NPR's Fresh Air gets stale


(The following is a letter to National Public Radio regarding a recent interview with the authors of the recent TIME reports on Indian casinos. Thomas Wanamaker is former Associate Editor of Indian Country Today and former author of the "Let the Games Begin" column on Indian Gaming.)

To the producers of Fresh Air: You should be ashamed of yourselves. Your recent interview segment with the "gentlemen" who wrote the Time magazine articles defaming Indian gaming served only to further disseminate the untruths and lies already produced by the likes of the Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal and "author" Jeff Benedict. As an experienced, professional journalist, I once held NPR and its programming in high regard. No more.

The fact that TIME's "investigative" journalists may have once won Pulitzers in no way makes anything else they've written legitimate, especially when they do little or no "investigation." I strongly suggest that both you and they bone up on the economic issues facing Indian country as well as the history of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988. To help you, here are links to two web sites that will prove invaluable:

* (Be sure to go to the "Editorials" section, as well as to the "Author Gallery" and click on my name.)

* (A great resource - a collection of news articles from around the US and Canada)

The thing that ticked me off the most about the interview was when one of the authors said something to the effect that "nobody in the media is writing about these issues." (Not a direct quote, but close.) That ignorant statement proves that these guys didn't do their homework and probably didn't try very hard.

For some six months I wrote a weekly column "Let the Games Begin" on Indian gaming for a national newspaper called Indian Country Today, the online version of which can be accessed at the first link above. Had these "investigators" been interested in presenting a balanced account on the subject, I have no doubt they'd have tried to contact me or someone else at the paper. They did not. I'm not saying they'd have had to agree with me, but they at least should have called.

In my opinion, presenting well-researched, well-written and balanced stories is one of the most important things a journalist can do - it's what I strive for in every piece I write. It's never a good idea to approach a topic with a preconceived notion or bias. Yet these so-called "investigative" journalists apparently didn't see fit to talk to anyone in Indian country with any knowledge of gaming. Did they talk to NIGA? Or CNIGA? Or Victor Rocha at Pechanga.Net? Or Tim Johnson at ICT? Or Keller George at USET? Or Tex Hall at NCAI? No. They did not "investigate." Instead they took the easy way out, repeating the same tired falsehoods that permeate the mainstream press.

I can't decide if I'm more disgusted with them for their shoddy research or with NPR for following their lead and presenting only their misinformed "side" of the story. If it makes any difference, I'm neither an Indian nor an employee of a casino operating company. What I am is a journalist who takes the time to do his homework.

Thomas Wanamaker is former Associate Editor of Indian Country Today and former author of the "Let the Games Begin" column on Indian Gaming.