MPR fails to cover Line 3’s connection to human trafficking and recent trafficking stings

What gives?

[Update: MPR did run on-air stories about the Line 3 human trafficking sting. It didn’t post an on-line story until the day after this blog ran. I had emailed MPR media relations to ask if I had missed any coverage of the sting on MPR. MPR media relations didn’t respond, apparently not checking on-air coverage. I friend emailed the news department to complain about the lack of coverage on this issue and got an email from the Deputy Managing Editor informing her of the on-air stories. A separate updated post will run soon.]

Four workers on the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline have been arrested in two separate human trafficking stings, one in February, one in June. Line 3 workers represent at least 30 percent of all arrests in the two incidents.

MPR didn’t cover either sting. In fact, MPR hasn’t written anything about the concerns and connection between Line 3 and human trafficking, according to a website search. Asked about the lack of coverage, MPR’s media relations department ducked the question.

MPR supporters and listeners need to contact the newsroom and tell it to cover this important issue. Details below.

During lengthy Line 3 hearings, Indigenous peoples and their allies repeatedly raised concerns that Line 3 construction would bring increased human and drug trafficking to the area. Indigenous peoples are particularly concerned because their communities are vulnerable to human trafficking. Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives is an epidemic, as MPR has reported.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) failed Indigenous communities. It didn’t take their fears seriously. It didn’t require Enbridge to report any Line 3-related human trafficking arrests or impose any sanctions for problems.

Local media, including MPR, have failed Indigenous communities and the community at large by lax reporting, failing to provide detailed coverage of the harms pipeline construction brings to our communities.

This blog has critiqued MPR’s Line 3 coverage in the past and noted that MPR has taken Enbridge sponsorship money.

When MPR failed to cover the latest arrests of Line 3 worker, I emailed MPR Media Relations for comment. Here are the three questions I asked and the answers I received.

  1. Why hasn’t MPR deemed this story newsworthy?

No response.

2. How much money has MPR received in Enbridge sponsorships from 2016 to the present?

No response.

3. What do you tell people who see the Enbridge ads and wonder whether MPR’s coverage is influenced by Enbridge’s money?

Companies that provide financial support for do not have any control over, or involvement in, the MPR News editorial process. The newsroom has set of ethics guidelines that cover this and other areas in detail. You can find MPR News’ ethics guidelines here:

MPR accepts underwriting for all of our programming from a variety of private, public, foundation and listener sources, and we seek out and welcome underwriting support from a broad population of contributors. We carefully consider underwriters and their messages individually to make sure they strictly adhere to Federal Communications Commission guidelines. However, we do take listener concerns about underwriters seriously and we track them and re-evaluate our underwriters sponsorship multiple times a year. The FCC puts strict limits on underwriting message content – what sorts of messages can air and what sort of language is used within them. And there are several broad categories of businesses that are barred from underwriting spots altogether (e.g., tobacco companies). Beyond this, however, our principle is one of equality of access in accepting these messages — we operate on the assumption that if a business wishes to underwrite a program, they do so because they wish to support our programming. Underwriting staff aren’t allowed to discuss their clients with anyone on our editorial teams, and underwriters don’t influence editorial content. We make no judgment about what the owners or stockholders may or may not do apart from their business, nor the political views they hold. Just as we would make no judgement about what any one particular individual MPR member does apart from their membership with us, nor the political views they hold.

MPR Media Relations

MPR doth protest too much, methinks. Reads like a defensive corporate cut-and-paste answer.

At a minimum, this is a really bad look for MPR, a public radio station, taking Enbridge money, really missing on a critical story, and not even able to explain why.

I offered to meet with MPR editors or reporters to provide more background. I got the generic and not-so-encouraging email response: “MPR News does welcome tips, pitches and press releases, and you can submit those at if you’d like.”

MPR needs to hear from more people. Please email and tell them in your own words why they need to cover this important issue.

In related news, MN350 today published a blong on the link between extractive industries and human trafficking titled The Threat of Enbridge Pipeline 3.

U.S. pipelines and how they intersect with Native lands. Source: MN350

Multiple studies have collected data on MMIW using incident reports and overlapped this data with fossil fuel construction locations, such as fracking sites, in order to display this connection. Despite knowledge of ‘man-camps’, a term for pop up communities surrounding zones of construction, being associated with higher rates of sexual assault, prostitution, and sex trafficking, it remains an overlooked issue, lacking in sufficient data methods; and therefore, the attention and awareness of the public

The Threat of Enbridge Pipeline 3

The publication Truthout also published a piece earlier this year headlined: Exploiting More Than the Land: Sex Violence Linked to Enbridge Line 3 Pipeliners.

The devastating trend has long plagued U.S. fossil fuel and extraction projects, especially those adjacent to tribal reservations, and helps fuel a much larger human rights crisis in which thousands of Indigenous women and girls are killed or disappeared at shocking rates each year, often after having been trafficked, sexually assaulted or harassed.

Staffers and advocates with shelters in northern Minnesota told Truthout they are handling more cases of sexual assault directly linked to contractors building Line 3, as well as servicing an increase in calls and reports of sexual harassment at local businesses since construction started … in December.


2 thoughts on “MPR fails to cover Line 3’s connection to human trafficking and recent trafficking stings

  1. I am an MPR supporter and find your report VERY concerning. I will express this concern to them and thank you for this information. I agree – “defensive corporate cut-and-paste answer.” Truly disturbing AND disheartening!


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