Health Affects All Of Us: Covering the Affordable Care Act

A little over a year ago, I didn’t know much about health insurance, except that I had it. Well that all changed when I was assigned to cover the Affordable Care Act in 2013.

In Nevada, we have a state based exchange, and our state figures showed many Nevadans didn’t have health insurance, especially in the Latino community.

When the insurance came online through the exchange, the learning process started rolling.

Much like the reports we heard about healthcare.gov, there were also problems in enrolling through the Nevada exchange Nevada Health Link. The process moved forward, and people were enrolled, but not as many as projected.

There lies a situation yet to be uncovered. For those in communities across the country who chose not to enroll, or missed the deadlines, penalties are coming. It will show up when people start filing their taxes.

Courtesy: clipartbest.com

For those journalists assigned to cover the ACA or health insurance, the stories are numerous. It’s not too late to start, as open enrollment begins its second year.

Lower income communities will be impacted greatly by the new federal law requiring all Americans to have health insurance. Whether they buy a plan through the exchange in their state, or qualify for Medicaid, they must enroll.

To learn more about insurance issues, find the navigators, or insurance brokers in your communities. They can guide you to further understand the intricacies.

What are the efforts being done to disseminate this information in other languages? In Nevada, there was great need to explain and to help people enroll who speak Spanish.

This additional expense will impact families’ budgets, another factor to consider in decisions to enroll or not. Hospitals and doctors offices will also be impacted by the new influx of patients who are now insured.

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Courtesy: clipartbest.com

The issue is not without controversy. Whether people believe mandated affordable insurance is a dream come true, or is a bad idea, it’s still in effect.

Those involved with providing the insurance through the federal government, or through the individual states that wanted to operate their own exchanges, now have at least one year of experience under their belts.

With glitches, complications, and other frustrations that evolved during the first year of enrollment, government insurance leaders, and insurance carriers are hoping for a smoother ride with this second year rolling out.
Covering this activity has become a new beat in newsrooms and if your newsroom hasn’t designated a reporter to this topic, this would be a great beat to grab. The impact of insurance on the community is far-reaching, and the stories are numerous. Health affects all of us, and this is an arena that will continue to grow.

Sandra Gonzalez

Sandra Gonzalez

 

Sandra Gonzalez is former SPJ Diversity Committee Chair, and is a general assignment reporter at KSNV-TV in Las Vegas.

@SandraGonzalez2

sandragonzalezthereporter@gmail.com

 

 

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Lessons from Ferguson: Earning the public’s trust

Diversity Toolbox column reprinted from the September/October edition of Quill. Read the full issue at http://www.spj.org/quill.asp

 

By Sally Lehrman

Let’s face it: The moment news gatherers take on a story that turns on racial justice, most of them contend with a severe lack of trust. Americans are only half convinced that the news media are ever worth their confidence, according to survey data. For communities of color, the reliability, credibility and even objectivity of the news are especially in question because of a troubled track record of stereotyping and neglect.

So it was in Ferguson, Mo., as journalists struggled to tell the story of the community uprising after unarmed black teenager Michael Brown was shot dead by a white police officer. Reporters, photographers and producers faced the fundamental challenge of all journalism: earning the trust of both sources and audiences.

Traditional media took days to recognize the significance of the events unfolding over the first few days after Brown’s death. But Twitter was afire with the #Ferguson hashtag and #IfTheyGunnedMeDown commentary on media portrayals of black victims. To many Twitter users it seemed a repeat of media inattention in the wake of the 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin, also black, unarmed and a teen, in Florida by a neighborhood vigilante who has identified as both white and Hispanic.

In both cases, the black American community at the heart of the story turned to social media to call attention to the incident and the issues they felt needed airing. St. Louis alderman Antonio French, who had already been tweeting regularly about social concerns in St. Louis, walked among the Ferguson protestors, urged calm and showed armored vehicles confronting community members in his posts on Twitter and Vine. Reporters, police officers and neighborhood leaders soon followed suit with their own version of events.

True enough, Twitter users can choose to follow only those with whom they agree. But more importantly, some commentators propose that people across the racial spectrum turn to Twitter because they see the news media as out of touch.

Twitter may win people’s trust because they can be certain they will hear the perspectives of members of their own communities. They can join in debate. They can relate to the ideas expressed and the voices that tell the story.

In Ferguson, reporters faced a chaotic situation coupled with police hostility. Yet the results of their efforts often seemed superficial. Ricardo Torres, a Milwaukee-based freelance journalist, compared much of the work to weather reporting. Journalists described the social climate as if it were nature on the move, he said, with “tensions building” and the “police on edge.” Many of them missed the opportunity to provide a three-dimensional picture of the outpouring of anger and concern.

What forces had shaped it? What was the story of the community in which it happened? What was the broader social context in which we all play a role?

In an interview, Elise Hu, part of the NPR team that reported from Ferguson, offered some tips on how to prepare for a fair, thorough and accurate telling of such a volatile moment. Some of her suggestions included:

Work With a Diverse Team

The NPR crew included a Latina, an African-American man and woman, an Asian woman and a white man. “It opened some doors,” Hu said. The team also worked closely with the local St. Louis member station, which provided knowledge about the local community, its history and current concerns.

Do your Homework on Social Issues Surrounding Race and Class

Some people think that we all live within society, so we’re all somehow experts on social issues. The NPR team had spent more than a year reporting comprehensively on the complexities of race, identity and culture. “We had laid all that groundwork of understanding race,” Hu said. As a result, they knew how to talk about difficult topics and to reach beyond the action on the streets.

Show the Diversity of the Community you are Covering

Many audiences around the country saw only three blocks of Ferguson over and over, perpetually in conflict and distress. Hu said her team felt it was important to show what else was going on. Hu did stories like the one that described the 150 area teachers who came out to clean up the streets. Such work helped show the people of Ferguson as more than caricatures of angry disadvantaged Americans.

Meet Your Audiences Where They Are

Ferguson news made NPR’s “All Things Considered” on a regular basis, but Hu said she also made sure to communicate real-time on Twitter because she knew that’s where the community was talking. And despite her expectations, she met a lot of young black and Hispanic men who told her they loved NPR. She learned something from those conversations.

“We shouldn’t use the fact that we think our audience is white to do a certain kind of story, because our emerging audience is very different,” she said. Hu was speaking about public radio, but her advice holds across the board.

Sally Lehrman is the Senior Fellow for Journalism Ethics at the Markkula Center. She is an independent journalist who reports on science and social issues.

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Diversity Committee: Looking ahead to the coming year

It was nice to meet many of you in Nashville and I look forward to working with everyone in the upcoming year. I wanted to follow-up on a few items that came up during and after the EIJ conference.

First off, I’d like to again extend big thank you to Sandra Gonzalez for her work in leading the committee the past two years, especially for mentoring the Diversity Leadership Fellows during the conference. And thank you also to Georgiana Vines for agreeing to be vice-chair of the committee this year.

Diversity Chair April Bethea and past Chair Sandra Gonzalez and the President's Installation Banquet. Photo by Walter Middlebrook

Diversity Chair April Bethea and past Chair Sandra Gonzalez. Photo by Walter Middlebrook

In case you haven’t seen it, President Dana Neuts recently wrote a blog post on SPJ’s need to improve diversity within the organization. Region 3 Director Michael Koretzky also wrote on the issue, and I understand the membership committee also is looking at diversity in its efforts for the coming year. I hope to share more with you in the future.

Below is a recap of some of the things discussed at the committee meeting in Nashville. I hope you’ll find a project (or two) that you’ll want to help with this year.

1) MANAGEMENT TRAINING: One of our major goals for the year is to launch a project to help train journalists from diverse backgrounds who want to be managers. One idea is to sponsor someone to attend the Executive Leadership Program held by the AAJA. Walter Middlebrook has been taking the lead on this. This would require funding from SDX, and we’d need to first submit a proposal to the SPJ executive committee by January.

2) RAINBOW SOURCEBOOK: We’d like to make another run at updating the sourcebook, including reaching out to journalism schools or other educators to help with the work. If you are interested in helping with or leading this effort, please email me at adbethea@gmail.com

3) CATCHING UP WITH DIVERSITY LEADERSHIP FELLOWS: There have been eight classes of fellows since 2005, and we’re looking for 1-2 people to reach out to alumni to learn what they are doing now and if they are still involved with SPJ. This year’s fellows also suggested creating a Facebook group to help alumni stay in touch. If you’re interested in helping with this project, please contact me.

4) PROGRAMMING AT FUTURE CONFERENCES: There was a lot of concern about the lack of diversity in much of the programming at EIJ and a desire to push for change. I’ve shared those concerns with Dana Neuts, and Sandra and I both shared it with Chris Vachon during a debriefing on the fellows program. Athima Chansanchai, one of this year’s fellows, has expressed interest in helping with programming for EIJ15 and I also shared that with Dana. In the meantime, the request for EIJ15 proposals should be going out within the next month. I encourage you all to submit proposals and let me know if you have other thoughts on this issue.

5) WRITERS NEEDED: Finally, we’re looking for volunteers to help update our blog and social media accounts, as well as write for Quill on diversity-related topics. I’d like to see the blog updated at least twice a month, including a roundup of articles or other posts on diversity in journalism. Please contact Sandra Gonzalez (E-mail) if you’re interested.

Thank you all for your ideas and discussion at the committee meeting. Again, I look forward to working with you all.

 

April Bethea,
SPJ Diversity Committee Chair
Online Producer, The Charlotte Observer
adbethea@gmail.com | Twitter: @AprilBethea

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Tension in America

As race relations continue to be strained from the recent attention on Ferguson, Missouri where a police officer shot a young African American man, Michael Brown; or the journey of Central American children rushing to cross the United States border, we as journalists are covering these stories.

Emotions run high when people hear or read the news on these matters of racial strife or immigration. It reminds me of the daunting responsibility we have as journalists to tell these stories, and to always remember the power of our words and images.

It is with great pride to see journalism organizations like SPJ get involved when it becomes a challenge with law enforcement to cover stories such as the Ferguson protests. When events like the unrest in Ferguson erupt, we are out there on the front lines, with our notepads, mics and cameras. It is tough to be in the middle of chaotic incidents, but we are there, trying to get the story for our communities.

Let us stick with these stories, report the aftermath, the healing, and the efforts to solve the chaotic situations. May we learn something and pass these lessons on to others.

As the Excellence in Journalism Conference in Nashville gets underway this week, there are so many opportunities to grow and reflect on the issues before us.

A panel titled “Lessons from Ferguson” will explore the conflicts and challenges journalists faced in Missouri.
We can also learn about the dangers our fellow journalists are facing covering stories in Mexico.
And, the panel ‘Race Coverage: 50 years of change’, will explore how far journalism has come in reporting on race, and how far it still has to go.

Finally, there is also a panel looking at issues of states requiring IDs to vote, and states issuing drivers licenses to undocumented residents.

There is so much happening across our country, and so much to learn as we share these stories with the masses. I’m looking forward to the EIJ conference, because the knowledge we will be able to gain, will only make our news coverage better.

Sandra Gonzalez

Sandra Gonzalez

Sandra Gonzalez is SPJ Diversity Chair, and a general assignment reporter at KSNV-TV Las Vegas, NV

 

 

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Make Your Call on the Washington Football Team Name

american-football-151765_150The NFL’s Washington Redskins have been around since 1932. The team’s nickname has been discussed, disputed and disparaged for a long time as well. In writing this column, I debated whether to use it.

In mid-June, the U.S. Patents and Trademark Office announced that it was tearing up the team’s trademark registration, finding that it was “disparaging to Native Americans” and thus could no longer be given trademark protection.

Is avoiding the term advocacy?

Team owner Daniel Snyder is on the record saying he will never change the team’s name and fans and supporters – including some Native Americans – embrace the name. Journalists and media outlets have taken a stand on the issue themselves.

Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, the Washington Post’s Christine Brennan and NBC’s Bob Costas are some of the most prominent journalists who have called for a name change. On the other side, Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly has voiced support for the name.

The Pew Research Center reported last year that 76 journalists and news outlets such as The Oregonian (whose policy dates back to 1992), the San Francisco Chronicle, Slate and the New Republic have decided not to use the nickname. Poynter recently compiled its own list.

But is this kind of advocacy media outlets should be taking? Some argue that media outlets have always set a limit on terms that they consider offensive to readers, viewers and listeners. For example, refusal to use the n-word is nearly universal in American news media.

Others, though, argue that the term has long been part of the American lexicon, used by some Native Americans themselves. Changing it, they say, would simply give in to the “politically correct” police.

And yet opposition to the name from such organizations as the National Congress of American Indians and the Oneida Nation continues to grow – and is becoming more difficult for the news media to ignore.

If it offends, stop using it

So how should media outlets handle the Washington mascot controversy?

Former Seattle Post-Intelligencer editorial page editor Mark Trahant, who is now the Atwood Journalism chair at the University of Alaska Anchorage, said it should be an easy call – if it offends, stop using it.

“With Washington you don’t have to go beyond the dictionary; (the) word is defined as a slur,” said Trahant, a member of Idaho’s Shoshone-Bannock tribe, in an interview via social media. “I remember repeating the R-word as a kid, early 60s. My dad told me that’s a word we don’t use. One test for journalists: Would you use the word in a community of Natives where you are not known? If no, then keep it out of sports pages.”

A Native American Studies professor and former journalism professor, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue, wrote in an email that she believes the media’s role is to be a leader on the issue.

“What should media outlets do? The right thing,” she said. “I can’t believe there’s an editor alive who doesn’t know this term is offensive to many and for good reasons, both historic and contemporary. Hasn’t the public often relied on the media to set the moral high bar, provide guidance for ethical, responsible behavior and decision-making? Why stop short now?”

At the very least, every newsroom should have a brutally honest discussion about the name. More importantly – journalists must get beyond their comfort zone, take a stand and make a call whether or not to use the term.


Clyde Hughes is a freelance journalist based in Lafayette, Indiana, who wrote many years for the Toledo Blade. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites around the country and taught courses on covering minorities in the media and media ethics as an adjunct professor.

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Donald Sterling: Not Just an Angel vs. Devil Story

There’s a lot that can be said of the saga involving Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. While the subject is a target-rich environment for news articles on diversity, sometimes we can get so homed in on the bad guy/good guy aspect that we miss other credible angles.

I attended a reporting on race workshop at the Poynter Institute in 2000 run by Keith Woods, who is now the vice president for diversity in news and operations at National Public Radio. One of the numerous takeaways I remember was that we as reporters often get locked into what he called “angel vs. devil” scenarios when reporting on race.

Reach for Complexity
The person making the perceived racial comment or taking the action is seen as evil, thus everything that person does or has done is viewed through that lens. Likewise, the victim of the perceived racial slight is almost always viewed more sympathetically, and is given a more supportive treatment. Woods tried to get us to step away from that paradigm and look at people involved in racial conflicts in all of their complexities.

That does not mean that Donald Sterling is not worthy of the critical reporting he has received. But reporters should not shy away from the complexities of the story. How does person who through his own words has such a negative view of African-Americans hire such a successful and strong-willed black coach as Doc Rivers? Or, on a more personal level, date a multiracial woman like V. Stiviano?

Likewise, how do we as reporters not critically look at Stiviano’s motives in recording Sterling?

Fresh angles on mental health, ethics

And how does our assessment of Sterling’s comments change if the “mentally incompetent” label sticks?

The initial reporting on the Sterling case brought up his contributions to the local branch of the NAACP and how the group had planned to give him a lifetime achievement award. I had a debate with other journalists on Facebook about this. Some believed the NAACP should never have taken money from Sterling. Others said fundraising is so difficult, especially for African-American and civil rights organizations, that Sterling’s generosity could be considered a “sin tax” and that the NAACP should have gladly accepted it.

That’s just one example of numerous angles that can be mined from the Sterling saga without getting into the “he said, she said” melodrama of the original story. At times we get so caught up in the tawdry details of the “angels vs. devils” that we miss other worthy topics.


Clyde Hughes is a freelance journalist based in Lafayette, Indiana, who wrote many years for the Toledo Blade. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites around the country and taught courses on covering minorities in the media and media ethics as an adjunct professor.

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Language matters: Think before you write

DictionaryWhat does “elderly” mean to you? Is 60 “elderly?” Cyndi Lauper and Tony Blair, both 60, probably would not agree. Is 80 “elderly?” Perhaps, but why use the word at all? Simply state a person’s age.

What does “inner city” or “urban” signify to you? Probably not a Manhattan high rise along Central Park, although that location is urban and in the inner city.

Words can convey subtle and not-so-subtle meanings, depending on their context. “Inner city” often is a code word for a neighborhood of poor people of color. But using it to mean only that is inaccurate and unfair.

In news reports, we read and hear these types of descriptors all the time. I would argue that their use constitutes lazy journalism.

What about people who are in the U.S. without official documents? In 2011, SPJ approved a resolution that urged journalists to stop using the terms “illegal alien” and “illegal immigrant.”

After the resolution passed, some accused the organization of having a political agenda. But, as SPJ has pointed out, this is a matter of accuracy. People without the proper paperwork have not been convicted of any crime. Because our constitution guarantees innocence until guilt is proven in court, these people may not be ruled “illegal” by journalists or anyone else except a judge or jury. In addition, a person cannot be “illegal.”

As journalists, we should use the words we actually mean rather than writing in code. On the word “elderly,” the Associated Press Stylebook has this to say: “Use this word carefully and sparingly. Do not refer to a person as elderly unless it is clearly relevant to the story.” List people’s ages, not judgmental descriptors.

Avoid using code words such as “inner city” or even “upscale.” When describing a neighborhood, research facts about that neighborhood rather than giving generalizations. Stereotypes are hard to break, but we can start working to fight them today.

Our own SPJ Code of Ethics states: “Avoid stereotyping by race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance or social status.”

It’s an easy rule to follow if we think before we write.

Photo by Greeblie, courtesy Creative Commons License. Image by Denelson83, courtesy Creative Commons GFDL.

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Four ways to build a diverse panel, and why it matters

If you’ve ever walked into a room and been “the only one,” whether it involved race, gender or another factor, you know the feeling of exclusion that lack of representation creates.

The recent Online News Association conference in Atlanta featured a panel on “Disrupt Diversity,” which focused on journalism strategies to find sources outside comfort zones.

The panelists included one white male, Steve Buttry of Digital First Media, one black woman, Dori Maynard, president of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, and one white woman, Jessica Valenti, columnist for The Nation. This is an example of a diverse panel whose speakers can offer a variety of perspectives. In fact, ONA made a particular effort this year to recruit a mix of panelists, with half of them women and 30 percent people of color.

Too many times panels and presentations feature people who come from similar backgrounds and have similar points of view. In fact, Rebecca Rosen wrote about this earlier this year in The Atlantic, calling on men who find themselves on all-male panels to refuse to serve. She was writing about technology and science, but journalism also is applicable.

Newsrooms continue to lack diversity, as shown by the American Society of News Editors’ annual census. Only 12.37 percent of newsroom staffs are non-white and only one-third of employees are female.

Finding people who represent a range of viewpoints is a helpful rule not only for journalism practice, but also for presentations. Whether we consider race, gender, disability, or any other difference, we must think about who is representing our organizations. Excluding part of the audience not only defies ethical principles, but it also is not good for business.

The excuses “we can’t find qualified minorities” and “we can’t find qualified women” often mean that people are not searching outside their own social and work circles.

Here are some ways to find a variety of speakers and sources:

  1. SPJ’s own Rainbow Diversity Sourcebook: http://www.spj.org/divsourcebook.asp
  2. The Women’s Media Center’s She Source: http://www.shesource.org/
  3. The CIIJ at San Francisco State University features links to several diverse journalism organizations: http://www.ciij.org/resources
  4. Many universities, including journalism schools, list professors and their areas of expertise on their websites, such as this one from Columbia Journalism School: http://www.journalism.columbia.edu/page/532-faculty-experts/

Please add your own links to diverse sources of information as comments to this post.

 

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Stories Have Power: Honor the Trust You’re Given

Who’s News is inviting top journalists and journalism educators to share their thoughts on inclusion in the news. Here, Teresa Trumbly Lamsam explains what two Native American journalists are learning as they curate a wellness blog.

Omaha, NE – As a journalist who cut her teeth on the copy desk, I should have pondered the likely editing woes in managing Wellbound Storytellers, a wellness blog written by non-journalists.

However, on reflection, I’m not sure well-laid Wellbound2plans would have worked.Why not? Because I’m the one who got “schooled.” All of those so-called editing headaches turned out to be lessons for me, the experienced editor.

I have condensed those lessons here as they relate to covering health, in particular, American Indian health and wellness.

Stories take time
As perhaps one of the few journalists still in love with the Inverted Pyramid, I value low word counts, aka, a story easy to cut. But people do not tell their wellness stories with a compelling nut graf in mind. At first, I was reluctant to get out of the way of a long personal narrative.

Fellow journalist and Wellbound blogger Rhonda LeValdo was more patient. “I think, if someone is going to tell you a really personal story, let them have the time to do that,” she said. “I don’t badger someone for information … like why they started doing certain things. Maybe it was a death close to them.”

LeValdo, past president of the Native American Journalists Association, said that people talk about personal health issues when they are ready, not just because you need to meet a deadline.

Sometimes, our journalism conventions get in the way of the stories.

Sharing creates vulnerability
The idea behind Wellbound Storytellers is to mobilize the collective, community nature of American Indians to be more transparent about our paths to wellness. The mission is to model the resiliency that characterizes the history and future of Native peoples.

We found that people were generally eager to talk about their health issues, but not as excited to share those stories openly. At first we were surprised. Levaldo and I were expecting other American Indians to share stories for the sake of community health.

In private conversations, people were passionate in telling us their stories. Everyone agreed that these stories needed to be out there, but few were willing to let it be their own stories.

Here are the main reasons behind the reluctance:

Stories have power: A shared belief among many American Indians is that stories in themselves carry power. Wellbound3 History has shown that trusting others with that power – whether reporters or readers – has not proven beneficial.

Storytelling skills: People are not confident in their writing or storytelling and don’t want others to judge them based on it. Also, storytelling is sometimes considered a quasi-official role in the community and therefore only the duty of some.

Embarrassment: For some, letting their health issues out there for the world to see is just embarrassing. Even minor considerations are a concern. As one potential blogger said,“What if I talk about my new healthy eating lifestyle and then someone sees me out eating cake!”

Consequences: What would others do with this personal information? Some worried about being fired if the tribal government found out they had cancer, for example. Others worried about ridicule. One blogger, who pushed past her fears, worried she would be shunned by the community for talking about controversial health concerns.

To a journalist, stories may just be part of the interview process. But for many American Indians, stories carry the wellness we need within them. At Wellbound Storytellers, we walk the balance between producing online content and carefully respecting the power of storytelling.

Teresa Trumbly Lamsam, Ph.D., is the editor and creator of Wellbound Storytellers and executive editor of Native Health News Alliance, a website for journalists under development. She is an associate professor in the School of Communication at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. Teresa, an enrolled member of the Osage Nation, is a former tribal press editor. 

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Telling their own stories: How two Native journalists got past gloomy health statistics to find stories of resiliency

Teresa Trumbly Lamsam, who founded Wellbound Storytellers

Teresa Trumbly Lamsam, who founded Wellbound Storytellers

Who’s News is inviting top journalists and journalism educators to share their thoughts on inclusion in the news. Here, Teresa Trumbly Lamsam explains why two Native American journalists decided to find a way to improve health coverage.

Omaha, NE – American Indians and Alaska Natives (AIAN) have the poorest health status in the US and a lower life expectancy, including a higher rate (1.6 times non-Hispanic White population) of infant mortality.

AIANs also endure high levels of suicide and mental health concerns, obesity, diabetes, substance abuse, teenage pregnancy, liver disease, and hepatitis.

As an American Indian journalist, educator, and tribal member, I was acquainted with the statistics. I could even put names and faces to many of those numbers.

The statistics may paint an accurate, revealing and even necessary picture of AIANs as the sickest people in the country. But after year after year of reporting and reading them, I became jaded about American Indian health news and maybe a little fatalistic.

I reached the “whatever” point. That point where you are ready to walk away and tell the status quo to have at it. But a reality check was right around the corner.

Rhonda pic

Rhonda LeValdo, former NAJA president, producer and host of “Native Spirit” radio show at KKFI 90.1 FM

As if on cue, my own health status became an issue, and given that my personality is not a good fit with cynicism, I shucked the jaded attitude and started looking for solutions. That search led me to Native journalist Rhonda LeValdo, who at the time was president of the Native American Journalists Association.

Turns out, health was on the top of her mind too, both personally and professionally. She was grieving the loss of family members to diabetes complications, and as a parent, determined that diabetes would not claim her or her children.

First we commiserated over the sad state of health reporting for American Indians in mainstream and tribal media. However, criticism wasn’t really doing it for us. We wanted to make a difference in news reporting – a difference that we hoped would also translate to better health in Native communities.

If teary eyes and passionate rhetoric could make a difference, we were well on our way. We left our meeting with a pledge to come up with an idea. Any idea would do because we were desperate to do something, even if it fell flat.

Wellbound ScreenshotSoon after I emailed LeValdo and suggested that we just blog about our own health journeys and recruit other Native journalists to join us. Within the first week of announcing the blog, American Indians who had read about Wellbound Storytellers were emailing to ask if they could contribute. The citizen health journalism blog was born.

Whether they are writing about disease or marathons, our bloggers focus on health through both traditional and contemporary frames using humor and everyday stories of resiliency. They come from all walks of life. Even the journalists write in a personal, conversational tone.

The statistics and perceptions about American Indian health paint us a pitiful people with an outlook of fatalism. The mission of Wellbound Storytellers is to show that health struggles and triumphs can go hand-in-hand. In your coverage of American Indians, consider striking this balance, too.

(Next up: Part 2 focuses on the lessons that Wellbound bloggers taught me about reporting on health and wellness.)

Teresa Trumbly Lamsam, Ph.D., is the editor and creator of Wellbound Storytellers and executive editor of Native Health News Alliance, a website for journalists under development. She is an associate professor in the School of Communication at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. Teresa, an enrolled member of the Osage Nation, is a former tribal press editor. 

(Photos courtesy of Teresa Trumbly Lamsam.)

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