We try to save this kind of editorial for January, which will mark 21 years in the business for the current editor, or July, which marks the anniversary of the transition back in 2008 from Kenneth Deer to Steve Bonspiel.
But now is as good of a time as any to remind people what it takes to do what we do – plenty of hard work, sacrifice, and putting the job above our own personal life and issues.
We try to cover as many events/issues/needs of the community each week, 51 times a year, with no real break in that cycle. We push for the truth, press people like Mohawk Council chiefs, principals, executive directors, and so many others, for their take on what’s going on, in their words.
We look at every piece of news that comes across our desks in a straightforward way that helps to discern what is news and what is gossip, what’s fit to print and what’s fit for Facebook rants.
“I get all my news from Facebook,” one particular community member wrote years ago, and we see where he’s coming from.
But he’s wrong.
You see, Facebook rants and raves are not news, they are just people reacting to the news. Sure, you can get actual news from social media, but often without nuance or deeper context, especially Facebook. Our job differs in many ways than Sose Blow seeing something and then offering a fresh (yet often uninformed) take on it.
First, we have to research it. Is it really a news story? Okay, if it is, what’s next?
Well, we have to interview as many people as we can, who will talk to us, in a very short period of a few days, transcribe, write, and fit a clear focus that’s informative yet not dry, all in 500-600 words before a deadline that never gives up, never relents, never gives us a break. And there are multiple stories for each reporter to cover.
Within that time, we access documents – including from the courts – and dig to the bottom to see what the story is really about. Some pieces, like the Kateri Memorial Hospital exposé on very serious concerns many Kahnawa’kehró:non had about the treatment by certain staff – but not all – takes months to put together.
But the difference between us and Facebook proclaimers is we report what the story is, not what we heard from random people, or want it to be.
We have had people who don’t like us personally, or The Eastern Door stance on some issues, come in and ask us for help because that’s what we are there for. And they know we will fight for the truth above all else.
In the end, that’s our job, to serve everyone, even if we don’t particularly like the person or people we talk to. That has nothing to do with us doing our jobs properly.
In fact, when you do the opposite and pick and choose who to talk to and which stories to write, you’re doing a different kind of journalism – and it’s not one we want to be part of.
Here’s an example: Mohawk Council of Kanesatake grand chief Victor Bonspille, who is a cousin of the author of this editorial, doesn’t like us because he feels we don’t present his arguments properly.
But here’s the deal: We write what he tells us about any particular story because those are his words. Even if we disagree with some of his leadership choices, we still give him, every single week, a chance to talk to the public at large, not just us.
Some weeks he dodges us. Others, he talks to us. But what we have learned from people like him is unless we write 9,000 words of his quotes – and ignore his opponents completely – he will feel he’s not being represented fairly – or quoted properly.
And that kind of outlook is a disservice to the whole community.
Eastern Door Editor/Publisher Steve Bonspiel started his journalism career in January 2003 with The Nation magazine, a newspaper serving the Cree of northern Quebec.
Since that time, he has won numerous regional and national awards for his in-depth, impassioned writing on a wide variety of subjects, including investigative pieces, features, editorials, columns, sports, human interest and hard news.
He has freelanced for the Montreal Gazette, Toronto Star, Windspeaker, Nunatsiaq News, Calgary Herald, Native Peoples Magazine, and other publications.
Among Steve's many awards is the Paul Dumont-Frenette Award for journalist of the year with the Quebec Community Newspapers Association in 2015, and a back-to-back win in 2010/11 in the Canadian Association of Journalists' community category - one of which also garnered TED a short-list selection of the prestigious Michener award.
He was also Quebec Community Newspapers Association president from 2012 to 2019, and continues to strive to build bridges between Native and non-Native communities for a better understanding of each other.