Journalist Rebecca Clarren shares insights into the culture of fear in Indian Country she experienced in central Oregon while reporting for InvestigateWest and The Nation on the topic of punitive discipline and substandard curricula at a Native American public school.
I was on deadline, with all of the accompanying signs of the d-word: sweaty palms, clenched gut, my children watching too much television while I worked overtime, when I realized, with two days until the issue closed, I was facing an intractable roadblock. To ensure the accuracy of one sentence in the story, I would have to visit each federally recognized Native American tribe and Alaska Native community in the United States. That’s 567 tribes in nearly as many locations. The article, “Reckoning with the ‘Native Harvey Weinsteins,’” which will be published tomorrow, is about the unique circumstances that make it difficult for tribal members who experience sex discrimination in Indian Country to report and end abuse. Part of the issue is that as a nod to tribal sovereignty, Congress has exempted tribes from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the law that prohibits sex discrimination, including sexual harassment and assault, in the workplace. Tribes can of course write their own codes, filling this void with culturally appropriate laws that protect tribal employees and as part of my research I had tried to determine just how many tribes had done so.
InvestigateWest’s work resulted in 13 laws being passed in Washington and Oregon this year, and $48 million in foster care funding being appropriated in Washington. News partners involved in the coverage include Crosscut.com, KCTS9 TV and Pamplin Media Group.
Stress is the bedfellow of serious journalism – and for good reason
As a young reporter I was taught about the five W’s of journalism: Who, what, where, when and why. Nearly 20 years into my career, I’ve realized that another “W” word is critical to doing my job: worry. Take, for example, the recent story I wrote for InvestigateWest, in partnership with The Nation. The story tries to answer the question of why the Goldwater Institute, a conservative Republican think tank in Arizona was trying to use a series of lawsuits to dismantle the Indian Child Welfare Act, a landmark law created to keep Indian families intact. The article follows the people involved, the lawyers who are bringing the lawsuits, and the tribal members who would feel its impact.
Fake news. It’s not just all over social media, bungling up elections, and poisoning public debate – it’s also a significant issue worldwide. But the good news for us, and for you, our members, is that our audience is key to helping legitimize the work we do.
I’m tickled that I finally get to write about the Unequal Justice series collaboration today, one of our most ambitious partnerships to date and, certainly, the largest data project InvestigateWest has ever been involved with. I love this project. Mostly because it combines the two things that we do best at IW’s Oregon shop: drill down on numbers and work with our media partners. I alluded to its impending release back in September, in my note about the strength of collaboration, and again in October when I wrote to you about the power of data in journalism. Now I get to dish the backstory.
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This month, I offer a behind-the-scenes look at a very snowy ride with Officer Kevin Allen of the Portland Police Bureau. As luck would have it, it was Jan. 10 when the bureau set me up for a ride-along with Officer Allen. The Portland native ended up being my tour guide during one of the biggest snowstorms the city has seen in two decades.
High-quality journalism that informs us as citizens is the oxygen of democracy. Right now it looks like we need to carry around an oxygen tank. InvestigateWest is here to provide the in-depth, thoughtful and fact-based journalism that fights back, but we need more support to take this fight to scale.