Canku Ota

(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America

 

May 5, 2001 - Issue 35

 
 

 
     
 

Media Vet Woos Indian Students

 
 

 by Steve Miller, West River Editor, Rapid City Journal

 
     
CRAZY HORSE USA Today founder Al Neuharth on Thursday encouraged a group of 112 American Indian students at Crazy Horse Memorial to consider careers in journalism.

Neuharth, who launched his own newspaper career in South Dakota, told the students, here for the Second Annual Native American Newspaper Career Conference, that there is a serious lack of Indian staffers at American newspapers.

"This conference is especially important because you represent the most underrepresented ethnic group in American journalism," Neuharth said. "That's an embarrassment to our industry and to our society as a whole."

Now retired as head of the Gannett newspaper company, Neuharth said there are only 249 Indians among the 56,000 journalists working on daily newspapers in the United States.

"Journalism offers you, whether you're in high school or already on a college campus, a chance to make a difference, for your tribe, of course, and for other Indian people, but more importantly to make a difference for your country," Neuharth told the students at a luncheon that wrapped up the conference, which began Tuesday. "If you're a little intrigued after your two days here, please consider journalism as a career."

In an interview before his speech, Neuharth said he believes there are many opportunities for Indian journalists, particularly on small- and medium-sized newspapers. "They just need a little training and a little willingness to leave their home area."

He said he has heard editors say they want to hire Indian journalists but that there are few qualified candidates. "It's always partly true," he said, but added that the same complaint was made 40 years ago about finding women applicants and 20 years ago about finding African-American applicants for newspaper jobs.

Schulyer Russell, a senior at Heart Butte High School in Montana, said the two-day conference was enjoyable and educational. But she plans to be a nurse.

Kendra James of Rapid City, a freshman at Oglala Lakota College, plans to go into fashion merchandising, but she found the conference helpful, particularly the photography session she attended. "They teach you about all the basics."

She and another OLC student, Sheronne White of Fort Berthold, N.D., said the conference was hard work. But, said White, "I wish it was longer."

Among the mentors for the students was Charley Najacht, publisher of the Custer County Chronicle, who took his students to tour the paper in Custer and helped them prepare for an interview with Val Hoeppner, assistant photography chief of the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader. He also helped them interview Casimir Ziolkowski of Crazy Horse and write a story.

"It was our job as mentors to light the fire," Najacht said.

Some students at the conference seriously were planning to go into journalism and others were sampling it, Ken Blackbird, a Lincoln Journal-Star photographer, said.

"When I grew up, there was never a workshop or anything like this. This is kind of neat," he said. "It's nice being on the other side and giving back."

The 112 students came from seven states and represented 25 tribes. There were 24 mentors from 11 states and the District of Columbia.

The conference was sponsored by the Freedom Forum Neuharth Center, South Dakota Newspaper Association, South Dakota State University Journalism Department, and American Society of Newspaper Editors.
 

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