Reporting on Indigenous Stories

Code of Ethics and Practices for Reporting on Indigenous Communities

Article 1- Preamble

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls on news organizations to be “properly reflective of the diverse cultures, languages, and perspectives of Aboriginal peoples.” St. Thomas University’s student newspaper has a responsibility to play a meaningful role in reconciliation. Therefore, The Aquinian has created a foundational Code of Ethics and Practices for Reporting on Indigenous Communities. This is a baseline best practices document.

Article 2 – Ethics, values and intent

2.01 The Aquinian will strive to create a welcoming and inclusive community.

2.02 We recognize media shapes perceptions and can play an important, crucial role in educating people.

2.03 The Aquinian should foster an inclusive community between Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth, faculty and staff in St. Thomas University based on mutual understanding and respect.

2.04 The Editor-in-Chief and Managing Editor shall be encouraged to recruit Indigenous writers and editors to be a valuable part of the newspaper.

2.05 The Aquinian will strive to report on positive and negative Indigenous stories.

2.06 As a journalist, we are encouraged to ask questions and be curious. If we are not sure of something, we will ask.

2.07 The Aquinian will ensure we will have training and knowledge at every level of the organization. See article 3 and 6.

2.08 Staff of The Aquinian acknowledge we are all treaty people.

Article 3 – The Wabanaki Centre

3.01 The Editor-in-Chief and Managing Editor, and at least one staff member, will be encouraged to visit the Wabanaki Centre at least once a week.

3.02 By visiting the Wabanaki Centre, the editorial team can gain positive and negative stories from their source, and thereby write complete coverages.

3.03 By establishing connections at the Wabanaki Centre, especially early on, reporters can ease the tension and nervousness common when reporting on Indigenous Peoples.

Article 4 – Terminology

The Aquinian will educate our editorial staff on the proper terminology when writing about Indigenous populations. We recognize being specific and accurate is of primary importance. Some of the proper terminology is described below:

i. Be specific and accurate: Use the nation name, rather than just “Indigenous” when referring to a person. Use a nation name when relevant to the story.

ii. Ask your source what they would prefer to be identified as, instead of assuming they are from a certain nation (because of proximity, etc.).

iii. Remember plural and non-plural: Mi’kmaq (plural) vs. Mi’kmaw (singular), Inuk (person) vs. Inuit (people).

iv. In Canada, First Nations, Inuit and Métis are the three distinct groups of Indigenous Peoples. Each of these three groups is divided into different specific nations and/or communities. First Nations are the largest and most varied.

v. Indigenous Peoples can refer to any Indigenous person around the world. It’s a general term.

vi. First Nations and Indigenous do not mean the same thing.

vii. Inuit are from and based in Northern Canada. Métis are descended from First Nations and Europeans.

viii. Don’t use the word Aboriginal.

ix. If there is more than one community use broader terms; if there are different groups together say “Indigenous.”

Article 5 – Photos

Photos taken for Indigenous stories will be relevant to the story. For example, a photo of an Indigenous person drumming will not be published with a story on water quality in an Indigenous community.

Article 6 – Sources

6.01 The Aquinian will respect the time it takes to return calls or emails. If one source fails to return our calls or requests for an interview, the reporter will be encouraged to consult with the Managing Editor and the Editor-in-Chief before the decision to publish is made.

6.02 The Aquinian will make efforts to establish a list of Indigenous Peoples to consult on certain topics, for speciality or expertise. This list will be re-examined and refreshed every August, if needed. If the amount of knowledge these sources contribute takes multiple hours out of their day, we will find some way to compensate them.

6.03 The Aquinian pledges to avoid tokenism. We will only use an Indigenous voice if it is relevant and connected to the topic by knowledge or experience, not just because they are Indigenous.

6.04 The Aquinian recognizes part of reporting in Indigenous communities means establishing relationships and maintaining connections. Indigenous Peoples are giving us knowledge and their time when they talk to us. We must give them something in return to abide by cultural norms and politeness. This is called reciprocity.

i. Gifts can include sending a link of the story to people once it’s published, sending the photos you took of the individual and giving them a personal copy of the paper.

6.05 If a source asks to read the story before it’s published, we can do the following:

i. Inform them of their interview and perspective’s contribution to the story’s overall meaning.

ii. Inform them of the quotes we used in the story and why.

6.06     To prevent ideas from being misrepresented or misinterpreted, if a sources’ first language is not English or they are not fluent in English, it can be noted that English is not their first language and therefore, some ideas may not have been directly translated. This can be done at the discretion of the Editor-in-Chief.

Article 7 – Education

7.01 The Aquinian will organize annual training workshops or sharing circles at the beginning of each year in August or September.

i. If possible and if hiring someone to teach or lead the circle, these will be funded by the Dalton Camp Endowment Fund. Proposals must be made a month or more in advance.

ii. If it is not possible to be funded, either the St. Thomas University Students’ Union Indigenous representative will guide and help facilitate the workshop/sharing circle or an affordable method must be found.

iii. The workshop/sharing circle should be open to all St. Thomas University students as well.

iv. The workshop/sharing circle should cover the following topics, but not be limited to: cultural sensitivity, photographing Indigenous moments/people, terminology, colonial amnesia/providing context.

v. A certificate will be provided to those who participate in the workshop/sharing circle.

Article 8 – Past articles

8.01 The Aquinian recognizes their reporters’ and editorial teams’ unconscious bias and the deficiencies of past reporting. To live up to this The Aquinian will:

i. not take excerpts from past articles.

ii. talk to people who were there to confirm and/or get the full story, instead of taking excerpts from our previous articles and placing them in current stories for context.

iii. strive to get the story from Indigenous peoples first when concerning Indigenous stories

This guide was developed through consultation with the 2019-2020 Indigenous representative on the St. Thomas University student representative council, Leanne Hudson and Mi’kmaw and Black journalist and former Aquinian Managing Editor, Oscar Baker III, wisdom gained from the 2019 workshop, Reporting on Indigenous Communities with CBC Anishinaabe journalist and Radio One host for Cross-Country Checkup Duncan McCue, advice from The Aquinian’s advisor Philip Lee and help and consultation from the 2019-20 Managing Editor Jerry Faye-Flatt. Guide was written by 2019-20 Editor-in-Chief Caitlin Dutt.