Breaking the Neocolonial News Cycle

Communicating Sustainability from a First Nations’ Perspective


  • Amanda Follett


First Nations, journalism, neocolonialism, intercultural communication


For British Columbians to make informed, ecologically sustainable decisions that reflect the province's cultural diversity, aboriginal concerns need to be adequately communicated in the mainstream news media. Many rural First Nations face proposed resource development projects in their traditional territories that could negatively affect water quality and environmental integrity across the province. An ongoing struggle between members of the Tahltan First Nation, in northern BC, and the resource development industry provided a case study to examine the relationship between this remote First Nation and the mainstream news media. A collaborative ethnographic approach was used to study the relationship between the Tahltan First Nation and journalists covering the Sacred Headwaters issue. Data were collected through interviews with Tahltan spokespeople, non-native journalists, and both Aboriginal and non-native communications specialists, and grounded theory method was used for data analysis. A perpetuating neocolonial news cycle emerged whereby the dominant news values of conflict, simplicity, and timeliness were mitigated through connection to place and relationships, but ultimately reinforced by remoteness and dwindling newsroom resources. This cycle could be broken through hybridity, which occurs when journalists invest time in visiting remote communities to build relationships and connection to places, or when First Nations build media capacity from within.