Commentary from a Former Editor

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by Jeff O’Dell

Haskell Indian Nations University changed my life. I was so much different when I left Haskell than when I arrived, it seems incredible that it was only two years of my life. Haskell is where I started to learn to think critically and to analyze facts.

I now understand that was the purpose of college, not to fill my head with a lot of facts but to teach me how to learn. Many of my best Haskell memories are of my time as Editor of the Indian Leader. I was young and thought a lot of myself. I believed I and the Leader staff were the eyes and ears of our classmates, gathering information about what was happening around campus. It was a very romantic idea of journalism. I learned that when a reporter spends a lot of time covering and writing about an issue, it’s difficult to not form an opinion.

However, it’s a journalist’s job to try to remove one’s opinion, present the facts and let the reader decide their own feelings.

While I was Editor of the Leader, Douglas County officials first came to Haskell administration with plans for the South Lawrence Trafficway. I was excited to cover these events and write about them. I formed opinions about the situation early but I did my best to keep my opinion out of the story when reporting the news.

After following the story for a few weeks I felt that I had to give my opinion and I did, in an editorial column not in my news story. Nearly all of the Haskell community was against the Douglas County Commission’s proposal, so writing a column against the trafficway was not exactly the biggest risk I ever took. However, life is rarely that simple. Many times issues divide a community and opinions on each side are passionate, publishing your opinion for all of Haskell to read is going to make you unpopular in some corner of campus.

The best thing about student publications in general and the Indian Leader in particular is that it’s a student forum. Any student can join the newspaper staff and anyone from he community can write a letter to the editor and have their opinion published.

It’s the First Amendment in action and that should make anyone swell up with pride. A student press that is truly free should operate without intervention from administration, faculty, and in most situations, their own adviser. Haskell students are learning how tolearn, how to take the informationthat they are presented, analyze it and decide for themselves what to believe.

Why should the information that they are presented in their own student newspaper ever be sanitized? Haskell students are the future of Indian Country; they are quite capable of determining for themselves where they stand on the issues that affect them. After all, isn’t that what Haskell is trying to teach them in the first place?

Former Contributing Editor

Editor’s Note:
Jeff O’Dell is a former Editor In Chief, The
Indian Leader, 1993-1995. AA, Liberal Arts,
1996, Haskell Indian Nations
University BA, Native American Studies,
1999, University of Oklahoma.
He currently lives in Ada, Oklahoma with
his wife and two daughters.