we don’t have a lot of Native American journalists at mainstream newspapers, and that’s a problem, especially because we may not be that large in number but the jurisdictional and economic power of tribes is so significant. In states that are the heart of Indian country, such as Montana, New Mexico, and Arizona, I can’t believe that the local newspapers don’t have any Native journalists on staff, not only as a measure of community building but also as a way to build relationships with these really important communities in their coverage areas.

There’s this desire to hire now, without any investment in developing talent

There’s this desire in the industry to hire now, without any real investment at the ground level in developing talent. The Native American Journalists Association has great partners in media, but we need help to develop talents in college so they’re ready for jobs when it’s time. There are a lot of students who are interested, but the programs and the capacity to track and recruit them are not there.

We piloted the Native American Journalism Fellowship this year. We brought in 10 Native American college students for a week of training in the summer and mentored them throughout the school year. Six of the 10 have since gotten an internship for this summer or advanced in some other significant way. For example, one is studying journalism at the City University of New York, one is going to CBS News, and another is going to work at The Cherokee Phoenix in Oklahoma.

Native students don’t always get what they need in a college journalism program. Or, they might need mentors who can support their education from afar, people who understand and appreciate their cultural heritage. Without that, they don’t feel supported and don’t pursue journalism. It’s complicated being a Native American in this country. Some might describe it as dual citizenship. Sometimes just by being Native and having that life experience, you bring an expertise to the newsroom that others don’t have.

Read about strategies for creating inclusive newsrooms in our Race and Reporting cover package

Further Reading

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