Truthful media in the Bill Moyers tradition

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Respect for the truth is sacred. Truth as a discipline is the best approach
to reality. A true human being is a person whose word is as good as his or
her signature, as good as the honesty between honorable adult human beings.
This has to be a realistic expectation, say in a family, which implodes or
dissipates without it. Is it less important in clan or nation or country?

It is understandable in any system that one will not receive all of the
facts all of the time, but one can expect not to be lied to, not to be
misled. This is important.

Tribal peoples have always been misunderstood and misrepresented. Sometimes
they have been understood and purposely misrepresented in media. They join
everyone in America and throughout the western world now in being
manipulated with media tricks, in advertising (trying to sell us something
we don't need), to outright lies in political smear campaigns, such as the
one that labeled the Indian vote fraudulent in South Dakota during previous
election cycles.

As a national newspaper of record, our charge is to look deeply and
vigorously at the Indian country of America, to spot the trends and to
ascertain the best possible, people-enhancing solutions and approaches to
the problems that beset our communities and nations. We strive to
understand and to enhance the contemporary pillars of Indian country in
education, governance, economics, and cultural and social life.

As a tribally-owned enterprise, Indian Country Today is an independent
newspaper. Indian Country Today is a national publication for the American
Indian nations and peoples and thus our common work is a responsibility our
editors and writers apply very seriously. We believe journalism is at its
best when it persuades rather than attacks; when it reasons, rather than
besmirches. We always regret it when any dialogue that we may invite into
these pages turns sour and negative, rather than, again, solution-oriented,
which is constructive and consistent with our Native principles and values
as well as the learned strategies we must apply to reverse hundreds of
years of dispossession.

Thus we try to guard how we enter into particular frays (of the many in
Indian country) and try to stay current with the nuances of political
contentions and perspectives. Our collective eye is (or always should be)
on the proverbial spot where the wave hits the shore, where the rubber
meets the road, i.e., where tribal sovereignty rights clash or butt up
against local, state and federal jurisdictions and sovereignties. As human
beings, as self-determined tribal nations, as self-governing communities,
what are the ongoing issues and positions that can destroy our inherent
freedoms, our cultures, our identities and our collective wellbeing? Week
by week, this is where we strive to maintain our focus and coverage.

In that vein, we note this month the formal retirement of one of our
favorites in the journalism field, Bill Moyers, 70, whose open-minded and
fair coverage of important events and personalities for PBS and CBS over
the past three decades has greatly inspired and instructed our own approach
to journalism.

A Texas native and ordained Baptist minister who then served as special
assistant to President Lyndon Johnson, Moyers went on to publish the Long
Island newspaper Newsday for several years. He became host of "This Week"
and "Bill Moyers' Journal", on PBS before joining CBS News.

Retirement notices referred to Moyers as a "humanist." We see him as a
beacon of compassionate intelligence who for years has cut through the
manipulation and half-truths of the politicized media to bring to his
audience, his "fellow citizens," the truth of matters. In an age where the
U.S. Defense Department reveals brazenly that it lied to CNN and other
media as it set out to attack Fallujah, and where "spinning" of information
for political purposes is a daily game, Moyers work resonated with the
clear signal of integrity. He inspired trust.

Moyers' final program this month for "Now", the PBS series he initiated two
years ago, focuses on the virtual takeover of the media message by
right-wing consortia that brazenly manipulate reality to fit their
pre-conditioned agreement, as the master message manipulation guru, Rush
Limbaugh, tells his listeners, "of the way things ought to be."

According to Moyers this is, "the biggest story of our time: How the
right-wing media has become a partisan propaganda arm of the Republican
National Committee." Saying one is "fair and balanced" does not necessarily
make it so. Moyers and his impeccable reputation for fairness (with more
than 30 Emmys and 10 Peabody awards) hits hard on this subject. "We have an
ideological press that's interested in the election of Republicans, and a
mainstream press that's interested in the bottom line," he told AP
recently. "Therefore, we don't have a vigilant, independent press whose
interest is the American people."

Moyers continued: "You don't get rewarded in commercial broadcasting for
trying to tell the truth about the institutions of power in this country. I
think my peers in commercial television are talented and devoted
journalists, but they've chosen to work in a corporate mainstream that
trims their talent to fit the corporate nature of American life. And you do
not get rewarded for telling the hard truths about America in a
profit-seeking environment."

Expectedly, the right-wing press attacks Moyers virulently, especially
after a recent critical report on the positions and decisions of National
Security Advisor Dr. Condoleezza Rice. Serious journalists watching out for
the people's interests welcome critiques, if fair, of all powerful
individuals, particularly governmental officials, who must continue to be
seen as servants of the people, and not as privileged omniscient beings.
Moyers again: "We have got to nurture the spirit of independent journalism
in this country, or we'll not save capitalism from its own excesses, and
we'll not save democracy from its own inertia."

On his retirement from PBS, we celebrate the luminous contribution to
American journalism in the exemplary career of Bill Moyers. We hope to see
yet more of Bill Moyers' magnificent work.