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Fox Puts Focus on Indian Outreach

Feb 20, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Fox Entertainment Group and a nonprofit organization geared toward developing the careers of young American Indians have forged an alliance designed to provide training for American Indian professionals at Fox’s companies and increase awareness of the media business in the American Indian community.

Representatives of the Native Media and Technology Network said they are talking to other media companies about extending the program.

As part of the initiative, management groups at Fox regional sports network FSN North and Fox-owned stations KMSP-TV and WFTC-TV in Minneapolis have been meeting since December with local American Indian organizations.

The goal is to provide training programs and internships while creating vendors, suppliers and a large job applicant pool. The model used in Minneapolis will subsequently be applied at Fox-owned stations in Phoenix, Seattle and Florida, with nationwide expansion on the horizon.

Discussion of diversity in the media often centers on high-profile positions. Mitsy Wilson, senior VP of diversity development for FEG, admitted, “We definitely need more actors, writers and directors.”

However, the aim of the endeavor is to also raise awareness about other, more behind-the-scenes positions such as grips, cameramen and cinematographers. Ms. Wilson wants to make it clear that “You can work in this industry and have employment for life.”

Education in the entertainment industry also can lead to a variety of opportunities in other fields, said Syd Beane, a tri-chair at NMTA and Native American team leader for the Center for Community Change. Various marketing and technological openings in other industries can become more accessible to people with the experience afforded them by having the program under their belt, Mr. Beane said. Hollywood is about storytelling, and “Storytelling is the basis of Indian culture,” he said.

One of Mr. Beane’s greatest hopes for the partnership is a restructuring of social attitudes, he said.

Mr. Beane is interested in “getting Indian stories into mainstream media” because the limited presence of American Indians in the media has “created more of a stereotype than a true understanding,” he said.

Though the focus of the initiative is on regional sports networks and the Fox-owned TV stations in the same areas, that is only the first step. Ms. Wilson is looking to use the program as a point of entry into the industry as a whole: “This then becomes the theater for the entertainment group.”

There are also plans to establish a program in New York that will concentrate on the publishing world, likely involving the cooperation of Fox’s publishing units.

The recent efforts with NMTN represent the culmination of five years of collaboration between Fox and American Indian organizations via Fox Entertainment Group Diversity Development, which created and implemented diversity initiatives throughout Fox.

Fox’s first American Indian outreach was the annual American Indian Summer Program. The program introduces students to various aspects of working in Hollywood.