Native American News Isn’t Just for the West

By: Charles Bowen

“Diversity” became a rallying cry in newsrooms 20 years ago. After years of producing news columns that were disproportionately white, male, and middle-class, editors and publishers began insisting their news staffs reach out to those who traditionally had been left off the pages. With widely and wildly varying degrees of success, newspapers seem to have become generally more culturally, racially, and socially diverse in the past two decades.

Still, a conscientious news executive is always on the lookout for ways to improve the mix of the day’s news selection, and for many, one area worth examining is the paper’s coverage of Native American activities. Sure, we do a feature on the colorful powwow at the fairgrounds in the summer and we get pictures of that big costume affair with the pilgrims in the fall. But what about our coverage when, say, Native Americans go to court over local burial grounds or when they fight the closing of an Indian school or when they do battle with officials of the Bureau of Indian Affairs?

“Wait,” says the editor of an eastern U.S. newspaper. “Aren’t these issues of interest primarily to people in the West? I mean, after all, we don’t have any Indians around here.”

Think again. Native American issues touch all of the U.S. For example, did you know that right now ancestors of the Lumbee tribe seek federal recognition? If that is granted, the Lumbee would become one of the largest tribes in the nation, and that would mean millions of dollars in housing, education, and health funds flowing into the tribe’s traditional territory. And where’s that? Eastern North Carolina.

This is the kind of background that a major Web site called Indianz.com can provide your newsroom. Based on the Winnebago Reservation in Nebraska, the site covers Native American news and events throughout the country. To check it out, visit the site at http://www.indianz.com, where a frequently updated front page provides news summaries and linked headlines to fresh reports from federal agencies, the U.S. and assorted state legislatures, the court system, and local reservations around the nation. Generally, the left two-thirds of the introductory screen is devoted to the latest reports, while a sidebar box at the right has linked titles to earlier stories.

For journalists in a hurry, a search engine at the top of each page enables you to quickly search the site. Type a word or phrase in the data-entry box and click the “Go” button. The site then displays a list of hyperlinked headlines of reports containing your search query.

I’m especially impressed with the care the site’s operators take at linking stories to related material. For instance, most material found with the search facilities provide a “Get the Story” link to the original report as well as “Related Stories” links to other reports in the database.

Other considerations for using Indianz.com in your writing and editing:

1. Besides daily news, Indianz.com also provides entertainment news from a Native American perspective. Click the “Arts & Entertainment” link at the bottom of any page. The resulting display provides connections to “Native Sounds,” as well as film reviews, graphic arts and reviews of relevant Web sites.

2. You might want to alert your education reporter that Indianz.com also has coverage of education issues for Native Americans. Click the “Education” link at the bottom of any screen to reach its “SearchInjun Directory” with material on K-12, colleges, native studies, tribal colleges, and more.

3. Finally, if you write about Indianz.com in your news columns or Internet forums, you might want to call attention to the site’s “Elders’ Circle” section, also reached from a link at the bottom of any screen. Here are regular features on Native American culture and history.

You can read the last 20 “Reporter’s Digital How-to” columns on our index page. Subscribers may access previous columns from our archives.

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