An incomplete history is an untruthful one.
For decades, in many cases more than a century, news organizations have fallen woefully short in their efforts to fully cover their communities. It’s not that they haven’t tried, sometimes feverishly in recent years, to recognize and eliminate blind spots in their reportage. Yet, somehow newsrooms continue to fall short.
The deficit we’re talking about is one born from a lack of cultural, socio-economic and gender diversity. Historically, newsrooms tend to be mostly white, college educated and male. That’s a serious problem.
We challenge ourselves every day to see and compensate for our blind spots, to report on the world around us with our roots planted deep in principles of fairness and accuracy. But we’re imperfect.
Each journalist’s lived experiences contribute to their reporting, a vantage point of sorts from which they observe events and issues as they work. We’re not saying one person can’t understand and document the life and perspectives of another. But we recognize that our own experiences often subconsciously steer our work, guiding us toward one source or another, shape our perception of what is or isn’t newsworthy, and mold the questions we ask.
And the Traverse City Record-Eagle is no different.
For decades our reporting on northern Michigan’s Indigenous communities has been, at best, superficial. At worst, it has omitted important context or reinforced stereotypes.
Our reporting, particularly on historical issues, often is devoid of important acknowledgment that our city is situated on land that was taken from Anishinaabek (Odawa and Ojibwe) communities, that the Record-Eagle itself occupies ground that was seized.
More important than the soil beneath our feet is the intellectual space we occupy as an institution tasked with recording the first draft of history.
For far too long, that history has been incomplete.
Some may find such honesty uncomfortable, but as journalists, our allegiance, above all else, is to the truth.
That’s why reporters and editors at the Record-Eagle will spend the foreseeable future working to train and include Indigenous journalists in our newsroom. We are proud to help launch and grow the Mishigamiing Journalism Project (see page 3A for more on the program).
We have no doubt our work with the four inaugural Mishigamiing fellows will enrich our journalism. We also hope our efforts will prepare and empower Indigenous journalists to make positive impacts in newsrooms elsewhere as they already have in ours.
There are 12 federally-recognized tribes in Michigan, each with its own sovereign government. Yet, no major news organization in the state has seen fit to dedicate even a single journalist to cover tribal affairs.
Our pursuit of the truth has brought us this far, and will guide us in the future.
Because the history we draft will not be incomplete.