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Smithsonian Folklife Festival to Address Lack of Natives in Mainstream News

A panel of minority journalists, including ICMN's Simon Moya-Smith, will discuss people of color and news media at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.
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A panel is slated to be held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on June 29 at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival to discuss the good and bad depictions of racial minorities in today's American newsroom, including how Natives are represented in media.

Moderated by Washington, D.C., NPR talk radio host Kojo Nnamdi of The Kojo Nnamdi Show on local station WAMU, the panel, Media Matters: Ethics and Representation, A Conversation at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, will consist of journalists, writers, and educators of color, including Indian Country Media Network (ICMN) Culture Editor Simon Moya-Smith.

Simon Moya-Smith

Simon Moya-Smith

Moya-Smith, Oglala Lakota and Chicano, is a graduate of Columbia University Graduate of Journalism, and writes extensively for ICMN and CNN Opinion on a number of topics, including the danger of Indian mascots, racism, and the Trump administration, all from a Native lens. Moya-Smith said the panel will allow him to point out the dearth of Natives in newsrooms, the "shitty language" editors and journalists still print "which is obviously antiquated, yet these folks continue to use words like 'chant' and 'costumes' when they talk about us, and then they run the name of the Washington NFL team even though it's defined as a racial slur."

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The Smithsonian Folklife Festival panel will also include writer and editor Sharon Shahid, poet, educator, and writer of Purepecha (Mexican) parentage Susana Sandoval, and independent journalist and curatorial advisor to the festival’s On the Move program Sebi Medina-Tayac, of the Piscataway people.

As an example of the lack of people of color in newsrooms, earlier this year, NPR self reported that, in 2016, they "made virtually no progress in changing the makeup of its staff." The publicly-funded news organization that "as of March 31, 2017, the numbers had not budged much. The news and information division was up to 358 employees, of whom 75.4 percent were white (exactly the same as at the end of October)."

NPR added that only 0.3-percent of its staff identify as Native.

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival is celebrating its 50th anniversary and will include food, music, and lectures. The event will run from June 29 through July 4, and July 6 through July 9. The Media Matters panel is scheduled for 3:30 to 4:15 p.m. and will take place at the Story Circle across the street from the National Museum of Natural History. For a full schedule of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, go to

 2015 Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

2015 Smithsonian Folklife Festival.