“Journalism provides something unique to a culture – independent, reliable, accurate and comprehensive information that citizens require to be free.” – Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenthal
BY JODI RAVE SPOTTED BEAR
MHA TIMES PUBLISHER
One of the most quotable movie scenes of all time is Aaron Sorkin’s “A Few Good Men.” It’s the courtroom murder trial in which lawyer Lt. Daniel Kaffee questions Col. Nathan Jessep –played by Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson, respectively. Kaffee is trying to find out if Jessep is responsible forthe hazing death of a fellow Marine.
The dialogue goes like this:
Jessep: You want answers?
Kaffee: I think I’m entitled to them.
Jessep: You want answers?
Kaffee: I want the truth!
Jessep: You can’t handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has walls.
Ultimately, truth is sought and truth erupts. Jessep ends up losing his cool and incriminates himself in the murder. Truth prevails.
Journalists have a remarkable duty, which is to ask questions and write stories of truth. I graduated from the University of Colorado-Boulder with a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism. I am also near completion of an interdisciplinary master’s degree, including environmental studies, law and non-fiction writing from the University of Montana.
My mom, the late G.J. “Gertsy” Spotted Bear Gunderson, and my aunt, the late Alyce Spotted Bear, encouraged me to come back home. Come back home and use my education to lead the MHA Times and KMHA Radio.
I said no. It would be a politically mired and difficult job for the simple reason that it’s a media operation under control of the tribe. Some people can’t handle the truth. It would be a challenge to report on anything that people wanted to know, especially in the realm of tribal government.
I did come home. I also made the decision to apply for theexecutive director position of Fort Berthold Communications Enterprise in May 2014. I was hired.It’s been a tremendous honor to bring community news to the pages of the MHA Times and airwaves of KMHA.
I’ve done my best to provide meaningful news to readers and listeners. My Hidatsa name is White Swan Woman, or Miida-Adagi-Mea. That name was chosen for me by Alyce and given to me the late Gertrude Silletti. I also have a Lakota name, which is Tells People What’s Happening, or Tells People the News. That name was chosen and given to me by the late Nellie Two Bulls during an adoption ceremony at Pine Ridge, S.D.
I’ve had great mentors and editors in my journalism career. I also understand the importance of news. People want news, good or bad. They want to know what’s happening in the world in which they live.
KMHA now regularly broadcasts monthly Tribal Business Council meetings. On the print side, we are doing our best to provide details about those meetings. I’ve made many requests to the chairman’s office to get updates on what’s happening with tribal government.
It’s been a challenge.
I’ve been summoned to Tribal Council meetings twice — once, in a closed session and off the record. The second time was on Sept. 2 in which I was told to make a formal request for a media packet. Both instances felt like an ambush. The only person, however, who talked on the second meeting was the chairman.
The MHA Times request for monthly media packets died. No one on the council made a motion to provide us with any information that would help us do a better job reporting about the decisions the council makes for the people of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara people.
The Sept. 2 TBC meeting was broadcast on KMHA. It was a contentious agenda item. One commentor on the MHA Times Facebook page asked: What the hell just happened?
What happened is that as executive director my goal is to provide information to the public. The problem is I’m doing this within a tribal institution that’s not used to sharing news with the citizens of the Three Affiliated Tribes.
When Sen. John McCain was a prisoner of war for more than five years, he said there was one thing he missed more than “comfort, food, freedom, or even his family and friends. ‘The thing I missed most was information – free uncensored, undistorted, abundant information.’”
In short, he wanted the truth.
Jodi Rave Spotted Bear is a Harvard University Nieman Fellow. She’s the recipient of national awards and honors for news and opinion writing, including the Society of Professional Journalists Pacific Northwest, Native American Journalists Association, Montana Newspaper Association, Columbia University School of Journalism and the University of Nebraska. She was also awarded the Paul D. Savanuck Military Print Journalist of the Year Award.