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Carina Dominguez
ICT

PHOENIX — The Native American Journalists Association announced a new name among several other notable announcements at its National Native Media Conference in late August.

Typically, Indigenous journalists from across the continent gather annually but this year was the first in-person conference since 2019, before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the pinnacles of the event is the awards banquet.

NAJA unveiled a new logo and name, Indigenous Journalists Association, announced the election of three new board members, detailed concerns with coverage in the New York Times – and the company’s reluctance to appropriately respond – and named the location for next year’s conference.

But perhaps most importantly, the association paid homage to the late Tim Giago, Oglala Lakota, the founder of ICT then known as the Lakota Times, and one of the cofounders of the Indigenous Press Association, back when it was known at the Native American Press Association. He died on July 24.

A photo of a Native American Journalists Association photo. This group of Native journalists met at Penn State University in 1983 to form the Native American Press Association, now the Native American Journalists Association, and most recently rebranding to Indigenous Journalists Association. Loren Tapahe shared these framed photos at the 2022 National Native Media Conference. (Photo by Carina Dominguez, ICT)

The three newly elected board members are Angel Moore, Cree from Peguis First Nation, Shondiin Silversmith, Navajo, and Christine Trudeau, Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation. Trudeau was re-elected to the board. They will join current board members, NAJA President Francine Compton, Sandy Bay Ojibway First Nation, Vice President Graham Lee Brewer, Cherokee, Duncan McCue, Anishinaabe, Avis Little Eagle, Sioux, Savannah Maher, Wampanoag, Angel Ellis, Muscogee. ICT staff, and Navajo Nation citizens, Jourdan Bennett-Begaye and Pauly Denetclaw are also on the board.

At the membership luncheon and business meeting, Compton explained in detail the issues with the New York Times.

Compton explained that she was met with pushback after approaching the Times about its problematic articles on Indigenous communities.

Instead of offering a formal apology and looking to deepen their understanding of Indigenous communities, the New York Times refused, Compton said, even taking it as far as demanding their NAJA membership be refunded.

“We are not ready for the New York Times to be here,” Compton said to the largest gathering of Indigenous journalists in this hemisphere. Her statement was followed by applause from the crowd.

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A spokesperson for the New York Times released the following statement:

"The New York Times has had ongoing discussions with NAJA leadership regarding concerns they raised with a story published in 2019. After NAJA expressed that they were not comfortable with The Times being at the 2022 conference, we respected their wishes and did not attend. We welcome continued dialogue with NAJA and seek future participation at their events. The New York Times pursues thorough and detailed news reporting on the lives and culture of Native Americans, First Nations people in Canada, and Indigenous peoples throughout the Americas. Our commitment remains strong that as this coverage continues, it is representative of voices, experiences and perspectives from these communities."

Compton explained how the press association also called out CNN when its election coverage referred to Indigenous communities as “something else.”

Mainstream media, largely, reports on Indigenous communities with deep bias, riddled with racial stereotypes and misrepresentations, so NAJA created a tool to assist newsrooms.

“News coverage of Indian Country and Indigenous communities that utilizes five or more NAJA Bingo Card words (e.g. alcohol, violence, drumming, poor education or horses), otherwise known as Native American cliches or stereotypes, may be categorized as problematic and create specific harmful frames detrimental to Indigenous communities.”

It’s meant to steer reporters away from coverage filled with inaccuracies and implicit bias.

At Saturday’s banquet the association recognized ICT among the best for its work highlighting Indigenous communities and issues.

ICT won 11 awards, including recognition as “Best Digital Publication” and the 2022 Richard LaCourse Award for Investigative Journalism, an announcement made on July 18.

Next year the conference will be held in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada in July.

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