Archive for the ‘NAJA’ Category


Newspaper Headline Points Up Lack of Understanding

Flawed news coverage is always bad form, but the issues in Rapid City, South Dakota points out journalists are not understanding or mindful of Native American issues in stories or headlines.

Did-Native-Students-Stand-600x387

Native News Online

In January, the Rapid City Journal ran a story about some children from the Pine Ridge Reservation being attacked by a crowd during a hockey game for reportedly not standing during the national anthem. The students were attacked with racial slurs, insults and had beer sprayed and thrown at them; the Journal headline on Saturday, Jan. 31 read: “Did Native Kids Stand for National Anthem?” The Journal editors have since apologized for the insensitive headline.

Granted, the newspaper did not condone the actions of people at the hockey game, they even ran a strongly worded editorial calling on people to stop racism. But, the headline was a serious lapse that fails to meet the standards of journalism and points out how thoughtless journalists can be if they do not understand a group of people.

NAJA

Native American Journalists Association

Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) leaders said the regrettable headline represents one of the more troubling examples of irresponsible coverage of Native Americans in recent years.

“The headline fell short of the standards of responsible journalism, as it indirectly suggested that the elementary and middle school students could have been responsible for prompting the harassment,” a NAJA press release reads. “The headline was a result of phrasing that was not well thought out on the paper’s part, and outcry over the headline has been swift in the Rapid City region and beyond via social media.”

In its apology, Journal Executive Editor Brad Pfankuch said the paper “deeply regrets the pain caused by this headline” and said the staff have begun taking steps to responsibly address the situation.

“A justifiable anger has resulted from the headline that appeared in the Rapid City Journal on Saturday, Jan. 31,” Pfankuch said. “It is now abundantly clear that the headline about the National Anthem is troubling to this community and our readers.
“To some, the headline signified that there was a justification for the harassment of Native American students at the Rush hockey game on Saturday, Jan. 24. This was not our intent. There is no justification for such racist behavior. There can never be any justification for the appalling way those students and their chaperones were treated at the game.”

Pfankuch also noted the owner of the suite where the students were sitting, who was not at the game, received a death threat and the paper ran the story using an anonymous source to protect that person and their family. He said if the police provide names of the people responsible for the harassment, the paper will publish the names. Pfankuch also promised NAJA the paper will continue to aggressively pursue the story.

NAJA officers said they appreciate Pfankuch’s prompt attention to the issue and encourage the Journal to continue pursuing the story.

Rebecca Tallent

 

Rebecca Tallent is an associate professor of journalism at the University of Idaho and she serves on the SPJ Board of Directors as a Campus Adviser at Large.

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Tension in America

As race relations continue to be strained from the recent attention on Ferguson, Missouri where a police officer shot a young African American man, Michael Brown; or the journey of Central American children rushing to cross the United States border, we as journalists are covering these stories.

Emotions run high when people hear or read the news on these matters of racial strife or immigration. It reminds me of the daunting responsibility we have as journalists to tell these stories, and to always remember the power of our words and images.

It is with great pride to see journalism organizations like SPJ get involved when it becomes a challenge with law enforcement to cover stories such as the Ferguson protests. When events like the unrest in Ferguson erupt, we are out there on the front lines, with our notepads, mics and cameras. It is tough to be in the middle of chaotic incidents, but we are there, trying to get the story for our communities.

Let us stick with these stories, report the aftermath, the healing, and the efforts to solve the chaotic situations. May we learn something and pass these lessons on to others.

As the Excellence in Journalism Conference in Nashville gets underway this week, there are so many opportunities to grow and reflect on the issues before us.

A panel titled “Lessons from Ferguson” will explore the conflicts and challenges journalists faced in Missouri.
We can also learn about the dangers our fellow journalists are facing covering stories in Mexico.
And, the panel ‘Race Coverage: 50 years of change’, will explore how far journalism has come in reporting on race, and how far it still has to go.

Finally, there is also a panel looking at issues of states requiring IDs to vote, and states issuing drivers licenses to undocumented residents.

There is so much happening across our country, and so much to learn as we share these stories with the masses. I’m looking forward to the EIJ conference, because the knowledge we will be able to gain, will only make our news coverage better.

Sandra Gonzalez

Sandra Gonzalez

Sandra Gonzalez is SPJ Diversity Chair, and a general assignment reporter at KSNV-TV Las Vegas, NV

 

 

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Stories Have Power: Honor the Trust You’re Given

Who’s News is inviting top journalists and journalism educators to share their thoughts on inclusion in the news. Here, Teresa Trumbly Lamsam explains what two Native American journalists are learning as they curate a wellness blog.

Omaha, NE – As a journalist who cut her teeth on the copy desk, I should have pondered the likely editing woes in managing Wellbound Storytellers, a wellness blog written by non-journalists.

However, on reflection, I’m not sure well-laid Wellbound2plans would have worked.Why not? Because I’m the one who got “schooled.” All of those so-called editing headaches turned out to be lessons for me, the experienced editor.

I have condensed those lessons here as they relate to covering health, in particular, American Indian health and wellness.

Stories take time
As perhaps one of the few journalists still in love with the Inverted Pyramid, I value low word counts, aka, a story easy to cut. But people do not tell their wellness stories with a compelling nut graf in mind. At first, I was reluctant to get out of the way of a long personal narrative.

Fellow journalist and Wellbound blogger Rhonda LeValdo was more patient. “I think, if someone is going to tell you a really personal story, let them have the time to do that,” she said. “I don’t badger someone for information … like why they started doing certain things. Maybe it was a death close to them.”

LeValdo, past president of the Native American Journalists Association, said that people talk about personal health issues when they are ready, not just because you need to meet a deadline.

Sometimes, our journalism conventions get in the way of the stories.

Sharing creates vulnerability
The idea behind Wellbound Storytellers is to mobilize the collective, community nature of American Indians to be more transparent about our paths to wellness. The mission is to model the resiliency that characterizes the history and future of Native peoples.

We found that people were generally eager to talk about their health issues, but not as excited to share those stories openly. At first we were surprised. Levaldo and I were expecting other American Indians to share stories for the sake of community health.

In private conversations, people were passionate in telling us their stories. Everyone agreed that these stories needed to be out there, but few were willing to let it be their own stories.

Here are the main reasons behind the reluctance:

Stories have power: A shared belief among many American Indians is that stories in themselves carry power. Wellbound3 History has shown that trusting others with that power – whether reporters or readers – has not proven beneficial.

Storytelling skills: People are not confident in their writing or storytelling and don’t want others to judge them based on it. Also, storytelling is sometimes considered a quasi-official role in the community and therefore only the duty of some.

Embarrassment: For some, letting their health issues out there for the world to see is just embarrassing. Even minor considerations are a concern. As one potential blogger said,“What if I talk about my new healthy eating lifestyle and then someone sees me out eating cake!”

Consequences: What would others do with this personal information? Some worried about being fired if the tribal government found out they had cancer, for example. Others worried about ridicule. One blogger, who pushed past her fears, worried she would be shunned by the community for talking about controversial health concerns.

To a journalist, stories may just be part of the interview process. But for many American Indians, stories carry the wellness we need within them. At Wellbound Storytellers, we walk the balance between producing online content and carefully respecting the power of storytelling.

Teresa Trumbly Lamsam, Ph.D., is the editor and creator of Wellbound Storytellers and executive editor of Native Health News Alliance, a website for journalists under development. She is an associate professor in the School of Communication at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. Teresa, an enrolled member of the Osage Nation, is a former tribal press editor. 

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Telling their own stories: How two Native journalists got past gloomy health statistics to find stories of resiliency

Teresa Trumbly Lamsam, who founded Wellbound Storytellers

Teresa Trumbly Lamsam, who founded Wellbound Storytellers

Who’s News is inviting top journalists and journalism educators to share their thoughts on inclusion in the news. Here, Teresa Trumbly Lamsam explains why two Native American journalists decided to find a way to improve health coverage.

Omaha, NE – American Indians and Alaska Natives (AIAN) have the poorest health status in the US and a lower life expectancy, including a higher rate (1.6 times non-Hispanic White population) of infant mortality.

AIANs also endure high levels of suicide and mental health concerns, obesity, diabetes, substance abuse, teenage pregnancy, liver disease, and hepatitis.

As an American Indian journalist, educator, and tribal member, I was acquainted with the statistics. I could even put names and faces to many of those numbers.

The statistics may paint an accurate, revealing and even necessary picture of AIANs as the sickest people in the country. But after year after year of reporting and reading them, I became jaded about American Indian health news and maybe a little fatalistic.

I reached the “whatever” point. That point where you are ready to walk away and tell the status quo to have at it. But a reality check was right around the corner.

Rhonda pic

Rhonda LeValdo, former NAJA president, producer and host of “Native Spirit” radio show at KKFI 90.1 FM

As if on cue, my own health status became an issue, and given that my personality is not a good fit with cynicism, I shucked the jaded attitude and started looking for solutions. That search led me to Native journalist Rhonda LeValdo, who at the time was president of the Native American Journalists Association.

Turns out, health was on the top of her mind too, both personally and professionally. She was grieving the loss of family members to diabetes complications, and as a parent, determined that diabetes would not claim her or her children.

First we commiserated over the sad state of health reporting for American Indians in mainstream and tribal media. However, criticism wasn’t really doing it for us. We wanted to make a difference in news reporting – a difference that we hoped would also translate to better health in Native communities.

If teary eyes and passionate rhetoric could make a difference, we were well on our way. We left our meeting with a pledge to come up with an idea. Any idea would do because we were desperate to do something, even if it fell flat.

Wellbound ScreenshotSoon after I emailed LeValdo and suggested that we just blog about our own health journeys and recruit other Native journalists to join us. Within the first week of announcing the blog, American Indians who had read about Wellbound Storytellers were emailing to ask if they could contribute. The citizen health journalism blog was born.

Whether they are writing about disease or marathons, our bloggers focus on health through both traditional and contemporary frames using humor and everyday stories of resiliency. They come from all walks of life. Even the journalists write in a personal, conversational tone.

The statistics and perceptions about American Indian health paint us a pitiful people with an outlook of fatalism. The mission of Wellbound Storytellers is to show that health struggles and triumphs can go hand-in-hand. In your coverage of American Indians, consider striking this balance, too.

(Next up: Part 2 focuses on the lessons that Wellbound bloggers taught me about reporting on health and wellness.)

Teresa Trumbly Lamsam, Ph.D., is the editor and creator of Wellbound Storytellers and executive editor of Native Health News Alliance, a website for journalists under development. She is an associate professor in the School of Communication at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. Teresa, an enrolled member of the Osage Nation, is a former tribal press editor. 

(Photos courtesy of Teresa Trumbly Lamsam.)

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Journalists visit UNLV: say embrace our own diversity

(Guest Blog by Pashtana Usufzy/UNLV SPJ President)

As president of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Society of Professional Journalists, I find myself in charge of planning quite a few events. When the time came to hold our first member meeting of the spring semester, I desperately needed ideas. While clicking on every link on the SPJ website, I ran across a copy of the organization’s mission.

Hoping for ideas, I read through it.

We’d held a meeting on service a few weeks earlier, and a First Amendment discussion seemed a little intense for the first meeting. (“Here’s your pizza and soda. Now, quick, which freedoms are guaranteed by the First Amendment?) I kept scrolling down — “foster excellence … inspire successive generations … encourage diversity in journalism.”

Diversity — now that I could work with.

The topic stood out. UNLV has consistently been ranked as one of the most diverse college campuses in the country. We have students from every walk of life. We represent numerous countries, religions, ethnicities — different genders and sexual orientations. It made sense for our chapter to ask: Where’s the diversity in the local journalism field? What role does that play in the politics of the newsroom, and is our news as inclusive as it should be?

Our board members went to work. We began planning and advertising a discussion on the diversity of our community and our local news market. I invited Antonio Planas of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and Chris Saldaña, a local broadcast news personality, to be our speakers.

On the day of, I was nervous. Our meeting didn’t have a huge turnout; I blamed myself for picking a Friday morning meeting date and expecting college kids to be awake. The members who were there, however, wanted to get the meeting going, and our speakers said the students deserved their attention.

We didn’t draw in a classroom full of students, but our speakers made such a tremendous impact upon the students who did attend.

Planas and Saldaña played off of each other so well. They discussed their own experiences as Hispanic journalists covering the news. They talked about missteps by reporters in covering our city’s diverse population, and they told us to embrace our own diversity and bring it to our reporting.

UNLV's SPJ Chapter had broadcast news journalist Chris Saldaña and reporter Antonio Planas visit to discuss diversity in the news.

UNLV’s SPJ Chapter had broadcast news journalist Chris Saldaña and reporter Antonio Planas visit to discuss diversity in the news.

They described efforts to make colleagues aware of potentially offensive characterizations of minorities, but they also described how important it is for all groups to participate in the discussion on diversity.

They asked each student: Who are you, and what kind of diversity do you bring to the table?

I’ll admit it: I sometimes have a hard time speaking up in a newsroom full of much more experienced writers. Saldaña and Planas assured me that my opinion could help shed light on an overlooked group. It’s better to speak up, they said, than to be embarrassed by an inaccurate story or have your news organization appear out of touch.

They emphasized that we as journalists must examine the diversity of our environment, especially in a state with such an increasingly diverse population.

As student SPJ leaders, we try to bring the lessons SPJ emphasizes to the attention of our campus. We want members to get a taste of the professional world, but we also hope they’ll discover a bit of the kind of journalist they’d like to be. Our speakers that day helped us accomplish our goal.

Our attendees stayed afterward to discuss how they felt about the panel. Our small group of students could now raise questions, share its views with others.

Most importantly, the discussion could keep going, and that meant more to us than anything.

(Pashtana Usufzy/UNLV SPJ President organized this event earlier this Spring)

 

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Native Americans are People, Not Animals or Objects

Former KQDS-TV news director Jason Vincent may not have realized he was channeling Lt. Richard Pratt at the time, but Vincent was when he posted a rant on his Facebook page calling a Native American man an animal. In 1898, Pratt wrote in the Carlisle Indian Helper (school newspaper for the Carlisle Indian Industrial School), “when we agree with the oft-repeated sentiment that the only good Indian is a dead one, we mean this characteristic of the Indian. Carlisle’s mission is to kill THIS Indian, as we build up the better man.”

So it seems that Vincent was in agreement when he wrote on his Facebook page, “Add drunk, homeless, Native American man to the list of animals that have wandered into my yard… Then he proceed to wave at me and give me the peace sign when he spotted me in the window. Wow…”What makes Vincent’s comment even more egregious is that he claims to be part Native himself.

Just when so many of my students claim there are no more race problems in America, we see issues such as this on the rise again. This isn’t the first attack against Native American images in the past few years; it is only one of the latest. The idea of the Native as an animal was resurrected a few years ago with the popular Twilight series – the idea that Native men can transform themselves into hairy, snarling animals, giving the illusion that Natives are less than human. The idea seems to be catching on.

The Native American Journalists Association issued a statement decrying the Vincent incident and two other recent words/works by journalists that defames Native Americans. NAJA called on journalists to be more careful in both their reporting and the casual comments that may go before readers/viewers/listeners.

“The character of the (Vincent) comments falls far short of the standards that NAJA expects of journalists, both in the mainstream and tribal media,” the NAJA statement reads. “Our organization supports the Duluth’s station general manager’s decision to accept Vincent’s resignation from his position this week.”

In the same statement, NAJA officials cited Matt Lauer who jokingly calling Meredith Viera an “Indian giver” on the Today Show. NAJA officials said the term “invokes a stereotype and inaccuracy about our history that is offensive to Native people. It should not be used on a national news program, even in a passing reference. NAJA asks that NBC and Lauer apologize for the comment.”

So far, there has been no response from either Lauer or NBC.

NAJA also cautioned reporters to be careful when delving into the controversial human rights case out of Rapid City, S.D. involving a Cheyenne River Sioux elder, Vern Traversie. The elder has post-surgical scars on his body which the AP used to liken the elder’s supporters as stanch believers of “spotting the Madonna in a water stain.” Los Angeles Times columnist John M. Glionna used a similar image, this time saying the image was in a taco shell or tree trunk. “When reporting on Native American issues like this, journalists and media outlets should be mindful of the context of what is being reported,” the NAJA statement reads. “Comparing Traversie’s scars to a vision of the Virgin Mary have the potential to dehumanize the situation.”

[Correction: The above paragraph originally referenced “Rapid City, N.D.” The city is in South Dakota.]

Native Americans are people, not animals or objects. Journalists need to remember this and act accordingly. As it states in our SPJ Code of Ethics:

• Tell the story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience boldly, even when it is unpopular to do so.
• Examine their own cultural values and avoid imposing those values on others.
• Avoid stereotyping by race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance or social status.
• Give voice to the voiceless; official and unofficial sources of information can be equally valid.

Any journalist who has a question about how to accurately cover Native Americans should call NAJA at (405) 325-9008.

Vincent who was the news director of Fox 21 in the Duluth, Minnesota, resigned on August 17. The station issued an apology and Vincent also apologized on
Facebook.

Rebecca Tallent is a member of the SPJ Diversity Committee.  She’s an associate professor of journalism at the University of Idaho and an award-winning business and environmental reporter in her previous life.  Her current academic research involves Native American news media.  She is of Cherokee heritage. 

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