Agora Journalism Center Hosts Journalists Covering White Nationalism

 

Members of the National Socialist Movement, one of the largest white nationalist type groups in the country, march to a rally at the state capital in Little Rock, Arkansas, U.S., November 10, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

For reporters and photographers, white nationalism is one of the most dangerous beats in the country. It’s also one of the most important.

Yet the journalists asked to cover the issue often feel siloed, ill-prepared, and ill-informed about the continuously-mutating movement they’ve been tasked with understanding and explaining. Many feel disconnected from the support and resources they need to do their job well. Editors and co-workers, who tend to be focused on more mainstream issues, don’t understand the intricacies of their work. And deep research into the bowels of white nationalist belief and rhetoric can leave journalists personally attacked and demoralized.

To help journalists overcome those obstacles, the University of Oregon Agora Journalism Center partnered with the Western States Center to host a daylong working session and discussion Oct. 29 at the White Stag Building in Portland. The Western States Center is a nationwide nonprofit, based in Portland, that works to strengthen inclusive democracy as well as social, racial and economic justice. The Agora Journalism Center’s mission is to advance media innovations that enhance inclusive civic engagement.

The goal of the event, titled “Communicating about White Nationalism,” was to share best practices, build networks, and understand the extent of the white nationalism movement as well as its roots in American history.

More than 50 reporters, photographers, editors and academics participated in the event. Panelists and moderators included Kelly McBride, Sr. Vice President of the Poynter Institute; Christopher Mathias, senior reporter, HuffPost; Alex Zielinski, news editor, Portland Mercury; Chad Sokol, reporter, The Spokesman-Review; Shane Kavanaugh, reporter, The Oregonian; David Neiwert, freelance journalist, author of Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump; Dana Coester, Associate Professor, West Virginia University and Director, 100 Days in Appalachia; Jim Urquhart, freelance photojournalist; Tess Owen, reporter, Vice News; and Jason Wilson, writer, The Guardian. Attendees included freelance reporters and photographers, staff writers for newspapers and online outlets as well as academics and nonprofit directors. They participated in panel discussions, broke into small groups to tackle specific problems, and identified best practices. 

Regina Lawrence, director of the Agora Journalism Center, said the center convened the event with the hope of identifying best practices for covering racial extremists. 

“White nationalism is a complex movement to explain to the public, and it shows no signs of going away anytime soon,” she said. “It’s critical that journalists find ways to cover this movement more thoughtfully, and to include the voices of people directly impacted by it.” 

Covering this movement presents a challenging dilemma: How to meet the public’s need to know without disseminating hate speech to a wider audience. Attendees learned how to recognize when they are being manipulated by hate groups and how to cover chaotic events with the balance and context that the profession demands.

—By Tim Trainor


Tim Trainor is a journalist and multimedia journalism master’s student at the UO School of Journalism and Communication in Portland. He also still works with EO Media Group and freelances for publications throughout the Northwest.

Engaging Communities: Call for Applications

With trust in the media weakening on both sides of the Atlantic, journalism is under pressure to reinvent itself in order to fulfill its vital role in safeguarding democracy. News media organizations are recognizing the importance of engaging the public through storytelling, transparent newsrooms, and community outreach projects.

Are you interested in expanding an existing engagement project? With funding from Robert Bosch Stiftung and News Integrity Initiative, the University of Oregon’s Agora Journalism Center is offering eight mini-grants across Europe and North America to fund community engagement activities.

The project, “Engaging Communities: Reflecting on the Work of Engaged Journalism,” aims to achieve cross-border collaboration with engagement practitioners in the media by supporting existing projects focused on building connections and trust with their communities.  We aim to convene projects that will benefit from reflecting on how to assess, demonstrate and articulate the value and impact of their relational engagement work.

Selected applicants will receive up to € 10,120 in support and mobility grant funding to expand on their engagement project as well as attend two facilitated sessions with the grantee cohort to share best practices and recognize opportunities for collaboration. Each project leader/project representative will also visit a fellow participant’s project in order to gain a deeper understanding of the day-to-day operations of their engagement work.

How to Apply

  • Prepare an application in English using the following Google Form. All applications are due by Friday, April 19 before 5 pm PT / 17:00 (GMT-8).
  • Designate a project leader who will communicate with Agora Journalism Center staff and oversee the completion of the proposed project.
  • Save the date for the initial Engaging Communities workshop in Portland, OR, June 13-14, 2019.
  • We encourage applications from projects that are embedded within news media organizations.

Funding

Selected project recipients will receive up to €10,120. This award includes the expected expenses for traveling to two cohort gatherings, one in the U.S. and one in Europe, as well as the cross-border visit to another project. Additionally, selected projects will receive mentorship and guidance from leading practitioners.

Expectations

  • Participating projects must be based in North America or Europe (as defined by the Council of Europe). Prior to applying, project leaders must already have some relational engagement project in the works with their community either digitally or in-real-life. We encourage applications from projects that are embedded within a news media organization.
  • In terms of time commitment, all project leaders must:
    • Be available for the Engaging Communities workshop in Portland, OR, on June 13-14, 2019.
    • Be available to visit another project site during the summer/fall of 2019 and welcome a fellow Engaging Communities participant at his or her host site.
    • Be available to participate in a follow-up Engaging Communities convening in Europe in November, 2019 (dates and location TBD).
    • Participate in monthly video conference calls with the cohort as well as their project mentors.
    • Share best practices at the Engaging Communities workshops and gatherings as well as in a brief project report.
  • Participating projects are expected to utilize the Engaged Journalism Reflective Practice Guide (RPG), which will be introduced at the first convening, to assess their engagement project.  Grantees must commit to implementing the Engaged Journalism Reflective Practice Guide according to guidelines that will be provided.

Timeline

  • April 19: Deadline to submit completed applications.
  • April 30: Awardees will be informed
  • May 15: Public announcement of the awarded projects
  • June 13-14: Attend the gathering in Portland to participate in a peer-learning workshop.
  • July-October: Carry out cross-border visits.  At least one project representative per team is expected to visit one other project for mutual learning and exchange.
  • November: Attend a second gathering with the cohort in Europe. Details to come.

Questions

Please direct any additional questions not answered in our FAQ  below to Engaging Communities’ project director, Andrew DeVigal, at adevigal@uoregon.edu.


FAQ

How will the project leader receive the grant funds?

The grant can only be paid to the project leader and not to an organization. For administrative reasons, there can only be one grant recipient per project. The funds will be distributed in U.S. dollars via check or wire transfer (for individuals outside the United States).

After the selection process, awardees will be notified immediately. Project leaders will be asked to sign a contract (Memorandum of Understanding) with the University of Oregon that will include:

  • Duration of the project;
  • Intended purpose of the project and terms of use;
  • Confirmed participation in the launch/closing workshops and cross-border visits;
  • End-of-project review: brief report on the project implemented, including lessons learned from the workshops and cross-border visit.

How can the grant money be used?

The grant money can be used in any way to support your relational engagement project. However, a portion of the funds must be used to travel from your home to the following gatherings:

  • Portland, OR, June 13-14, to attend a kick-off workshop with the rest of the cohort.
  • The cross-border visit to another Engaging Communities project for mutual learning and exchange. These visits must happen between July and October 2019.
  • Europe in November to attend another two-day closing workshop. Details to follow.

Project leaders will be responsible for making their own travel and hotel arrangements with the grant money. We can provide a list of recommended local hotels. Meals will be provided during the workshops in Portland and Europe.

Due to administrative reasons, the funds will likely be distributed after the June gathering. Once the sub-awardee has signed the contract with the University of Oregon, funds will be distributed in a lump sum. UO Contracting takes 6-8 weeks to process, so we encourage sub-awardees to submit required paperwork and signatures in a timely manner to expedite the contract. Sub-awardees are still required to attend the June gathering in Portland even if the contract has not been fully executed.

Which taxes have to be paid?

The grant is subject to the taxation laws of your country, which might deviate significantly from the U.S. Please get professional advice on this in your home country. We cannot assist with the taxes you might have to pay.

What kinds of community engagement projects should apply?

We seek applications of engagement projects that strengthen the relationship between a local news organization and communities they serve. Project activities may include, for example, building community networks, making opportunities for dialogue between diverse community members, or equipping the public in aspects of the journalistic process. Examples of engaged journalism projects can be found on Gather’s list of case studies and featured projects.

We encourage applications from projects that are embedded within a media organization that is dedicated to building and preserving trusting relationships between journalists and the public.

‘Unvanished’ project sheds light on the modern life of American Indians

Shayanna Campbell looks lovingly up at her grandfather Skinny, who wanted Torsten Kjellstrand to portray him as a good grandfather. After spending all day with the Campbell family at the Blackfeet Reservation, Kjellstrand confirms that Skinny is a very good grandfather.

Story by Becky Hoag
Photos courtesy of Torsten Kjellstrand

The University of Oregon is on Kalapuya land. Several names that we take for granted every day, such as the Willamette and Klamath, are Native American names. In fact, there are many students and staff, as well as members of the surrounding communities, of Native American heritage.

The SOJC project “Unvanished: Seeing American Indians in the 21st Century” aims to show what life is like for modern Native Americans. On the second floor of Allen Hall, an exhibit for the project features photography by photojournalist and professor of practice Torsten Kjellstrand, several SOJC students, and Native American photographers from reservations around the Pacific Northwest.

Although the exhibit’s photos were all shot within the last 18 months, the idea stemmed from Kjellstrand’s experiences before he even arrived at the SOJC. At age 8, he moved with his family from Sweden to Minnesota. Growing up in Sweden, the United States was always associated with cowboys and Indians in Kjellstrand’s mind, as that was what he had seen on TV.

Needless to say, Minnesota wasn’t quite what he expected. But he never lost his interest in Native American culture.

In fact, when Kjellstrand became a reporter and photojournalist for The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, his interest continued to grow. He noticed that articles in the newspaper about tribal people in the area focused primarily on stereotypical topics.

“I saw powwows, I saw casinos, I saw the occasional liquor store, and occasionally one of those stories that sounded like a compliment about the ‘noble savage’ kind of thing — people who can ‘walk more quietly through the woods,’” Kjellstrand said.

Select photos from the Unvanished project, with excerpts from interviews conducted by the SOJC’s Reporting II class, are on display on the second floor of Allen through the end of the school year. Photo by Sean Haney.

Convinced that there must be more to the seven reservations in the area to report on, he asked if he could write stories about basic community topics: language programs, weddings, promotions and other topics that would be reported in any other community. The soft-spoken photojournalist quickly built relationships that would stand the test of time.

Kjellstrand found that his “outsider” background was an advantage because it gave him permission to not know things. The people he met in native communities were happy to explain their traditions and daily reservation life to him.

“I have had a few situations where I have asked questions of elders in communities, and they explained to me a question I have asked,” Kjellstrand said. “And afterwards young people in the community will come to me and ask what the answer was because they didn’t know, but they felt like they were supposed to know.”

One of the reasons he found the Native American culture so interesting is that, although he did not know exactly what they had gone through, he could relate to some of the problems they experienced.

“Some of the issues you deal with as an immigrant are echoes of some of the issues that some Native Americans are dealing with as well,” Kjellstrand said, emphasizing that there are also many differences.

Kjellstrand’s academic lifestyle and a faculty grant he received from the SOJC’s Agora Journalism Center allowed him to dive deeper into the project. He and his team of five SOJC students worked to capture the modern Native American in their project. Some of the reservation members also photographed their community members, one photographer as young as nine. The project features seven different reservation sites, as well as made two videos.

One of the SOJC students who worked on the project is journalism senior Kara Jenness, a Kalapuya Indian who is part of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.

Jenness was excited to be a part of this program and work with Kjellstrand. “Torsten is a phenomenal mentor. I really could not ask for anyone better,” she said. “Not only is he my advisor in school, but he advises me in other parts of my life as well. He is encouraging, patient and always willing to help when I need it.”

Kirby Brown, an English professor at UO and a member of the Cherokee Nation, teaches about the ways stories inform and shape culture. Photo by Torsten Kjellstrand.

The team was inspired by the photographer Edward Curtis, who had photographed Native Americans in the late 1890s to the late 1920s.

SOJC sophomore and project photographer Jessica Douglas remembered when Kjllstrand first mentioned Curtis to her. “He said, ‘Well, a lot of Native American communities have books of [Curtis’s] photographs,’” she recalled. “Once I told my grandma, she was like, ‘Jess! We have a book of Edward Curtis’ photographs!’”

Douglas is Native Siletz, and her grandmother left the reservation when she was 17 to live with her older sister. While Douglas always knew about the Siletz side of her heritage, it wasn’t until this project that she dove into her family’s history.

“I would be like, ‘Oh, Grandma! I learned about this today!’ and this would help her recall certain elements of when she was growing up and certain elements that are related to our culture,” Douglas said. “I think that has really shifted our conversation about our native identity and what that means to our family. It has definitely opened up a conversation I think that was not there before.”

According to Kjellstrand, because some of his team were of Native American decent, they provided insight into the culture and were able to photograph their fellow community members in a way that Kjellstrand likely could not.

“One of the most memorable parts was working with my family,” Jenness said. “I don’t think any of them, including my 3-year-old nephew, could really keep a straight face. We laughed about it and finally got the picture.”

The project group focused on capturing how the Native American people they photographed wanted to be remembered. When they asked each subject what they wanted to be remembered for, the answers were extremely varied. Pat “Judge” Hall wanted to be photographed in traditional attire, in part because he played Native Americans in Hollywood movies. Others wanted to be shown interacting with their family or in their daily lives. Skinny Campbell wanted to be shown as a good grandfather — and Kjellstrand confirms he is.

Some didn’t want to be photographed at all, but provided family photos for the collection instead.

“I hope people look at these pictures and see the humanity of Native Americans and not just a costume,” Jenness said. “Natives have been through horrific tragedies, but they are overcomers. They are resilient. You can see that in their faces.”

This is another favorite of Torsten Kjellstrand’s from Chapter 1 of the project. In this photo, Devyn Campbell, Shayanna Campbell’s brother, is relaxing on his horse at the Blackfeet Reservation.

Kjellstrand says that this exhibit is only Chapter 1 of his project. He promised to return to the Kalispel reservation to photograph the school children every year until he can’t anymore. And he plans to continue the project until he feels it is no longer beneficial to do so.

“I’m not done,” Kjellstrand said. “I’m just getting started.”

You can see the Unvanished exhibit on Allen Hall’s second floor through the end of summer. Carolyn S. Chambers Professor of Journalism Damian Radcliffe’s Reporting II class helped write the captions for the photos, and another SOJC student is creating a website for the project. Kjellstrand hopes that this project with be displayed in other locations in the future as well.

Becky Hoag is a sophomore double-majoring in journalism and marine biology, with an environmental studies minor. This is her first term interning for the SOJC Communications Office. She also writes for UO’s environmental publication, Envision Magazine, and interns atWillamette Resources and Educational Network (WREN), a Lane County wetlands nonprofit. She is interested in being a research scientist and freelance environmental and scientific journalist. This summer, she will be attending the Oregon Institute for Marine Biology while working with the climate change-focused journalism project Science in Memory with other members of the SOJC. You can view her work atbeckyhoag.com.