Even high-profile journalists have a lot to learn about truth and reconciliation.
Roger Holmes, the owner and publisher of the Moose Jaw Times Herald, the Prince Albert Daily Herald, and the Swift Current Booster suggests there is still a significant amount of training and education left to accomplish in building positive rapport with First Nations communities.
“He’s a great guy,” said Lisa Goudy, managing editor of the Moose Jaw Times Herald. “He really cares about communities, and he believes equal coverage of First Nations people is important. They are just as important a part of these communities just like anyone else.”
Holmes was born in small-town Alberta to a family of journalists who wrote for small community newspapers. Holmes carried on his father and grandfather’s legacy, and became a journalist himself. By growing up in a family of journalists, Holmes developed an extensive skill set and base of knowledge in his craft. However, growing up in rural Alberta left him with some gaps in knowledge with respect to First Nations relationships with the media.
“As far as truth and reconciliation goes, I grew up in a bubble in Alberta and was basically protected all my life from all of the Indigenous issues surrounding (us),” Holmes said.
To address his lack of knowledge, Holmes decided it was important to attend the Reconciliation in the Media conference in Saskatoon in early October. Holmes says he was excited about the opportunity to learn more about truth and reconciliation in the media, and is hoping to pass this excitement along to his news crews across each newspaper.
“I was hoping to learn of a way to meet some people for me to get some access points into Indigenous communities that previously have been unavailable through ignorance,” said Holmes. “I’m looking to meet people, make contacts, looking to find out what the right kind of language to use is, the right kind of questions to ask, how their world works, cause it’s different than the one I’ve been experiencing.”
These are important things to learn in Holmes’ opinion, because he sees a lack of communicative access at the forefront of what’s holding back positive relationships between First Nations communities and the media.
Holmes hopes that learning these aspects of relationship-building with First Nations will help him be more open-minded about First Nations culture. With these lessons in mind, he believes the lessons from the conference will allow him to adapt his tools of communication and resources in a way that builds rapport in a more efficient, trusting, and respectful manner.
As a participant of the conference, Holmes received handbooks containing information to consider when interacting with First Nations people, such as which names to use, how to reach several different contacts across a wide range of knowledge bases, and much more. To Holmes, this is an invaluable toolkit that will help him, and all of the reporters who work in his newspapers, to have better access, and understanding when covering Indigenous people.
“Roger came back from the conference and made the handbook we got from the conference a mandatory read for all journalists since day one,” Goudy said. “It’s important to him that we start using this resource, because we still have a long way to go since the persecution First Nations had gone through over the past 150 years.”
Holmes is passionate about representing everyone in communities. He believes that using this handbook will act as a starting point to improve closer interactions with First Nations people on more than a crisis basis. With the handbook in place, Holmes hopes journalists will begin to establish lines of communication and build mutual trust among First Nations communities.