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Giving media interviews through trauma — and giving back to community
by Shari Graydon
Lori Campbell, newly appointed Associate Vice President, Indigenous Engagement, at the University of Regina has a long history of advocacy. A survivor of the infamous “Sixties Scoop”, she has used her voice to amplify issues affecting Indigenous peoples for many years, responding to media interview requests despite the challenges of doing so.
We all benefit from her willingness to engage and educate, and Informed Opinions is proud to feature her profile in our database of sources. Given the understandable reasons many women representing historically-excluded communities have for not speaking to journalists, we especially appreciate her shared insights below.
Informed Opinions (IO):Given the risks associated with speaking up publicly, especially as an Indigenous woman weighing in on controversial and/or misunderstood issues, why do you say yes to media interviews?
Lori Campbell (LC): In our culture, knowledge and skills come with responsibility. We all have expertise in different areas; we all have a role. I have had, and continue to have, many teachers in my life, many mentors, and they have seen that I have a skill set to navigate media and to get our voices heard. They have nurtured this ability, and speaking to the media is one of those ways I can give back to my community.
IO:How has your perspective on the importance of doing this shifted over the years?
LC: I don’t get rattled so much by reporters now. Some have their own agenda and they want to ask you the same thing five different ways to try to get the answer they want to hear. I used to think maybe they didn’t understand my first answer, but now I know different so I simply keep on my messaging and respond with what I want told.
IO:What preparation strategies have you found to be especially helpful?
LC: Oftentimes I am called upon when there are tragedies or devastation that occur in our communities and to our people. It can be difficult because while providing my expertise, I am also living through the trauma in real time. Usually in these instances I prepare a couple of lines that are really key to the message I want to get out and try to stick to them. And I also do some deep breathing and let the ancestors, the energy flow through me.
IO:What kind of feedback have you received to your commentary either from people in your network or from members of the public more broadly?
LC: From my community, I receive a lot of positive feedback for standing up and carrying our voice forward and for telling it like it is and not holding back.
From the broader community, I also get a fair bit of positive feedback because it helps them learn. I always call on people to do differently, do better, once they know different and know better.
But there are always a few people who just want to be adversarial, who want to say “well, there are two sides to every story” when they hear about residential schools, for example. So I ask “What is the side of the story that explains why there are graveyards and unmarked graves with children outside of residential schools but not other schools across the country?”
IO:What impact — positive or negative — do you think your media engagement and enhanced profile have had on your professional work opportunities or reputation?
LC: Generally, I would say it has been positive. In all honesty, I prefer some reaction to no reaction on the issues I speak to. No reaction means that people are so disengaged that they don’t care. Even if a reaction is negative, at least it shows engagement.
Then again, sometimes your words are spun in a way that you don’t intend. It is important to have trust in our communities. When I hear a statement from an Indigenous leader who I admire and it sounds bad, instead of thinking “I can’t believe they said that”, I reach out to that person because I know they are likely feeling frustrated and angry about how they were presented in the story, and worried about what our community will think.
IO: How do you deal with the haters?
LC: Generally, I don’t engage with them. I often don’t read public comments. There are trolls and they are terrible. That’s why CBC can’t even allow comments on online stories with Indigenous content.
IO:Do you have any advice for other women who remain reluctant to share their knowledge through media?
LC: Even when your voice shakes, stand and speak. Our voices bring value, a unique narrative and perspective, and they inspire. Our stories need to be told.
We may never know who we touched or how, but we must trust that someone has heard what they needed to hear in what we have shared and it has impacted them profoundly.
Informed Opinions is a national non-profit working to amplify the voices of women and gender-diverse people and ensure they have as much influence in public conversations as men’s.