Marquette University to honor Karen Lincoln Michel for service in journalism & for Native Americans
This week marks Marquette University’s annual Mission Week. As a part of this event, there will be a special ceremony and keynote address by Karen Lincoln Michel, an alumna of the Marquette Graduate School in journalism. She will accept an honorary doctorate degree in humane letters from Marquette for her work in journalism and for Native Americans nationwide.
Lincoln Michel is from Tomah, Wis. and a member of the Ho-Chunk Tribe. Currently, she is the president and CEO of IndiJ Public Media, which operates Indian Country Today — a multimedia publisher of news, information, and imagery relevant to the Indigenous people of the Americas.
Michel’s career also includes experience as a journalist, editor, and publisher and executive director of Madison Magazine. Her accolades also include being the first female president of the Native American Journalists Associates and leading the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism’s Board of Directors.
Michel's background was in graphic arts. She recalls that it was her first job out of college, running a student print shop on the Winnebago Indian Reservation in Nebraska, that inspired her to pursue journalism. One of the assignments for Michel's students was to know what was happening within the community and the new long-term sustainability plan the tribe was working on.
"But when I'd go out into the community and talk to people, they really didn't know what was happening with the tribal government. And so one of the things that I was thinking was, what if there was a daily newspaper or a radio station to help put the word out and correct the misinformation?" says Michel.
"As I was thinking about it, I thought, you know it'd be great if someone would do that. And then over time it became more like, 'Well, you know maybe this is something that I could do.' And so that's when I decided that I would go back to school and major in journalism," she adds.
Michel says that studying at Marquette helped to broaden her goals and perspective. "Where I started out was I wanted to be more grassroots and have an audience of Native people, but being at Marquette really expanded my mind and my thinking into something broader. That there really was a lack of diversity in mainstream journalism, and that maybe in order to help my own people, I needed to find out how the system worked and try to do some things to help change the system from within," she explains.
While most of Michel's career was in legacy commercial media outlets, she notes her current role in operating ICT as an independent, nonprofit news enterprise is like "coming home."
"To work for a group that just focuses on Indigenous communities was really something different and something that I had sort of in a way been striving for in a different venue. But now to do that on a daily basis, it really brings a lot of meaning into what I do everyday."
"And even though I'm not on the journalism side anymore, I'm on the business side, it still gives me inspiration to go out and do the fundraising and make sure that our operation is sustainable well into the future," she says.