Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Trail of Truth-Telling

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Trail of Truth-Telling

Article excerpt

Native journalism has never been better - or more popular on the 'rez.' Even mainstream papers are taking notice.

The Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) convenes in San Diego this week for its annual meeting at an interesting moment in the short, 18-year history of the organization -- and the long tradition of American Indian newspapers.

Like their black, Hispanic, and Asian-American colleagues in the newsroom, American Indians find their numbers virtually frozen at daily newspapers. Native American daily journalists are so few -- just 307, according to this year's American Society of Newspaper Editors survey - - that some say, in all seriousness, that they know every American Indian working at daily papers. (Some add, too, that probably only half or fewer of those 307 recorded as Native Americans are actually on the rolls of federally recognized tribes.)

Yet there are many good reasons to believe that NAJA, and Native journalism in general, is on the cusp of something big.

The first sign comes from the reservation. Tribal leaders have long viewed Native newspapers warily, in a pattern set 174 years ago with the very first Indian paper, the Cherokee Phoenix. Founding Editor Elias Boudinot survived attacks by Georgia militiamen and white vigilantes only to be assassinated by fellow Cherokees because he supported the forced migration west now known as the Trail of Tears. Today, tribal governments own most Native papers. For too long, too many of them ignored the tradition of fearless truth-telling and created a parallel legacy of censorship and timidity. …

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