I’m pretty sure Tonto was the first Indian I ever saw on TV.
The Lone Ranger’s sidekick was a lousy role model for a little Indigenous lad. Tonto wore buckskin, spoke in pidgin English, and existed to serve the needs of “Kemo Sabe.” Adding insult to injury, his name translates into “dummy” in Spanish.
But, no question, Tonto was indispensable to his masked companion.
I can’t count how many times as a journalist I wished I had a “Tonto” when venturing into an unfamiliar Indigenous community. A partner — who offers advice on the lay of the land, provides wise counsel, helps make my stories better.
Every reporter –– Indigenous or non-Indigenous –– needs a guide.
Welcome to Reporting in Indigenous Communities — an online guide intended to offer you useful ideas and practical methods for finding and developing news stories in “Indian Country” (as we NDNs sometimes refer to the lands we inhabit).
It’s rooted in the Canadian experience, but journalists around the globe may find it useful, when covering Indigenous communities from the Americas to Australia.
The guide is structured into three areas of reporting where journalists face challenges when producing news stories about Indigenous peoples.
1) AT THE DESK – how to research and pitch stories;
2) IN THE FIELD – how to gather information for these stories; and
3) ON THE AIR – how we present stories about Indigenous peoples.
Some advice is mine, based upon my experiences as a TV reporter. But, you, too, can be a RIIC Guide! I know, I know… isn’t it exciting!
- Offer lessons you’ve learned in the Teachings section.
- Go to the RIIC News Facebook site or @RIICNews on Twitter to share news stories about Indigenous peoples that inspire you, or stories you’d dump on the cutting room floor.
- The RIIC Blog is a hungry goat — send your guest blog posts on how journalists can better present Indigenous news.
- Comment on or share the advice in the RIIC Guide.
- Keep RIIC looking sharp and fresh, by posting your photos from the field, or helpful links to include in the Additional Resources section, on our Facebook or Twitter site.
Collectively, we can help each other do our jobs better, better serve Indigenous communities, and improve the quality of our news coverage.
As for that thorny issue of terminology — I’m Anishinaabe, as my people call ourselves, from the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation in southern Ontario. The terms I use to describe Native-Aboriginal-First Nations-Indigenous Persons are fluid and depend on the occasion (more on that in the Terminology and Lexicon section).