Newspapers

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I’m internalising a complex set of thoughts at the moment. I originally wrote this as one long piece, but I’m struggling with it, so I’ve decided to chop it up into three separate posts just to get it out of my head. More coherence might reveal itself in due course….

Last night I created a Wikipedia page as part of Mike Caulfield’sNewspapers on Wikipedia project. It’s a cool informational literacy project in so many ways and it took me very quickly into unexpected territory that had to be negotiated carefully. For reasons I can’t explain, in the list of 1000 newspapers needing articles created, I choose the Turtle Mountain Times. Probably it was the name – it was sufficiently different from those around it to stand out. What I chose was a newspaper set up by a Native American tribe, and which pretty quickly seems to have become mired in tribal politics. Within 8 months the original editor was fired in a disagreement about whether the minutes of tribal council meetings should be published in the newspaper.

Establishing notability for something like a newspaper means finding other sources that reference it. This could be other newspapers or books for example. In the case of the Turtle Mountain Times, the Brunswick Tribune covered this story via several bylines, with a very clear editorial slant – that is that ownership of the Turtle Mountain Times by the tribe was a conflict of interest and was interfering with freedom of the press (which is of course culturally subjective).

It seems like a very conflicting set of values about openness, knowledge and power got played out very quickly in the story of this newspaper.

How do I write about this from a neutral point of view when the sources that will help me establish notability have bias? In the end I’ve been selective, and some of this story is therefore not in the Wikipedia page (maybe it doesn’t belong there? I think some more of it might, but I need to find some more sources to quote if I am to include it as more than my opinion). But if you follow the links to the articles the fuller story will unfold.

Also, I am a white western European woman, editorialising the story of a Native American newspaper on Wikipedia; a newspaper set up explicitly to counter media narratives about Native Americans. I decided to write an article because as an experienced Wikipedia editor, I thought I had a good chance of creating a quality article that wouldn’t get shot down or deleted. So I started from a position of some power and knowledge; can I write this from a neutral point of view?

I don’t feel comfortable writing someone else’s story.

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