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How to create the next generation of native journalists

The local press pool looks on during a debate
SDPB Flickr
The local press pool looks on during a debate

Journalism, with its degree requirements and institutional power, can be an intimidating field for many to enter. The inclusion of new voices in the news field could help break that wall down though.

Native journalists like Amelia Schafer are working across America for organizations like Indian Country Today, Koahnic Broadcasting, or for your local indigenous publication – but Schafer said there is work yet to do.

“Native people have the sensitivity to tell Native stories in a way that is not as harmful as someone as someone who is uneducated in the community – or is educated on stereotypes of the community," Schafer said. "It’s more empowering to be able to tell these stories that effect your community. Native reporters – it’s hard, but it’s also so rewarding because we’re able to tell these different stories in a way the community wants to be heard.”

Schafer said if you’re a young Native person with an interest in news – don’t stop.

“If I would have had somebody to tell me back then that it’s okay to keep perusing this even though there are people who don’t understand you or don’t want to understand you – that was something I faced in high school – it’s something that’s worth perusing," Schafer said. "Native-led organizations like ICT can really help to empower reporters and give you that support that you need, and the ground of mutual understanding.”

It starts with school newspapers and student-broadcasting opportunities. For Diana Cournoyer, executive director of the National Indian Education Association, there is equal value to be found in the perspectives unique to indigenous journalists.

“We have a lot of storytellers who probably would want to be journalists, but the two schools of thought don’t mesh," Cournoyer said. "We are storytellers first and foremost – to be a storyteller, you also have to be a story-listener.”

Further, Cournoyer said opportunities to enter the field, like journalism internships or fellowships, simply don’t exist to the same degree on reservations than off.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture