EDITORIAL: Daily Republic, Lawrence says ‘bah humbug’ to tribal members in SD
by Tasiyagnunpa Livermont
On December 19, 2012, Tom Lawrence of The Daily Republic did a great disservice to his readers in Mitchell, S.D., and those reading his coverage of an event in Lower Brule that was picked up by the Associated Press.
Under the headline, “Rush to cash checks collapses floor of reservation bank,” Lawrence wrote a news item so sensationalized and smacking with racial overtones that he even decided to begin the news piece with this:
“They broke the bank at Lower Brule.
The floor of the Wells Fargo bank dropped 2 feet Tuesday morning as tribal members rushed to cash trust settlement checks. No one was injured, but the bank is closed indefinitely.”
Newspapers who peddle racist and sensationalized news pieces in the name of clever journalism deserve to get called to the rug.
Let me state here and now that I am sure Lawrence did not intend to be racist and ignorant. Then again, that’s what they all say.
The bank was a modular structure, supposedly manufactured to be a bank. It was moved from Pierre in the 1990s, after having been used for awhile there.
The idea Lawrence reports was that it was high traffic from settlement checks being cashed that caused the issue. (If it even was more than usual. Wonder what their tribal paydays are like?)
While he did interview bank and tribal employees who said that it was probably the high traffic that caused this, and looking around town here, I am sure they were busy, I would still like to know where in Journalism 101 we can get away with using such outlandish words as ‘rush,’ in a headline and lede.
He also didn’t go into the detail of the various settlement payouts going on right now with Cobell and Salazar. This gives the erroneous impression all of us tribal members are receiving checks this Christmas, which may or may not be true depending on a whole variety of factors. That is left out of this piece and purposefully or not will fuel the fires of racism this Christmas shopping season. Such tone and wording and lack of information perpetuates the stereotype that Indians get free money left and right and breeds more contempt from our neighbors in this state.
Which is already happening. In the middle of writing this piece, I stopped where I bank in Eagle Butte and heard someone giving the bank owner some razzing about how safe his floor was and if he’d heard about Lower Brule. As far as I could tell, it wasn’t a tribal person leering at the idea of all those check-cashing Indians. I was pleased that the bank owner merely assured us there was concrete under the tile.
Indian humor always being alive and well, plenty of us will have a good laugh over this, but I think it is shameful for an assistant newspaper editor from Mitchell, S.D., to do so and to do so in the guise of news writing.
These checks aren’t much individually, but can feel like a windfall in reservation communities and were welcomed to make a better Christmas for the wakanija, children.
Shame on you, Mr. Lawrence, for breeding ill will among neighbors this Christmas.
Bah humbug to you, too.