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A Tribute to Dori Maynard

Dori Maynard, a journalist and champion for diversity in media died this week, and journalists across the country are mourning. They are mourning the loss of a woman who devoted her life to ensuring all voices were heard.

Photo Courtesy: Jackson DeMos, USC Annenberg School

Photo Courtesy: Jackson DeMos, USC Annenberg School

Maynard was the president of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, named after her father, Robert C. Maynard, who was former publisher of the Oakland Tribune. He and his wife, Nancy Hicks Maynard, Tribune co-publisher, were the first African Americans to own a major metropolitan daily in the United States.

Journalism seemed to be in her blood. On her mother Liz Rosen’s side of the family, Maynard’s grandfather, Edward Patrick Flynn, was executive editor of the New York Post. Beyond telling stories, Maynard advocated better stories be told by reaching out to underserved communities. She pushed for journalists to make stronger efforts to include more diverse voices in their news coverage.

Maynard was also actively involved in the Society of Professional Journalists, and served on the board for the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation.

Her friends and colleagues throughout SPJ and SDX are deeply saddened by her death.

“This news comes as a complete shock. How can Dori be gone? What a loss for our profession,” said SDX President Robert Leger.

“She accomplished a lot in a too-short lifetime. I admired her and was proud to serve with her on the SDX board,” said Irwin Gratz, former SPJ President and SDX board Vice President.

“Dori was one of those people who showed up and by showing up made a difference. When I thought she might be too busy, or too involved, or too far away to attend a Foundation board meeting, Dori showed up. I will remember Dori for her passion for diversity in our profession, for her diligence in making a difference, for her advocacy as a human being,” said Steve Geimann, also a former SPJ President and current SDX board member.

George Daniels, Assistant Dean of the College of Communication and Information Sciences at the University of Alabama, met Dori when he was a SPJ Diversity Fellow. Later while serving as the SPJ Diversity Committee Chairman he would invite Dori to be part of the many discussions that came before the committee.

“Though she was based in California, it was nothing for her to get on a plane and fly all the way across the country to engage in an important diversity-related meeting and she gave tirelessly to the efforts to ensure that our media outlets were true to their pledges to make their newsroom staff look like the communities that are becoming more and more diverse,” Daniels said.

Longtime friend Sally Lehrman, a SDX board member, former SPJ Board Member and SPJ Diversity committee member and former chair, admired Dori’s commitment to change.

“Dori’s warmth and passion for her work blended so beautifully in a woman who knew how to talk straight and press for change — and at the same time, listen carefully and thoughtfully to others who had a completely different perspective. She had such a big heart,” Lehrman said.

Rebecca Tallent, journalism professor and SPJ Diversity committee member says Dori left quite an impression on her.

“Dori taught me what it meant to really be tenacious, and how to use that trait in the difficult art of diversity,” Tallent said.

“Whenever I would see her, I would mentally paraphrase the line from the end of the trial in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’: Stand up children, a great person is passing by,” Tallent said, ”Lord Almighty – how that woman will be missed.”

Sandra Gonzalez

Sandra Gonzalez

Sandra Gonzalez is former SPJ Diversity Committee Chair, and is a general assignment reporter at KSNV-TV in Las Vegas.

@SandraGonzalez2

sandragonzalezthereporter@gmail.com

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.

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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