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Meghan Sullivan
Indian Country Today

When Alaska Natives were advocating for their lands during the 1960s, they had a secret weapon: a newspaper. In 1962, Howard Rock, Inupiat, founded the Tundra Times, a publication written for Alaska Natives, by Alaska Natives. The groundbreaking paper enabled the state's various Indigenous communities to remain connected across hundreds of miles, stay informed on life changing policies, and highlight critical stories that the mainstream media ignored. 

While much has changed in both Alaska and the media industry since the Tundra Times was created, certain dynamics still remain the same. As part of the ANCSA at 50 profile series, Indian Country Today is highlighting the new generation of Alaska Native journalists continuing this legacy.

Lyndsey Brollini

Lynsdey Brollini is a Haida journalist from Anchorage. She is a local news reporter for KTOO in Juneau, and previously worked in communications for the Sealaska Heritage Institute. Brollini graduated from University of Washington with a degree in journalism and political science.

What motivated you to pursue journalism?

I always liked the idea of writing, and I thought that journalism was a meaningful way to do that. I didn’t imagine going into radio at all, though. I was more looking into print journalism, that’s what I went to college for, and I didn’t go into journalism right after college either. For a few years, I worked at an Alaska Native nonprofit doing photography, video and graphic design. And I enjoyed it a lot. But last year, I started to think about getting back into the field, mostly because I wanted a job where I could tell more stories and do more writing. And of course, another reason I made the jump back to journalism was because the industry here doesn’t have many Alaska Native journalists at all, and it struggles even with retaining people from Alaska. So not only am I here as a Native journalist, but as someone born and raised in this state.

What has working in the media industry been like so far? Is there anything that’s been surprising to you about this experience?

There were a lot of surprises with radio, since I really knew nothing about it. I knew a little about audio editing. But I had no idea how public radio worked, or that there is a whole network of public radio stations around the state who share stories with each other. I’ve had to learn how to talk for radio and record newscasts. Creating a “news” voice was a struggle at first, but I’d say one of the biggest learning curves was how differently I have to write for radio versus the web.

Do you have a favorite story you’ve worked on, or a topic you’re excited to focus on in the future?

One of the most impactful stories I’ve worked on was about Alaska’s Silver Alert system and how a local person in Juneau raised questions about how it worked, and the problems with it, after his grandma went missing. I’m continuing to work on stories related to public safety because it continues to be something our communities are grappling with.

Are there any ways that your culture/community have shaped your storytelling?

I think the stories I choose to tell are where my community most plays a part. There are so many stories in the Alaska Native community that aren’t being told. Of course, there are assignments, but for the stories I pitch, I am intentional in trying to include more voices in my stories that we don’t hear from enough. We are trying to do this as a whole organization, but even without that directive I would still be doing this. As someone who grew up here, I’ve heard journalists get things wrong about Alaska Native people so many times. Also, there are things that I keep in mind when covering topics that non-Native journalists may not think about. For example, when reporting on public safety, I’m thinking about the issue with the context of Alaska Native people – that Alaska Native people are disproportionately incarcerated in this state and that Native people go missing or are murdered also at disproportionately high rates.

Do you have any advice for younger Alaska Natives who might be interested in working in media one day?

The industry is not created to be kind to Native people or other marginalized communities. There are systemic barriers that keep newsrooms White. With the extra obstacles, you might feel imposter syndrome, but if this feeling ever comes up, just remember that you are doing a lot more work than others to overcome those systemic barriers. Also, with any field, being Native means people are going to ask you for things. And I’d say, protect your time. Don’t do unpaid labor for people doing diversity work for them or educating them. I never do unpaid labor. Alaska Native people have been taken advantage of too often for you to do unpaid labor for people.

Is there anything else you’d like to add, or anything else you think people should know about this topic?

Bring your whole self to the newsroom. 

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This story is part of Indian Country Today’s series on the 50th anniversary of the landmark Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Funding for ICT’s ANCSA project is provided in part by the Alaska Center for Excellence in Journalism. Stay updated on ICT’s ANCSA project using #ANCSA50 and at https://indiancountrytoday.com/tag/ancsa-50.

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