JSchool news

Students shine investigative light on First Nations water issues 

Posted by: UR JSchool | On: 22nd Feb, 2021 | News

Photo: Students from the University of Regina School of Journalism and First Nations University of Canada combined their investigative efforts. Photo by Kaitlyn Schropp.

Regina – Students at the University of Regina School of Journalism and First Nations University of Canada have released a major investigation into First Nations water issues, as part of a national collaboration led by the Institute for Investigative Journalism at Concordia University.

Students produced an hour-long investigative current affairs program and dedicated website filled with stories, infographics and research.

“Beyond the issues of contaminated water and health we also explored the many meanings water has within Indigenous spiritualities, cultures and ceremonies,” said Kaitlyn Schropp one of the School of Journalism, producers of the investigative broadcast story.  “It was an eye-opening journalistic experience and I hope we were able to shed light on the deeper meanings of water within First Nations communities.”

“Reconciliation should have started with clean water for all First Nations communities,” said Darla Ponace, an Indigenous Communication Arts student from Zagime Anishinabek First Nation. “There needs to be a national standard for drinking water for all people across Canada.”

The investigation began in the fall of 2019, with a research course at First Nations University of Canada. Students visited nearby First Nations and researched the history of the water infrastructure and water quality in those communities.

In the Winter 2020 semester, students taking Journalism 306 at the School of Journalism worked on a one-hour current affairs show, which can be seen online at www.brokenpromises.urjschool.ca. They filmed on location at several First Nations before the pandemic shutdown, and continued working remotely afterward. J-School student Morgan Esperance worked on finalizing the current affairs program through the summer as a U of R Undergraduate Research Fellow.

Meanwhile, the first-ever combined U of R-FNUniv investigative research class was busy assisting the national investigation, preparing background research, writing online stories and designing a student website to host the current affairs show and related stories.

In total, five classes worked on the investigation for a year. In addition to advancing their broadcast and online media production skills, students learned how to conduct data journalism, file freedom of information requests, prepare questions for government officials, do deep research, experience long-form journalism and reach out to people in the community.

Participating students worked alongside students at 10 other universities who developed stories in their regions, and learned from senior journalists and journalism educators from across Canada.

The project was advised nationally by Duncan McCue, an Anishinaabe journalist who teaches at the UBC Graduate School of Journalism and Ryerson University, and was recognized by the Canadian Ethnic Media Association with an Innovation Award for developing curriculum on Indigenous issues; Karyn Pugliese, a Ryerson University journalism professor, former executive director of news and current affairs at APTN, and recent Nieman Fellow at Harvard University; Martha Troian, an award-winning independent Indigenous investigative journalist; and Jamuna Galay-Tamang, a journalist specializing in Indigenous approaches to justice in Canada. It was coordinated by investigative journalist and IIJ Director Patti Sonntag of Concordia University.

The StarPhoenix, Global News in Saskatoon and Regina, and APTN are releasing a series of Saskatchewan-based stories that had their genesis in the student research, beginning Monday. Canada’s National Observer, the Tyee and Le Devoir are also part of the project.

See the students’ current affairs show and website at Broken Promises 

National project link