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NORMAN, Okla. — In an annual report released by the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) on Monday, the New York Times is shown to use American Indian stereotypes in more than half of the publication’s articles about Native Americans that were published between 2015 and 2021.

With 900 members, NAJA is the nation’s largest organization representing Native American journalists in the country.

Each year, the NAJA uses a scorecard called the NAJA BINGO Card to track how publications portray Native Americans through reliance on tropes or stereotypes when reporting on Indian Country. The Bingo card contains trigger words or terms, such as “alcohol,” “a warrior,” “horses,” “plight,” “poverty,” “dying language,” and “violence.”

Researchers identified the number of items using clichéd themes and stereotypes from the Bingo card that appeared in hard news, opinion and stories about Indigenous peoples by the second-largest newspaper in the country.

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The “2021 NAJA Media Spotlight Report” was led by Sarah Liese (Turtle Mountain Ojibwe/Navajo), under the direction of Dr. Victoria LaPoe. The scope of the report involved analyzing Indigenous coverage by the New York Times in 300 articles dating back to 2015.

Out of the 300 articles examined, 804 total stereotypes were used. “Violence” was the most frequently used bingo card words, followed by the phrase “vanishing culture.”

The research shows the more articles published in the New York Times, the more the newspaper obtained a bingo. Last year, it showed the highest number of cliched articles.

The purpose of the Bingo card is to assist journalists when they cover Indian Country and raise awareness of their reliance on Native American stereotypes, according to the report.

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“If five or more bingo words are used, then a “bingo” is achieved. In this case, the outcome of this bingo is not a reward and it suggests that the author may be relying on multiple stereotypes in their reporting. If a bingo is acquired, the journalist should comprehensively consider performing a mindful correction that steers away from a dependence on clichés,” the report says.

Liese told Native News Online that it is important to move past the stereotypes often used by publications when depicting Native Americans.

"After the recent publication of the 2021 NAJA Media Spotlight Report, I want to reiterate the importance of sharing Indigenous stories in an accurate, just, and conscious manner. This report is not meant to discourage news organizations to avoid stories about Native and Indigenous communities; rather, I ask them to be mindful of Native American stereotypes, the use of Indigenous sources, and the employment of Indigenous journalists,” Liese said.

Liese said the New York Times does not have a Native American journalist on staff. However, during 2020, the newspaper had the highest number of Indigenous journalists’ contributions. The majority of those articles were opinion contributions.

"My main takeaway from the report is that the New York Times still has room to grow in terms of their coverage of Indigenous issues, and I firmly believe that the employment of Indigenous journalists in the newsroom would benefit their reporting,” Liese commented.

The report concludes that publications, such as the New York Times, should utilize Indigenous sources to ensure there are present voices, instead of casting Native communities in the past tense.

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Levi Rickert
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Levi Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is the founder, publisher and editor of Native News Online. He can be reached at [email protected]