It is no secret to our readers that this newspaper is a crusader for civil rights.

Nor that it works hard to be a leading community supporter of cultural diversity.

Plenty of people in this town are quick to complain about our stories that report racism and how we are to blame for making the city look bad because, they say, we make too much out of nothing. Yet, we have tried extremely hard to do the best job we can to promote unity by simply sticking to one central theme: community.

That means we must report the positive news as well as the bad; the Navajo as well as the Anglo. A check of our front-page history will prove we're meeting that goal of balance.

But is The Daily Times, or more specifically yours truly, a diversity champion or a diversity hypocrite?

Do we actually practice diversity in our own building, in our own newsroom?

You be the judge.

***

Two young ladies joined our newsroom staff on a temporary basis this summer, and we hate to see them leave.

They both provided us with much-needed help in reporting a variety of stories during the busy and vacation-filled summer schedule. Both were journalism interns, college students who are interested in pursuing a career in newspapers.

Both are Navajo.

Why is it important to share that? For several reasons, starting with a sincere hope that more Navajo students in high school and college will consider a career in journalism.


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It is a dynamic field for career-minded folks who like the idea of every day being different.

And while newspapers in some parts of the nation are struggling to maintain circulation, ours is going strong in an area where the digital divide still exists and prevents many people from reading their news online. That isn't stopping The Daily Times from growing its online offerings, and you'll read more soon about that excitement in another column.

Amanda Teller
Amanda Teller

Regardless, however, of how you get the story, you still need good storytellers to give it to you. Thus, the future continues to hold a place for good journalists, and there are very few good ones graduating these days who are Navajo.

That makes it difficult, therefore, for a newspaper like ours to hire Navajo writers.

A journalism organization called the Freedom Forum recognizes that, and at its facilities in South Dakota, it takes a class of American Indian students once a year and gives them a basic boot camp on journalism skills.

Last autumn, after I made a speech about diversity to nearly 400 editors gathered at a conference in New Orleans, a Freedom Forum administrator basically asked me to put my actions where my mouth is, by helping to mentor American Indian students.

Andi Murphy
Andi Murphy
I was happy to say yes.

That led to a deal where the Freedom Forum and The Daily Times agreed to joint sponsorship for two inexperienced Navajo interns during this summer.

***

Amanda Teller is from Mesa, Ariz., and Andrea "Andi" Murphy has family living in Crownpoint.

You saw numerous bylined stories from both during the summer, as we didn't just hire them and stick them in a corner to read wire stories. Far from it. Between the two, they covered everything from breaking news on crime stories to features about colorful flower gardens that have grown here for years.

It took a lot of work on Managing Editor Eric Fisher's part to clean their stories for print and teach the interns how to be better writers and reporters, but Andi and Amanda did a great job of learning.

Perhaps someday after college, we'll be fortunate enough to get them back.

We're also trying to help cultivate more interest in Navajo journalism by visiting the high schools. I enjoyed visiting Shiprock High, for example, toward the end of last year and was impressed by the students there who seemed eager to learn more about telling the news or preserving their native oral history through the art of journalism.

Meanwhile, on our full-time staffs companywide, there are other Navajo who already have careers in the newspaper field. We recently promoted Kym Tyler, of Shiprock, to assistant news editor on our design/copy desk. Kym is an excellent example of a self-starter who did not take journalism in college, but as a graduate of journalism's Diversity Institute in Nashville, Tenn., she has gone from a beginner to being an editor.

We also have several Hispanics among our ranks. One Hispanic colleague, a reporter who was promoted to assistant city editor, recently left us to join a sister paper at the much larger Salt Lake City Tribune. Others work here in supervisory positions.

We're darn proud of each and every member of our team, and we'd like to think in colorblind terms. I look forward to the day when columns like this one are no longer necessary.

However, it would be ignorant of us not to recognize that special efforts in recruiting, hiring and promoting along lines of diversity helps us to do a much better job of reflecting our overall community. We can always do better.

A newspaper's job is to journal the daily history of its readership, that's why it is called journalism.

We are happy to use the word community in every sense of unity, including from within our own house.

It's not only our job, it's our pleasure.

Troy Turner is the editor of The Daily Times. He can be contacted at P.O. Box 450, Farmington, N.M., 87499; or at tturner@daily-times.com.