity.

Schlosberg concluded by drawing attention to fellow videographers Lindsey Grayzel and Carl Davis, who were arrested in Washington state last week for filming the same action and also face preliminary felony charges. Grayzel told Reuters that her footage was also confiscated. “For reporters who are simply doing their job, which is their constitutionally protected right, to be facing such charges is an outrage,” she said.

The whole world is watching must continue to be as true today as it was in 1968.

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