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

I was nearly finished writing my column for this week’s GT Pulse when it hit me. 

The irony. 

It couldn’t go unnoticed. 

So, I started over. 

I’m a white woman living in northern Michigan and writing about a project that focuses on improving Indigenous news representation. I’m telling this story about Indigenous perspectives through the gaze of my Irish roots. 

And, that is the problem. 

Meghanlata Gupta and Sierra Clark are two of four Indigenous women who completed their fellowship with the Mishigamiing Journalism Project—a partnership with Indigenizing the News and the Traverse City Record-Eagle—that allowed the women to report, consult and train inside the Record-Eagle newsroom over the course of six months. Meghanlata is a Senior at Yale University and the founder of Indigenizing the News, while Sierra is a graduate of Western Michigan University and the co-editor of Indigenizing the News. The two of them joined me yesterday on my talk show to chat about an upcoming event hosted by the Traverse City Human Rights Commission. 

As I listened to them tell me about the need for indigenous reporters to be actively called upon to report stories about Native Americans in our community, I began to realize that I had been blind to the lack of indigenous stories in general. As a member of the media, I routinely report on grant allocations from the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, but I rarely—if ever— report on the culture of our indigenous community members, and, when I do see or hear reports—like this story—they’re coming from the perspective of an outsider. 

Meghanlata says that is precisely the reason she founded Indigenizing the News. She found herself balking at the absence of true indigenous reporting, and decided to do something about it. The Mishigamiing Journalism project hopes to put Indigenous reporters in safe and inclusive newsrooms throughout Michigan so they may cover Indigenous issues and tribal affairs while empowering other Indigenous people to report in their own communities. Already, the partnership has brought about powerful and important stories written by Indigenous people about important Indigenous topics. I recalled seeing Sierra Clark’s name on a story the was published in the Record-Eagle in December about a lawsuit filed by the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians against the United States government for compensation of reservation land. I remember applauding the in-depth reporting by Sierra Clark, but I didn’t realize that the story, and dozens of others, were a part of this project. 

As the two women continued to speak, I was overcome 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 a voice to the voiceless. We exist to explain, educate, and to shine a light on important topics. But, when our newsrooms are missing important voices, we miss important stories. 

Americans are becoming increasingly distrusting and even resentful of the news media. Beyond allegations of bias, newsrooms across the country are facing a challenging battle to cover the stories of their communities in a less-than-24-hours news cycle. Reporters who once focused on one beat are stretching themselves to cover two or three, even four beats a day. Meticulous and thoughtful investigative reporting has been replaced by sensationalism and clickbait. And, it’s not entirely the fault of the news organizations. The free press doesn’t pay for itself. Advertisers require eyes, and eyes are attracted to the shiniest of objects. So, what we’re left with are overworked and underpaid reporters covering stories outside of their realm with an increasing lack of attention to detail. And, news consumers attracted to a hyped-up headline who are left unsatisfied with the story—or worse—social media scrollers who read a headline and jump to a conclusion without even reading the story. 

The Mishigamiing Journalism Project is focused on getting more Indigenous people in newsrooms. But, I think this important step is another indication that every newsroom—and every person who consumes news—needs to work together to make sure the stories we want to share are being shared completely, accurately, and by the people who truly understand them. 

Tomorrow (Saturday, April 11) at 2 p.m., Sierra Clark and Meghanlata Gupta will present and discuss their work with the Mishigamiing Journalism Project and Indigenizing the News. Their co-fellows, Suzy Cook and Katy Bresette will also be present to answer questions. This important conversation is a much-needed step toward restoring faith in journalism, and a must for anyone with an interest in protecting the future of the stories we share. The fact of the matter is that if we want to change the culture of “fake news,” we need to work together—journalists and readers alike—to support real stories and the authentic voices who tell them. 

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

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

Categories: GTPulse