Since April, thousands of Native Americans and their allies have camped near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, on the Sioux Standing Rock reservation. They’re speaking out against the Dakota Access pipeline, which would stretch 1,170 miles transporting crude oil from the Bakken to processing facilities in Illinois. Demonstrators are saying the pipeline is an environmental and public health hazard, as it runs underneath the nearby Missouri River an important resource for many. In addition, the construction of the pipeline itself has destroyed significant sacred sites on land just outside of the reservation borders. Yet the much of the regional economy is built on oil and gas and there are many in the area who support the pipeline.
As a journalism review, we need to examine the issues that have come up surrounding the coverage of this event. It’s something that’s close to home and deals with issues to those of Montanans — Native American rights and culture and the effects natural resource acquisition has on the people and the environment. We need to also cover the other side — what will this pipeline do for the northwest’s economy as a whole? Covering the events is difficult. The situation is complicated, the camp is relatively isolated, and there are deep cultural issues that come up when discussing the pipeline.
We have been covering aspects of the situation through social media and Medium. More in-depth reporting will culminate in a print story about the media’s role, as well as a multimedia package that tells the story of how all these components (protesters, citizens, journalists and companies) come together.