Spring of innovation

Flowers are in full bloom in Lafayette, La.

Flowers in full bloom in Lafayette, La.

Spring arrived so quickly in south Louisiana these past few days, it was as if the weekend thunderstorms magically prompted the green leaves to sprout and the pastel flowers to bloom.

This sudden transformation is new to me as a northerner, who gauges the approach of spring by the ice melt on lakes, the return of songbirds and the air’s fresh scent on a mild day.

This reawakening of the earth marks the true beginning of the year for many Native people. Although I run my daily life by the calendar year, my internal clock is set to the seasonal changes. Spring is the beginning of my new year, and this one is vibrant. It’s one that has already brought opportunities to invest in some creative professional pursuits that matter deeply to me.

One of those pursuits involves working on a pilot project between the Native American Journalists Association and the Newseum Institute (formerly known as the Freedom Forum). I am helping to set up a one-year fellowship for up to 10 Native American college students in journalism. The Native American Journalism Fellowship provides college juniors and seniors with access to multimedia training, webinars and ongoing mentoring, plus guidance in applying for existing internship opportunities in tribal and mainstream media. The program is offered in a way that recognizes and appreciates their cultural heritage.

This innovative project has its genesis in two established programs: the former American Indian Journalism Institute, which was managed and funded by the Diversity Institute of the Freedom Forum (now called the Newseum Institute); and NAJA’s Native Voices project. The best components of both initiatives are melded into a single program designed to give students a range of journalism experiences during a one-year period.

NAJA has given me great opportunities for growth, and that’s what motivates me to try to help young Native American students gain the tools and expertise they need to succeed.

I am also fortunate to be on three journalism-related boards: the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, AISES Publishing Inc. (the publishing board of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, known as AISES) and the editorial board of Winds of Change magazine.

In this transitional time in my life, I am as curious as ever about the world and how technology impacts us — how it brings us together but also divides us. I am following the latest developments in mobile media and immersing myself in studying new business models in journalism. It’s an exercise in looking at my world, and to a certain degree my own culture, in a new way.

The news business has changed dramatically in recent years and continues to evolve. Increasingly, I want to contribute to my professional trade and offer ideas in ways that are both forward looking and deeply rooted in quality journalism. My service on the boards I mentioned, and my work with NAJA and the Newseum Institute, allow me to make meaningful contributions concerning this evolution in media.

I am hopeful about the future of journalism. Just as spring in south Louisiana has suddenly taken hold, this new season belongs to those who seize the moment.

Follow me on Twitter @karenmichel.

Foliage blooms in south Louisiana.

Foliage blooms in south Louisiana.

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