Journalism-An Opportunity For Native Youth To Change The World Around Them
By Bobbie Hart O'Neill
Over the past several years there has been a notable increase in the number of American Indians who have entered the realm of the print and electronic media. One of the major reasons is the emphasis, now, being placed on educational opportunities and scholarships offered to students on Indian reservations, which encourages students to go on to a community college or a four year institution. Many of them with a career in journalism as a result of their having worked on the school newsletter, newspaper or year book.
Another influence is the rise in popularity of the Internet among young people. Now, anyone who wants to can become a writer. Many of them become creative writers who simply write daily journals of the things happening in their lives. Others take a more serious look at the Internet offerings. They want to bring about transitions in their own lives, the lives of others and the world around them. They are the serious writers who often become journalists after working on school publications.
Yes, this is a good thing as an attitude develops that can bring about many postive changes in a person's daily existence which in the long run can benefit individual tribes. Journalists are being looked upon as "go getters". People who have seized the opportunity to make things happen and therefore have grabbed the attention of their local, regional, and even national audiences and are being sought out for leadership roles.
A few words of advice from an old-time reporter/editor. When you write, "Be Yourself". Remember the role of the journalist is to inform, educate and entertain through the use of the five W's of the craft- Who, What, Where, Why and When and not necessarily in that order. BTW, there are four items I always have on hand near my desk as reference materials- a dictionary- word finder- almanac- and a map of the world.
The conscientious journalist strives to link their lives of others to the lives of the readers, the listeners or the viewers to build bridges into their own experiences, hopes and ambitions.
My love affair with journalism was sparked at a very tender age by an old-time radio show called "Illustrated Press". Steve Wilson was the managing editor and his motto was "Freedom of the press is a flaming sword. Hold it high, guard it well, use it justly." Those words really turned me on and I have tried to live through them in everything I write.
Got my first taste of reporting in high school when I wrote the school sports news for the Massena Observer way back in 1941. I went to a small community college where I was the Sports editor, then I came out west to attend the University of Arizona and took some "J" courses but I got married, began a family so my writing was limited to the PTA and Junior League type newsletters. It wasn't until my youngest child began school in 1964 that I returned to college for a serious attempt at getting a journalism degree at American River College in Sacramento.
I started out in the community college as a stringer for the Sacramento Bee, worked as reporter for a weekly paper during summer vacation; was a public relations assistant for three years for the Sacramento Area United Way; editor of a magazine for the California Nursing Home Association; plus freelance assignments for the American Red Cross and other United way agencies.
Finally got my BA degree in Journalism from CSU-Sacremento in 1974 at the age of 50. Then my husband, an employee of the US Bureau of Reclamation was transferred three times in five year before we ended up in Yuma, Az where I tried my hand as a magazine publisher for a year and ended up as a columnist for a weekly publication until I retired in 1993.
Now, after a phase of screewriting, and at the age of 83, I concentrate on editing the Native Unity Digest in addition to freelance writing and editing.
As a graduate of the old school of Journalism where there was a great deal of emphasis placed on ethics and integrity in reporting, I have seen many changes in the reporting and writing style over the years. Gone are the days of the family owned newspapers which were the cornerstone of every community. They are no members of a media corporation where advertising revenue rules the roost.
Where the advent of television news the format and style of news reporting has drastically changed. Before too long, I predict the demise of print media journalism. For me with printer's ink in my veins, that's not a happy ending!