Statement from PNC-Minnesota

Recently, the board of Harmony Tribe made some serious and public allegations about the PNC-Minnesota bureau and our coverage of the Sacred Harvest Festival in their Open Letter to the Harmony Tribe Community dated Friday, September 24th.   After an internal investigation, with the assistance of PNC-National, we have found no basis for those allegations.  We sincerely wish the board of Harmony Tribe had contacted the PNC prior to the public meeting held on Friday, September 24th as we are sure this matter could have easily been cleared up.

The allegations are as follows:

  1. PNC-Minnesota did not have authorization to publish two photos used in the Meet Harmony Tribe story.
  2. PNC-Minnesota published these photographs with the intent to cause harm.
  3. PNC-Minnesota was contacted by the Harmony Tribe board to remove the photographs and refused.

PNC-Minnesota sought and received authorization to publish the photos

Prior to the Sacred Harvest Festival, we contacted the Chair of the Harmony Tribe board to request approval to cover the festival for the PNC.  After our request was discussed with the rest of the board, the board approved it and said they would assist us during the festival.  The board would be available for interviews and would help us secure interviews with other guests.  We were to follow the same photo policy as any other attendee – verbally obtain permission before taking someone’s photo and do not publish photos that have nudity in them.

At the festival, the PNC spoke at the morning meeting to let attendees know who we were and why we were there.  We wore PNC identification badges during the entire run of the festival.  We made it a point to talk to each and every board member and interviewed most of them.  There was constant communication between the PNC and the board during the festival and the relationship was very cordial.  When we wished to photograph someone, the PNC as an entity sought their permission.  Many times we asked what name they wished us to use if we published the photo or used a quote from them in a story.  That permission was for the duration of the festival, unless permission was revoked.  At no time did anyone, board member or attendee, notify us they were revoking the permission they granted to the PNC.

In the two specific photos cited by the board, permission was granted by all persons in the photographs prior to the start of that workshop by a PNC editor wearing a PNC identification badge.  Additionally, most of the identifiable persons in these two photos had granted permission to the PNC for their photo in other festival stories.  These stories have either already been published or are yet to be slated for publication and there have been no objections to those photos.


PNC-Minnesota did not publish photos with the intent to harm

PNC’s mission is to cover our community’s news for our community and to help shape our community’s narrative outside our community. We strive to maintain neutrality are not advocates for nor opponents of any group or person within our community. We are a news organization, not a propaganda tool. Therefore, there will be times when groups or individuals named in our stories are very happy with our coverage and times when they will not.

Our presence at the festival supports that mission.  Festivals are important events in our community and should be preserved and shared.  Not only were Pagans in our area appreciative of the chance to experience or relive some of the magic moments of the festival, Pagans around the country were interested.  Stories like the Community Gamelon, Came a Lutheran, Left a Pagan,  and Cherie Sampson – International Artist at SHF were passed along in on-line forums, emailed to friends, and commented on by BNPs.  Stories about some very special quilts that help cash-strapped Pagans attend the festival, interviews (and some very fun photos) with the Harmony Tribe board, and interviews with the founders of Harmony Tribe may be yet to come, but needed to be put on hold until this issue is resolved.

Sacred Harvest Festival was only the second festival to be covered by any of the PNC Bureaus and the first to include PNC generated photos.  We are all still feeling our way around and seeking out best practices that fit our unique religious community.  PNC-Minnesota made the decision to include photos and video in our coverage because, as the cliché goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.  Photos draw you into the experience and, although no photo can truly capture the unique festival experience, we were very pleased with our initial attempt.  These photos were not published with the intent to harm, but in an attempt to illuminate.   We understand that some Pagans may have legitimate fears or concerns with having their name or photograph published on a news site and we are sensitive to that.  If ever harm is experienced by anyone as a result of their name or photo on the PNC, we are truly sorry and we urge you to contact us as soon as possible.  Likewise, we would like to take a moment to express our sincere gratitude to all who agreed to talk with us and let us take your photo and use it.


PNC-Minnesota was not contacted by anyone regarding Sacred Harvest Festival photographs

At no time has PNC-Minnesota been contacted any group or individual asking us to remove a specific photo or photos.  We still have not received a request to remove the photos.   The first time the PNC was notified of any concerns over possible unauthorized use of photos from the Sacred Harvest Festival was when one of our reporters received notice that he was banned from attending the festival for 3 years due, in part, to these allegations.  The PNC was not contacted for information prior to Harmony Tribe’s Open Meeting, nor was the PNC informed that these allegations were to be discussed and voted on at the meeting and asked to attend.  If we had been asked to address these concerns, either though submission of a letter to be read or through attendance in person or via phone, we are sure the results of the meeting would have been different.   Before, during, and after the festival the PNC felt welcomed by the Harmony Tribe board and considered the working relationship to be very open and mutually fulfilling.   The open meeting discussion, the vote, and the letter has come as shock.


We hope this helps clear up any misunderstanding our readers may have about this issue.  In an effort to resolve this situation and help map out future guidelines for Sacred Harvest Festival coverage, we have requested a meeting with the Harmony Tribe board.  We are optimistic such a meeting would yield positive, healthy results.

PNC strives to uphold the highest journalistic ethics and operate within established industry policies.  We take allegations like the ones outlined above very seriously.  PNC-Minnesota is committed to seek the truth and report it, to minimize harm in pursuit of stories, and to act independently.  This is a very delicate balancing act filled with ethical dilemmas.  We are not perfect, we know despite our best intentions that errors will be made, and there is room for improvement.  PNC-National and the various PNC bureaus will be discussing our own internal photo policies during events like festivals and we appreciate your feedback in this, and any other, matter.

Heather Biedermann

Nels Linde

Cara Schulz

10 thoughts on “Statement from PNC-Minnesota

  1. gleamchaser1776 says:

    As a member of the PNC that attended and covered the 30th anniversary of PSG I would like to join the PNC-Minnesota bureau in stating that it is our intention to work with the community. It is not our intention to take and post photographs without permission or to use legal names without permission.

  2. Sean Nilsen says:

    As an attendee of the meeting being discussed in this article – “Meet Harmony Tribe” – I can tell you that at no time prior to the start of the meeting, or shortly into the meeting, was permission sought for photographs to be taken during the meeting.

    I was called away during the meeting, so I can not attest to any requests being made during the portion of the meeting I missed, however, near the end of the meeting I did return and no permission was requested at that time either.

    I have also spoken to most of the folks featured prominently in those photos and they have quite candidly stated, inclusive of the Chair of Harmony Tribe, that no permission was given by them to the PNC for those particular photographs.

    If there is some documented proof that could be shared, that would be helpful.

    It was the agreed position of the Council when this was discussed internally that the PNC would be allowed to ask Festivants for permission for recordings and/or photos. How that was communicated to PNC officially, I do not have record of but would appreciate being shared.

    In the matter of the Meet Harmony Tribe meeting, I am stating, that did not happen.

    My recommendation for your future attendance at events is to gather this information in writing as other news organizations do.

    • caraschulz says:

      Hello Sean,

      When permission is granted at an event, it is granted to the PNC as an entity, not to a specific person. It lasts for the duration of the event unless permission is revoked or there is an objection voiced to the photographer as a specific photo is taken. Permission for PNC-Minnesota was not revoked and no objection was raised to us about any photos taken until after action was voted on at the Friday Open Meeting – about 1 month after the photos ran.

      Prior to the festival, permission was granted to PNC-Minnesota to interview, photograph, and audio interview the board of Harmony Tribe by the Chair. The board was to be our “go to” people and I will say that it was a joy to do so. The level of availability and excellent interviews and photos the board allowed was wonderful to experience. Really wonderful and a true service to the community.

      At the start of the Harmony Tribe workshop, the reporter did introduce himself, note that he was covering it for PNC, wore PNC identification visibly, and note he was taking notes and photographs. No one objected during or after to this.

      One of our concerns was, did some non-board people come in later to the workshop and not hear that? So we looked over the photos and in every case where you can identify the person, permission had been granted to the PNC and in most cases had been granted multiple times.

      We believe this was a simple case of a misunderstanding of granting permission to individuals vs entities and a lack of communication that the board felt there was a problem after the photos posted. We do wish the board would have contacted us if they had any questions or concerns as this would have been swiftly and easily worked out. We could have spelled out (prior to the start of the festival) more clearly that permissions granted are not granted to the individual but to the entity we represent.

      Open communication is vital to maintaining strong working relationships and we are sincere in our desire to meet with the board so that mutually acceptable guidelines can be mapped out for next year. The first year anything new is tried is always a learning experience and we believe that on the whole, this was a very successful and beneficial first year for all – PNC, Harmony Tribe, the attendees, and the Pagan community.

  3. Karen Renneberg says:

    I was in one of those photo as well as my daughter. I was never asked if it was okay to take this photo nor was my Daughter. we did not know picture taken until it was posted . so to state that permission was granted was a lie!!!


    • caraschulz says:

      Hello Karen,

      You and your daughter could be in one of the photos as there were two unidentifiable females with their back to the camera. If you, or anyone else in festival coverage – at any time – wish us to remove a photo or take out a name that is on our site, please email us a request and it will be acted on.

      We did discuss the photos and each person in them after the Open Meeting of September 24th and asked ourselves questions: Were you there when introductions were made at the start of the workshop? Is your face showing? Did anyone contact anyone with PNC after the story aired about photos? Have we received any requests to remove photos?

      We apologize if you feel that your photo was used without permission. That is not something we wish to do – inadvertently “out” Pagans who fear revealing their identity as Pagan due to possible adverse consequences. Or who do not wish to be seen engaging in activities that could affect their employment. We are very sensitive to that.

      We encourage anyone who has any questions or concerns about use of their image, name, or words to email us as soon as possible so that the matter can be resolved quickly. Even if those concerns only pop up months after publication. We realize things can change and are willing to assist in any way. But you have to talk with us and let us know – otherwise we don’t know.

  4. Rosemary says:

    I also was in attendance at the “Meet the Harmony Tribe” meeting. I recognized the editor in question’s badge and recording device. Verbal permission for my picture to be taken and/or posted was Not obtained or asked of me. I would have to review the article to verify whether I was in a photo that was posted, however. If I had been asked by the editor in question, I would have granted photographic privilege.

    In other interviews by a different reporter/editor, permission to quote me or use recordings was asked and I granted such permission.

    The editor in question was intimately aware of festival photo policies.

    This editor in question was also involved, present, and a member of the council, the year a documentary team was attending Sacred Harvest Fest, to produce films and take interviews. I cannot verify the editor in question’s memory of this event, but the documentary team was clearly told by the council at that time they needed to obtain written permission and waivers from anyone who was filmed or interviewed. They also had to warn passers by before beginning each filming that if they did not wish to be caught on film to avoid camera range.

    I honor and support PNC’s efforts and journalism efforts. I am very supportive of your growth and learning as you examine these issues.

    I would like to suggest as you examine the photo journalism issue, that you consider written waivers for photographs and perhaps interviews, irregardless of the venue’s policies. You could examine the option of obtaining recorded permission, as one reporter at a protest rally I attended did and which I granted. The verbally recorded permission should then be documented in some way, should the recording get erased, garbled or what have you. The goal is to have documented or recorded proof to cover cases like this.

    • caraschulz says:


      Thank you for commenting and I enjoyed working with you and the rest of the board during the festival. I’m hopeful that your comment, along with Sean’s, means that dialogue will be forthcoming from the Harmony Tribe board.

      I believe you hit right on the heart of the misunderstanding and the area that needs to be worked out: “In other interviews by a different reporter/editor, permission to quote me or use recordings was asked and I granted such permission.”

      Industry standard is that you grant permission to the entity, not the individual, when you grant permission to Press, and it lasts for the duration of the event. Now, that is the industry standard. Will that work in our community? Will our community develop its own standards? If we do, what are those standards? How should photos be treated? How about non-recorded interviews? Recorded interviews? Should festivals even be covered? Should people interviewed be allowed to use “craft names” and what are those guidelines? What should caption policies be?

      This was our first time working together – the PNC-Minnesota and Sacred Harvest Festival. We are also (like the board of Harmony Tribe) a group of volunteers, most of us are not journalists by trade. Just as the board of Harmony Tribe aren’t Conference professionals by trade. I’m sure the very first Sacred Harvest Festival wasn’t perfect, we won’t be perfect – but we all strive to be better.

      We are very open to feedback and suggestions as we map out our way and would have found Harmony Tribe’s viewpoint extremely helpful – but you need to be willing to share it before it becomes a larger issue. Communicate with us. Tell us what worked for you and your attendees. What doesn’t work. What possible concerns you have. We can share the same with you. We look forward to it.

  5. Sean Nilsen says:

    “At the start of the Harmony Tribe workshop, the reporter did introduce himself, note that he was covering it for PNC, wore PNC identification visibly, and note he was taking notes and photographs. No one objected during or after to this.”

    I was in that space before and well into the meeting and no such announcement was made for all to hear. I have also heard statements from several other attendees, all of whom were present at the start of the meeting.

    Some did arrive late, but, if they did arrive late, shouldn’t they have been individually approached by the reporter covering the story to achieve the required level of permission?

    Does a person arriving late not also deserve the same level of notification and option to decline consent?

    Two more points and then I will no longer take up your time in this matter –

    1. Your investigation did not include those who were photographed.

    2. Any supporting evidence PNC has should be presented to the Harmony Tribe Council so that this matter can be discussed based on common facts.

    Thank you for the work that you do.

    • caraschulz says:

      Thank you Sean for taking the time to engage.

      All these points that you raise should certainly be discussed with the Board of Harmony Tribe. We have requested a meeting, but as of yet we have not received a response. I am hopeful that your comment means that the board will be contacting us soon to schedule a time to meet.

  6. Jude says:

    When every one checked in at the front gate at the SHF they were required to sign a release form either allowing or disallowing their picture to be taken by the official HT photographer and, as I understood it, the representatives of PNC. If allowed, these pictures could either be posted on the official HT website or on PNC’s website. I could be wrong but that is how I understood the form. This should have taken care of any issues concerning pictures being taken by PNC, but apparently it didn’t.
    The problem as I see it was that it is hard to identify the people that said NO to having their picture taken. Especially new people that most people at the SHF don’t know. And I not only referring to the HT or PNC photographers but to anyone that is taking pictures and posting them on places like FaceBook or any place that puts their images out on the web.
    I said it was OK for HT and PNC to use my image and I gave permission to others by posing for (group) pictures and saying yes when asked but not to anyone else that was just taking pictures. I feel like I have to know/trust the photographer to say yes. I even asked a few people taking random pictures if they had asked for permission and they all answered no. It made them think about what they were doing. By law (as I understand it) nobody else should be posting my photo on line because this is a private place that I paid to get into. According to the photography classes I have taken you can photograph anything on public property but you have to get permission in a private area. Grant it, that is an over simplified way of looking at it.
    Another issue is whether a person can be identified in a picture. Granted we can look at a photo that was taken when we were there and pick ourselves (or even just parts of ourselves) out when we look at the picture even if our back is turned and/or our face is hidden but the question is: could somebody else tell it is you? It gets harder to tell who is who in a picture when people are not identified by name. And much harder to find a person on the web in this case. It is a judgement call. Not one I would enjoy making.
    My Suggestion: When checking in, if some one says NO to being photographed (and picture posted) they should have their picture taken and these pictures printed out so the photographers would have a sheet of faces that can not be included in any photos taken/posted. Taken a step farther, these photos should be placed in the HT booth so everyone taking pictures would know that these people don’t want their image out on the web (FaceBook type places).
    It would also be nice if people not wanting their photo taken were pro-active and would introduce themselves to the official photographers and inform them of their wishes. That would make quite the impression with the photographers and help the photographers remember their faces. I understand being timid and feeling apprehensive about standing up for yourself in a new and strange place with people you’ve never met before but if this is that important to you make sure the right people (photographers) know your wishes I am not putting the blame on the people not wanting their photos posted. Its just a thought. I say all this because no one intended to harm anyone else. Isn’t that the saying Pagans live by; do no harm?
    Pagans really need PNC. Yes witches/wiccans have witchvox but that is world wide and doesn’t do the same thing (news issues and such) and it doesn’t really include a lot of the other Pagan Paths. Good luck in resolving this issue and in all that PNC does.
    Respectfully ,,,,,,,,,,,,,, Jude

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