What can news organizations do to foster trust with minority communities?
How do underrepresented voices tell their own stories to a wider audience?
What should mainstream news organization keep in mind as they seek to tell the stories of minority groups?
Wilder Foundation, Minnesota Public Radio and author Kao Kalia Yang hosted a panel and discussion to engage members of the media and community around building trust between the story and the storyteller on June 18 at Wilder Center. Hmong American filmmaker Eng Yang shared his experience of being interviewed and his experiences dismissed by established journalists, he shared that "our lives were not equally valued, our education was not the same and culture was pitted against science rather than a conversation that showed all sides. If people respect each other, this does not happen."
Wilder President MayKao Hang and MPR CEO Jon McTaggert started the evening by noting that minorities will soon be the majority, as is the case in Saint Paul public schools. Asian Americans are the fastest growing segment of the Minnesota population and the community make up is changing rapidly.
Panelists included Wameng Moua, founder of the publication Hmong Today; Brandt Williams, a reporter with MPR News' Metro Unit; Olivia LaVecchia, a staff writer at City Pages; Lynda McDonnell, a journalist and journalism teacher for urban youth at the University of St. Thomas ThreeSixty program; and Paul Hillmer a professor of history at Concordia University and founder of The Hmong Oral History Project. Moderator Sasha Aslanian of MPR News asked panelists to speak to lessons they've learned in developing stories with diverse voices and how to best gain trust between reporters and people of minority groups.
Comments from the panel and the audience explored the cultural barriers and race barriers in developing media stories and that these can lead to translation issues, even in the same language. Many of the journalists present spoke about the need to build trust, that transparency and honesty is critical, and that journalists should be clear about what people can expect. The evening also reinforced that there is an ongoing concern of media stories angled by power dynamics and many community of colors having experienced a lack of respect or dignity in their coverage.
Kao Kalia Yang spoke of her heart being broken by interviews that only told part of the story like the experience with Eng Yang. "We are a nation of immigrants. Everyone has a history, everyone has a story, and people need to tell their own stories."
The Building Trust conversation initiated dialogue on improving representation in the media. MPR also offers The Public Insight Network (PIN), a platform for people to share their knowledge and insights about timely issues with journalists. The Network consists of tens of thousands of people who have signed up to be sources for journalists and the newsrooms authorized to contact them. To learn more, please visit MPR.org