NAJA calls for audit on New York Times story

The Native American Journalists Association is calling on the New York Times to provide an audit on how its story titled “Drawn From Poverty: Art Was Supposed to Save Canada’s Inuit. It Hasn’t.” was published. The article, by Catherine Porter, is harmful to Inuit and needs to be addressed.

It is a journalist’s duty to avoid harming the people whose stories they are trying to tell. A journalist has power, responsibility and must be held accountable when fueling stereotypes in their reporting. Newsrooms and editors are equally responsible for the content they publish. NAJA is also disappointed the New York Times seemingly ignored its free Indigenous coverage training held in early May with the publication of this story.

Porter’s story sets out to explain how Cape Dorset, a tiny island below the Arctic Circle, churns out so many artists and uses Inuk artist Ooloosie Saila to weave a story laced with clichés. It hits on alcohol, poverty, drugs, sexual assault, unemployment, addiction, violence, suicide, poor education, domestic abuse, teenage pregnancy and welfare.

Some sources who shared their stories expressed concerns online, including one woman who says she was left feeling gutted, wishing she had never let Porter into her house. 

NAJA encourages the New York Times to review its in-house policies, make necessary changes to include language on ethical Indigenous reporting and temporarily suspend reporting in Indigenous communities until such changes are made. 

NAJA also extends an offer to the New York Times to conduct a post-training review. This opportunity will  look at its coverage of Indigenous communities since our first visit to the New York Times newsroom. A follow up to our first round of free training will review the good work done and take a deep look at where there needs to be significant changes.

NAJA demands an apology and is willing to meet with the editorial team responsible for the story. In addition to an apology, NAJA recommends:  

  • New York Times provide an audit on the story from pitch to publish and all edits made in between
  • New York Times hire Indigenous journalists and editors

NAJA offers resources online and newsroom training to any media organization that wants to improve its coverage of Indigenous People and communities. Please email us at contact@naja.com.


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