woundedkneecemetery
The Wounded Knee cemetery on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Photo: William O’Brien
Notes from Indian Country
Telling the other side of the story
Friday, January 8, 2021

As the publisher of a Native newspaper for more than 40 years I have accepted criticism as a state of mind.

I have always faced constructive criticism of my newspaper as something that would help me make the newspaper better. With that in mind I would like to offer some constructive criticism of National Native News.

National Native News invited a white reporter on their show and allowed him to attack me without ever checking out his background, or the fact that he was working for a rival newspaper at the time. His name was Jim Kent and he had been fired from nearly every reporting job he held in South Dakota.

He ranted and raved against me, and the management at National Native News never called me or offered me an opportunity to join the show to defend myself. They finally called me a week or two after the fact and asked if I wanted to respond to Kent’s comments only after they heard I was unhappy with their show, but by then it was much too late. They should have called me the minute they knew he was going to be on their show attacking me. That was a case of extremely bad reporting.

Tim Giago. Photo courtesy Native Sun News Today

Native America News sent their ace reporter Antonia Gonzales to South Dakota to do a story. We had no idea she was going to be in Rapid City because we would have loved to interview her for our Native American audience and ask her some questions from a Native perspective. The only reason we found out she was in our town was by the half page article about her that appeared in the local white daily newspaper.

We would have asked her how she gathered news pertaining to the Lakota people and if her radio show had a local Native reporter that our readership could reach if they wanted to submit a story. We would also have asked her when National Native News airs in our region, what day and at what time of day. Most of us have no idea when their show airs in our area. And we probably would have suggested a couple of story ideas she could pursue while she was in Western South Dakota.

Their interview with Jim Kent has long since passed. I have no idea if any of those people tuning into their show that day believed any of the falsehoods he spread. I only know that if I had been called and asked to be a part of the show I would have been able to tell my side of the story.

National Native News knows there are always two sides to every story. And to allow a white reporter to attack a long time Native American journalist without allowing that Native to be a part of the discussion is just plain wrong.

But the topic they allowed Kent to distort was a very important topic because it involved the land at Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. I lived at Wounded Knee when I was a boy and my newspaper has written articles on the Massacre at Wounded Knee on December 29, 1890, nearly every year since we have been publishing.

This white reporter had little or no knowledge of any of this. To allow him to air his misgivings on an Indian radio station by attacking a Native journalist made no sense to any reporter who is worth his or her salt.

I offer this critique in its most sincere form. The station manager at National Native News should always remember that there are two sides to every story and if the one side you are reporting is totally biased and erroneous, it is your duty to allow the person on the other side of the story to participate if only in self-defense.

As Paul Harvey used to say when he ended his radio show each day, “And now you know…the rest of the story.”


Tim Giago (Oglala Lakota) is the founder of the Native American Journalists Association and of Indian Country Today. Contact him at najournalist1@gmail.com.

Note: Content © Tim Giago