GTPulse: ‘Ein-biidaajimotaageijig’—The Ones Who Bring the News to the People

I was almost done writing my column for this week’s GT Pulse when it met me.

The irony.

It couldn’t go unnoticed.

So I started over.

I am a white woman who lives in Northern Michigan writing about a project focused on improving the representation of indigenous news. I tell this story of indigenous perspectives through my Irish roots.

And this is the problem.

Meghanlata Gupta and Sierra Clark are two of four Indigenous women who completed their scholarship for the Mishigamiing Journalism Project – a partnership with Indigenizing the News and the Traverse City Record-Eagle – which enabled the women to be within the Record-Eagle report, advise and train newsroom over the course of six months. Meghanlata is a senior at Yale University and founder of Indigenizing the News, while Sierra is a graduate of Western Michigan University and co-editor of Indigenizing the News. The two of them joined me on my talk show yesterday to talk about an upcoming event for the Traverse City Human Rights Commission.

As I listened to Indigenous reporters being actively encouraged to tell stories about Indians in our community, I realized that I was blind to the lack of Indigenous stories in general. As a member of the media, I routinely report on the allocation of grants by the Grand Traverse Band of the Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, but I rarely – if ever – report on the culture of our members of the indigenous community, and when I see or hear reports – how this story – come from an outsider’s perspective.

Meghanlata says that is exactly why she started Indigenizing the News. Realizing that there was no real indigenous coverage, she decided to do something about it. The Mishigamiing Journalism Project hopes to bring Indigenous reporters to safe and inclusive newsrooms across Michigan to deal with indigenous and tribal issues while empowering other indigenous peoples to report in their own communities. The partnership has already produced powerful and important stories written by indigenous peoples on important indigenous topics. I remembered seeing Sierra Clark’s name in a story published in Record-Eagle in December of a lawsuit by the Grand Traverse Band of the Ottawa and Chippewa Indians against the United States government for compensation for reservation land. I remember welcoming the in-depth coverage from Sierra Clark, but I didn’t know the story and dozens of others were part of this project.

As the two women continued speaking, I was overwhelmed by the immense power and responsibility we have in the media. We tell the stories of our communities. We shape the conversations of our culture. We give voice to the voiceless. We exist to explain, educate, and illuminate important issues. But when important voices are missing from our newsrooms, we miss important stories.

Americans are becoming increasingly suspicious and even resentful of the news media. Bias allegations aside, newsrooms across the country are facing a challenging battle to cover the stories of their communities in less than a 24-hour news cycle. Reporters who focus once on one stroke stretch to cover two or three, even four strokes a day. Careful and thoughtful investigative reporting has been replaced by sensationalism and clickbait. And it’s not entirely the news organizations’ fault. The free press doesn’t pay off. Advertisers need eyes, and the eyes are drawn to the brightest of objects. So what we’re left with are overworked and underpaid reporters, telling stories outside of their realm with an increasing lack of attention to detail. And news consumers are drawn to a hyped headline that is dissatisfied with the story – or worse, social media scrollers who read a headline and come to a conclusion without even reading the story.

The Mishigamiing Journalism Project focuses on getting more indigenous people into the newsroom. However, I think this important step is another indication that every newsroom – and every person who consumes the news – needs to work together to ensure that the stories we want to share are complete, accurate, and shared by the people that they really understand.

Tomorrow (Saturday, April 11th) at 2pm, Sierra Clark and Meghanlata Gupta will present and discuss their work with the Mishigamiing Journalism Project and Indigenizing the News. Her co-colleagues Suzy Cook and Katy Bresette will also be there to answer questions. This important conversation is a much needed step in restoring confidence in journalism and a must for anyone interested in protecting the future of the stories we share. The fact is, if we want to change the “false news” culture, we must work together – journalists and readers alike – to support real stories and the authentic voices that tell them.

To register for the free event, click the Zoom link below.

For more information or to become a subscriber to Indigenizing the News, click below.

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