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:
- PNC-Minnesota did not have authorization to publish two photos used in the Meet Harmony Tribe story.
- PNC-Minnesota published these photographs with the intent to cause harm.
- 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to follow the same photo policy as any other attendee – verbally obtain permission before taking someone’s photo and do not publish photos that have nudity in them.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 That permission was for the duration of the festival, unless permission was revoked.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.