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Opinion

Renowned journalist, writer speaks on race and media

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March 11, 2015

UW-River Falls students were treated to a renowned special guest who came to South Hall on March 5 to discuss the role of Native Americans in news media.

In her presentation, titled “ImagiNATIVE Communities: Indigeneity and Communication in the 21st Century,” UW-Madison Professor Patty Loew discussed tribal news and the discrepancy of minority reporters in the media. Citing recent news statistics, Loew stressed the fact that the minority population of the U.S. has increased, 25.9 percent in 1990 to 36.9 percent in 2014, at a disproportionate rate to its increase in news media. The minority television workforce, Loew claimed, increased from 17.8 percent in 1990 to 22.4 in 2014.

Loew came to campus to the ongoing Working Journalists Lecture Series hosted by the UWRF journalism department. This semester, the event was co-sponsored by the UWRF Women’s and Gender Studies program.

As the presentation began, there was hardly a single seat that wasn’t filled (granted, a few columns of desks were roped off). As stragglers came in late, they had to be pointed by faculty in the direction of the last few available chairs in the room.

According to her page on the UW website, Loew has “authored dozens of scholarly and general interest articles on Native topics and produced scores of Native-themed documentaries that have appeared on commercial and public television stations throughout the country.”

Loew has also published “Native People of Wisconsin,” a social studies book read by over 15,000 elementary school children among other achievements.

A failing newspaper industry has also contributed to a lack of representation of minorities, says Loew. Between 2007 and 2014, according to Loew, the amount of people employed at newspaper jobs decreased from 55,000 to 36,000.

“I know for a fact that…many people of color lost their jobs in this media consolidation,” Loew said in reference to many aspects of media forming together in the wake of this huge downturn in media jobs.

Loew discussed why there has been such a small increase in minority representation, specifically focusing on Native Americans. While implicit racism was one clear reason, when asked about why Native Americans mostly stayed within their specifically-tailored news media, Loew said: “I think that a lot of people who go into journalism in Indian country would prefer to remain within their tribal areas.”

Loew mentioned that journalism in Native American regions features much more advocacy articles than in cities or small towns. She said that this is mostly because of the Native American desire to fight against biased U.S. mainstream media which, due to their small Native American representation, lack the perspective necessary to write fairly on the subject.

During her presentation, Loew stressed that students should interrupt her at any time to ask any questions they might have. Before and after her presentation, she went around the room talking to students and faculty.

Loew’s presentation appeared to be a great success compared to last semester’s Working Journalists Seminar, which followed a panel format, during which only one student asked a question. During and after Loew’s presentation, many people, both faculty and students, asked questions to better understand a subject which seemed to legitimately interest them.

With Loew and many other famous personalities, including Daymond John, known for being an investor on the television series “Shark Tank,” slated to visit campus for the Fourth Annual Scholarship Benefit Dinner on Friday, April 24; Temple Grandin, an activist who appeared on 2010’s “Time 100” list of the world’s most influential people; and the many speakers who will be coming to campus to speak for TEDx on April 11, one has to laud UWRF for bringing in so many renowned people to motivate and inspire its students.