Febuary 15, 2002 Halifax Herald

APTN celebrates two years of success

ABORIGINAL Peoples Television News was launched on April 16, 2000. Prior to launch, by January 2000, news video journalists were hired, and then prepared by extensive crash training, to fill several positions across the country. The successful applicant for the Atlantic region, whose personal and scholastic background made her an excellent choice for the job, was Maureen Googoo.

Maureen was born in November 1968 in Truro and is a member of the Shubenacadie Band. Raised on Indian Brook Reserve, she received her basic education at the Shubenacadie Consolidated Elementary School, then went to Hants East Rural High in Milford, graduating in 1987. She continued her education at Saint Mary's University, graduating in 1992 with a BA in political science. After a year with CBC Radio in Halifax, she decided to go to Ryerson Polytechnical Institute in Toronto, from which she graduated in 1994 with a BAA in journalism.

Her pre-secondary school memories are generally positive. However, she did not escape entirely from being victimized by racism. One of the most painful memories she has is the time when the father of a long-term white school chum was approached by an RCMP officer who wondered why he was permitting his daughter to hang out with an Indian. This happened after she had visited the friend's home. Her friend told her about it and she was not permitted to visit again. This, however, did not deter her from achieving the goals that she had set for herself.

Googoo's love affair with journalism began early. During the summers of 1987 and '88, she was a reporter/photographer with the now-defunct Micmac News. Then, while attending university, Maureen held down several part-time jobs with CBC Radio in Halifax. Later, while attending Ryerson, she worked part-time in the CBC Radio national newsroom in Toronto. She ended her association with CBC Radio in May 1996, while a reporter at the La Ronge, Sask. CBC station.

Then it was on to full-time print reporting with The Herald, 1996-1998. In May 1998, she went from reporting to a public-relations position with the Union of Nova Scotia Indians. This lasted until January 2000, at which time she accepted employment with the newly created Aboriginal Peoples Television Network National News.

Maureen provides this description of her first two years:

"Working as the Halifax correspondent for APTN National News has turned out to be my dream job. It's the job I've been waiting for ever since I earned my journalism degree in 1994 and began working in the media in Canada.

"I've always wanted to cover and report on the aboriginal peoples in the Atlantic area. But I was never really given that chance when I worked in the mainstream media. I constantly came up against white editors and colleagues who believed aboriginal reporters shouldn't cover aboriginal stories because aboriginal reporters are biased when covering those stories. I don't know how many times I've heard from white reporters and editors that aboriginal reporters are only cheerleaders that perpetuate their own community slant if they covered aboriginal stories. Because of this perceived and stereotypical view, I was always discouraged by my white supervisors from covering aboriginal stories.

"My supervisors and colleagues at APTN National News are not like that. They know how important it is for aboriginal peoples to have an independent aboriginal news-gathering service in Canada. Aboriginal peoples need a news service that will scrutinize our aboriginal leaders' or federal government's decisions, or indecisions, that will affect their lives. Aboriginal reporters can ask the hard-hitting questions of leaders and government.

"This job has taken me to different areas of the Atlantic region. Since I started working for APTN National News in January 2000, I have covered stories such as the APTN National News in New Brunswick and the gas-sniffing problem among Innu children in Labrador. I was among a team of reporters chosen to cover the Assembly of First Nations' leadership race in Ottawa and the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City. I know if I had remained in the mainstream media, I would never have been given those opportunities.

"Our motto at APTN National News is: 'History would have been told differently had our reporters been there.' It's a motto I truly believe."

In 1998, two-thirds of Canadians indicated their approval for a First Peoples' TV network. A subsequent poll showed that they would be willing to pay a 15-cent increase on their cable bill to fund it. With this strong support, APTN became a reality on Sept. 1, 1999. With the recruitment of well-qualified staff such as Maureen, it is fast becoming a success story.

The one less-than-enthusiastic comment I have about the network is its name. It could be called, and still can be changed to, the First Peoples Network. There is no such group in this country known as aboriginals. The all-descriptive use of the term to identify our peoples takes away from our cultural identities and, I believe, dignity.

Why can't a newspaper headline such as "The aboriginal people of Burnt Church" read "The Mi'kmaq of Burnt Church?" After all, each First Nation - Mi'kmaq, Maliseet, Mohawk, Cree, Blood, etc. - is a distinct civilization with its own languages and traditions. When it comes to European news stories, you don't see headlines such as "The aboriginal peoples of England," do you? I believe everyone refers to them as "English." Why us?

Daniel N. Paul


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