âBehind the Bylineâ introduces you to those who write stories, take photos, design pages and edit the content we deliver in our print editions and on pressdemocrat.com. We are more than journalists. As you will see, we are also your neighbors with unique backgrounds and experiences that proudly live in Sonoma County.
Today we introduce you to Alana Minkler, one of our news and general mission reporters.
My middle name is Nahglibah. It means “the light that divides the darkness”.
It is a testament to my firm belief in the journalistic principles of accountability and transparency and I share it with you in defiance of one of the most sacred traditions of the DinÃ©, more commonly known as the Navajo people.
But, I will come back to this.
I am a mixture of two extremely proud, strong and resilient peoples, each with their own history of persecution and persistence.
My Navajo father is a photography teacher and my Jewish mother is a sociology teacher. They both teach at Northern Arizona University. And even though they divorced when I was 9, they’re still on good terms.
Born and raised in Flagstaff, Arizona, I spent my weekends driving in the Navajo Reservation, exploring the beautiful mesas and high plains of “the rez,” with my father, or visiting my Jewish family. in New York with my mom.
When I was much younger, I never felt out of place. None of my classmates in my hometown had an outdoor life like mine. So I tried to hide my differences.
Now that I’m older, I embrace my background and recognize how much they each contributed to who I am as a person – and a journalist. My career is a by-product of my journey towards self-acceptance.
We all have different experiences, cultures, lifestyles and mindsets. And, everyone has a unique story to share – that way, we’re all the same.
I’m a breaking news and general assignment reporter for The Press Democrat. I was hired about three months ago to cover everything from wildfires, crime and youth issues to tribes, weather and human interest stories.
Prior to that, I was a breaking news intern at the Arizona Republic, an apprentice at the Arizona Daily Star, and investigative editor in my college newspaper, the daily wild cat.
Due to my experiences growing up, I have a particular preference for stories that inspire compassion, empathy, and understanding for those who are considered out of the ordinary.
I believe in the public’s right to know and share information and I advocate for the transparency of governments and businesses, as well as their accountability to the public.
Because I am relatively new to the profession, I realize that I have a lot to learn and endless stories to listen to and share. Knowing this can be both overwhelming and invigorating.
Even so, when I feel uncertain, I remember the meaning of my middle name – “the light that cuts through the darkness”.
When my dad first told me my middle name, he said it meant dawn. He also stated that the Navajo culture is a warrior culture, so it could also mean “the warrior who wakes up before anyone else and kills the enemy in his sleep”.
For Navajo people, the middle name is where a person’s power exists. It is not shared with strangers. Sharing it, my father said, would be like a superhuman giving out his superpowers.
For years, I didn’t tell anyone – and imagined myself as a top-secret dawn superhero.
Everything changed when I went to the University of Arizona.
Through the bureaucratic process, every class list, every administrative document – every laminated ID – gave me my middle name.
Anyone could see it. And, it really felt like everyone was trying to pronounce it.
Although sharing my Navajo name may not be in keeping with the traditions of my culture, I have always hated keeping secrets. Knowing that others knew my middle name made me feel very vulnerable, but it was also a relief.
I was never the type to hold the power for myself, anyway. I wear my business card, my multicultural identity and my personality with pride.
I like being an open book (and I would like government agencies and businesses to appreciate transparency as much as I do).
Now, in a further gesture of openness, I am offering you some of my power.
My favorite time of day is dawn.
As a child, I loved waking up when others were still asleep.
The sky would be a shade of blue that I have never seen at any other time of the day. It won me over. And it filled my body with adrenaline as I breathed in the fresh, dewy air.
Today, dawn brings me hope, and as a journalist it is my daily reminder to look for solutions instead of just focusing on life’s problems.
You can contact Editor-in-Chief Alana Minkler at 707-521-5224 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @alana_minkler.