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Report: Major Media Coverage of Native Americans Needs Work

In a recent analysis, more than 93% of reporters covering Native Americans were not Native Americans themselves. (flucas/Adobe Stock)
In a recent analysis, more than 93% of reporters covering Native Americans were not Native Americans themselves. (flucas/Adobe Stock)
March 2, 2020

HELENA, Mont. -- Stereotypes are common in media coverage of Native Americans, according to a new report.

The Native American Journalists Association analyzed articles in 2018 and 2019 from Fox News, The Guardian, National Public Radio, The New York Times and The Washington Post, and found more than half of the coverage contained cliché words or themes, including references to things such as alcohol, poverty or drums.

Christine Trudeau, an association board member, says outlets often don't go to Native sources, such as a tribal official, and when they do, they fail to talk to a spectrum of community members.

"Oftentimes, these are just people parachuting in," she states. "They aren't really establishing a beat for themselves. They're not really fully invested in covering those communities on a regular basis."

According to the report, only NPR used indigenous people as sources for stories more often than non-indigenous people.

There are about 70,000 Native Americans in Montana.

The report also shows a lack of indigenous reporters in newsrooms. Of the 87 stories surveyed, indigenous reporters wrote less than 7%.

Trudeau says organizations such as hers can be a resource for media outlets.

"We're here for newsrooms, for reporters, for anybody that is looking to kind of start being really more critically minded about the responsibility in covering indigenous communities and peoples and issues," she stresses. "That's sort of what this report really puts a magnifying glass to."

The Native American Journalists Association also offers other resources, such as terminology guides for reporters and a bingo card to identify tropes in coverage.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT