In response to criticism

We received several comments on our website this morning in response to this story on tribal netting.

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My response:

First, I’m a big fan of community journalism. I wish we had more of it. It makes our job easier when members of the community send us information — photos, videos, written reports and/or commentary. The internet has made it more possible than ever for citizens to contribute to the journalism process, and I’ve tried to encourage our readers to submit, with little response. I’m hoping our new website, which will launch in a month or so, will make it easier for readers to start blogs and submit content. When we do get submissions from readers, we usually use them either as submitted or as part of our own stories.

In this week’s paper I took a web comment from someone who had questions about tribal netting and got a response from the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission. Yes, it took GLIFWC  more space to answer the questions than it took the other to ask them, but that happens in journalism. Our readers should be glad to hear the official response, and my guess is that most of them were.

Could I have done a more thorough job on the story? Of course, as we could with every story we do. Unfortunately, we don’t have time to track down every potential source for every story, just like we can’t be there for every net lift or fish caught by an angler. We also don’t have space to cover every story with as much detail as some readers would like. Our job as small-town journalists involves a lot more than coverage of tribal netting.

I applaud those citizens for watching and recording the netting. It’s their right (see below), and if they’re concerned that laws are being broken or the lake harmed, they should do something about it.

If anyone knows of a “smoking gun” video or photo showing wanton waste, please send it along or email me the link, and I’ll report on it if it seems legitimate, as I’ve done in the past. Unfortunately I don’t have time to view all the videos of tribal netting out there, and frankly, most of the videos I’ve seen have not been very good or very informative.

I’ve seen videos that appear to show northerns or muskies being released from nets. That’s legal under the bands’ conservation code, if they can be revived. So far I haven’t seen any pics or videos of northerns dead or dying.

I saw one last year of a northern that appeared to be struggling. Eventually it appeared to swim away.

When lost nets were found with dead walleyes in them a few years ago, we printed the pics. When fish guts were dumped on private land or public roads, we printed the pics and told the story, and I  scolded the unknown perpetrators in a column.

We reported on the ‘record’ muskie that was killed in a net recently. We didn’t sugar-coat it, simply presented the facts. Readers were left to make up their own minds about the implications, and we offer our letters page, web comments and guest columnist spots for readers to respond to stories.

Every year we hear rumors about the northern by-catch being left to die by tribal netters, and every year we say the same thing: If northerns and muskies are being wantonly wasted, and someone has photos or videos or even eyewitness accounts without evidence, send them my way and we’ll report it or get a response. My phone number is (320) 676-3123, and my email is

I’m also happy to visit with anyone and everyone who comes to my office. I have never once turned a reader away — either a phone call, an email or a personal visit. I don’t always give them what they want, but I always listen and give my honest response.

Honestly, I get very few complaints about our coverage or lack of coverage of netting controversies. I think most of our readers are satisfied with our coverage of the issue (and some would prefer less coverage).

The April 4 paper had page 5 set aside for a regular commentary by an opponent of tribal netting. He chose not to submit a column.

One of my critics on the web today used to write for us and left of his own accord.

Today’s scolding of the Messenger is typical of media criticism everywhere: If we’re not biased in their favor, we must be biased in someone’s else’s. From each side, the middle looks like the other side.

Regarding rights of citizen journalists: It is your right to photograph or video in public places — anglers, netters, picnickers, whatever. The courts have ruled on this matter. You don’t have to ask permission to take someone’s photo in a public place — although it is the polite thing to do, especially if it’s for publication.

Our reporter got told by a tribal CO a couple weeks ago not to take pictures of netters at a public access. He can ask us not to, but he can’t tell us not to. I had a conversation with GLIFWC about it, and they’re aware of the laws.

So get out there and get us photos, videos, letters, stories and commentaries. We’ll report the facts, as we always have. And we’ll report on both sides of any controversy (as time and space allow), as we always have.

57 chicks

I picked up 57 chicks at the post office today.

It was kind of an accident. I was there to mail my taxes in, and someone else in the office said, “Someone must’ve ordered chicks, eh?”

And then I remembered mine were coming, but supposedly not until Tuesday.

Anyway, brought them home, got them set up in the basement, where they all looked pretty good. Then an hour later, they didn’t look so good. Long story short, I lost four of them, but the rest are loudly chirping away.

All five layers and the two roosters seem to have survived, and most of the 50 broilers.

From the editor’s inbox — Fond du Lac’er recognized

This came from the White House today:

Let’s Move! In Indian Country – Tell Us Your Stories

Posted by Charlie Galbraith on April 16, 2012 at 04:10 PM EDT
Since coming into the White House, First Lady Michelle Obama has made the promotion of a healthier America one of her primary goals. Through her Let’s Move! initiative, the First Lady has dedicated her time to solving the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation, so that children born today will grow up healthier and able to pursue their dreams. May of 2012 will mark the one year anniversary of Let’s Move! In Indian Country which brings together federal agencies, local communities, nonprofits, corporate partners, and tribes in order to end the epidemic of childhood obesity in Indian Country within a generation.

We have seen significant progress, both from the various agencies and organizations working to combat childhood obesity, but also from individuals such as Brian “Bear” Bosto, who was recently recognized as a White House Let’s Move! Champion of Change. Bear manages the Brookston Center for the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and helped start the “Lax-4-Life” Lacrosse Camp to teach the traditional Native American game of Lacrosse, while also instilling the tribe’s youth with the leadership and healthy living skills they need to grow up safe and strong.

We want to hear more stories like Bear’s about the positive contributions individuals and organizations are making to their tribes, nations, villages, Pueblos and communities. Please send us your stories, we’re looking forward to hearing from you!

Charlie Galbraith is an Associate Director in the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.

Just say no to drug-seekers and pill-pushers

What we’ve seen in the Mille Lacs area in recent years was confirmed recently by data from the Drug Enforcement Administration: Painkiller sales have spiked nationwide over the last 10 years.
In Minnesota, sales of Oxycodone have increased by 230 percent per capita and Hydrocodone by 209 percent.
Unless there’s been a corresponding spike in pain over the same time period, there should be no spike in painkillers.
As it goes with pain meds, so it goes with other drugs: The more cure, the more disease.
If anti-depressants were really the miracle cure they claim to be, we’d see a marked decrease in the incidence of depression since the advent of Prozac.
If Ritalin were the answer to ADHD, we’d see the ADHD problem abating over time.
Instead, it’s gone the other way.
A caveat: I know people with severe depression or anxiety who have been helped immensely by drugs. I also believe in science and medicine when it has a proven effect on a real problem. If I get cancer, I’ll gladly drink the chemo Kool-Aid.
However, I know many people with pretty decent lives who are popping pills for anxiety, depression and pain. The majority, in my admittedly amateur opinion, don’t need them.
Pharmaceuticals should be a last resort, but economics makes them a first resort for doctors, patients, and especially drug companies.
Doctors have played a role in this tragedy by overprescribing painkillers — just as they’ve overprescribed antibiotics and other drugs.
I understand the pressures doctors are under from patients to hand out pills like candy. But it’s their job to just say “no,” like it’s the parents’ job not to hand their kid a lollypop every time they cry.
Patients become the problem when they choose easy cures over more difficult prevention methods: eating right, exercising, and dealing with mental, emotional and spiritual problems the way our ancestors did for thousands of years — through friends and mentors, religion, intellectual growth, or a walk in the woods.
The drug-seeking masses are making health care more expensive for everyone, but the pharmaceutical industry should get most of the blame for our drug-crazed society.
Remember the days when they couldn’t or didn’t advertise prescription drugs on TV? It wasn’t that long ago. Now we’re overwhelmed with advertising meant to addict us to meds the way we’re addicted to soda pop, fast food, electronics, celebrity gossip, sex, fossil fuels, cigarettes and other garbage pushed on us by Mad Men.
We evolved over millions of years to eat natural foods and exercise outdoors. Acting like cave men is the most time-tested cure to our ills.
Sitting on the couch popping pills while poking our plastic rectangles and eating crap is not how God or nature made us to live and to deal with our problems. We’re like lab rats scratching ourselves until we bleed, or the polar bear at the zoo, pacing obsessively in his unnatural habitat.
We’ve been ingesting chemicals for a few decades — not enough time for our species to evolve means to cope with foreign substances in our system.
In a sane world, people wouldn’t create disease in order to cure it. They would just say “no” to phony syndromes and dubious cures.
If the doctors and drug companies won’t do it, it’s up to you and me.

Brett Larson is the editor of the Messenger.