Black Lives Matter, and What We Can Do

 

Dear Friends,

So much has been said, posted, and shared in the past week, and InvestigateWest must add our voice to both document this moment as journalists and bear witness as human beings. Americans George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor died because the systems created to protect citizens were not built for people with their skin color. They were not the first to die, and tragically, they will not be the last. We need to make change, now. Here are our promised next steps:

InvestigateWest will continue to provide strong investigative coverage of social justice stories about people of color, but rededicate ourselves to coverage more widely and frequently, and in conversation with the communities we cover.

A culture of fear in Indian Country

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.

Data is the lifeblood of journalism but it’s in short supply in Indian Country

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.

Worry: the sixth ‘W’ of journalism

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.

Unequal Justice project weds teamwork with big numbers

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.