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Making Sense of Media Coverage of the Oregon Standoff

Ammon Bundy, the leader of the armed occupation of an Oregon U.S. Fish and Wildlife Building
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
Ammon Bundy, the leader of the armed occupation of an Oregon U.S. Fish and Wildlife Building

The takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon has been all over the news, as a group of armed ranchers are demanding the government give back the federal land to "the local people." They said they're doing it to protest the prosecution of father-and-son ranchers who were convicted of setting government-owned land on fire.

The group's organizer, Ammon Bundy, is the son of Cliven Bundy, who had a standoff with federal authorities last year over the government's management of lands out West.

"We are not terrorists," Ammon Bundy said. "We are concerned citizens and realize we have to act if we want to pass along anything to our children."

He wouldn't call his group a militia, but others are.

"I don't like the militia's methods," local resident Monica McCannon told KTVZ. "They had their rally. Now it's time for them to go home. People are afraid of them."

The roots of this goes back to the so-called "Sagebrush Rebellion" of the 1970s.

The media coverage of this has been all over the map. The group has been called in news stories everything from "patriots" to "right-wing nutcases."

Other news stories have quoted people as saying if they were Muslims or African-Americans - instead of white ranchers - they would have been raided by federal officials by now.

To talk about that coverage - and why it took the media so long to begin reporting on the standoff,  as well as a fake Twitter post attributed to Ammon Bundy - we talk with Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies.

Ammon Bundy speaks at a press conference at the Oregon wildlife refuge


Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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