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Committing to a journalism for a Native Millennium

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As the first year of the new century and millennium comes to an end, Indian Country Today wishes all of you -- our readers, contributors, editorial and business staff and corporate advertisers and sponsors -- the greatest of appreciation for your interest, strength and support for this important communications work.

As the national American Indian weekly newspaper, we are embarked on a tremendous adventure. We are intent on building a communications vehicle grounded by a weekly heartbeat that will increasingly make sense of Indian country realities, needs, hopes and aspirations. We are dedicated to the idea that there is a huge amount of experience and intelligence in Indian country that is deserving of a serious and reputable forum. We seek and we get, with rapid response, the best possible news analysis and consistent coverage of current events and we attempt to focus on all important potential benefits or pitfalls that could impact our Native nations and lands.

There are many principles and rules of journalism -- that synthesis and processing of useful information for public dissemination -- that serve us well. Here are four of them:

Accuracy. This value implies the highest of respect for the process of research, presentation and distribution of information. We not only strive to be factual but also truthful. The goal is to present our readers with the broadest and deepest possible base of reality on issues, working to avoid tunnel vision and to identify and expose destructive agendas that bend the truth and misinform the people.

Respect. Public life is fraught with antagonisms. News loves human drama and nothing sells like conflict. Yet, it is harmony itself that makes life possible and productive. Well-guided cooperation is the glue of families, and indeed, of nations. Not only conflict is worthy and requiring of reporting. Solutions, when things go well, through tradition or innovation or through their creative combination -- often against all odds -- these are stories and information also worth reporting. Even in the heat of passionate antagonism, we seek to always write and solicit opinions that could be expressed face to face, without personal disrespect through insult or attempt to humiliate. We grow in strength as we as American Indian peoples learn to disagree without creating further dysfunction and disunity.

Dependability. The product needs to be published consistently and be able to respond to urgent current events. Within reason, we commit to original staff reporting of all important national stories, providing all necessary human and technical resources to fulfill the responsibility not only to accurate coverage but also to providing analysis and perspective, making sense out of the events and trends that affect our lives.

Integrity. This is the foundation to all the rest. We are not a public relations firm for tribal governments. We are a journalistic endeavor that focuses on issues and events that both affirm and challenge tribal governments. These can constitute both external and internal forces and dynamics. Our charge is to be relevant and helpful to tribal sovereignty and other Native issues at a national level by reporting important news of the day. The newspaper is able to perform these tasks because it is a growing free forum independent center, with solid, reputable reporters, editors and advisors. As all journalists know, there are many ethical considerations in the journalistic presentation of information. Vigilance against non-journalistic intrusion on editorial decisions is paramount for the production of a trustworthy product. Indian Country Today has been able to exercise this type of quality because it is independent of political intrusion -- an approach that for nearly three years has produced a national American Indian newspaper of the highest quality. To its credit, the Oneida Nation (owners of the newspaper's parent corporation, Four Directions Media, Inc.) supports this concept of a national independent newspaper as an important tool for Indian country.

Indian Country Today thus is offered as a national voice for tribal rights, but also one that supports inclusion and dialogue, rather than force, in intra-tribal disputes, and indeed, in all conflict. Our complex and vibrant network of Indian opinion leaders is extensive, versatile and well-informed. As it feeds and supports our editorial voice, it provides an appreciable variety of Native perspectives. In fact, it is this highly respected network that makes possible our print and web publishing legitimacy.

We are thankful for this role and for the trust our contributors and readers have placed in the newspaper. In the coming year, we mean only to affirm, once again, our commitment to this important communications task. Immersed in an age of explosive information and ever-emerging communications technologies, we would harness it for our content, for the serious dissemination of our Native worldviews, for the strategic understanding of trends and currents, and for the greater appreciation of our sense of time and future.

In this first decade of the new century and millennium, we also recognize that there are varieties of indigenous seasons and cycles. From the living yet ancient Mayan calendar to the still-practiced Longhouse ceremonial cycles, to the cosmic maps and Four Directions Medicine Wheels of the Plains peoples, there are many ways to tell time. Nevertheless, now as we step into a common century and millennium, we invite all our peoples and publics into mutual dialogue. Let us be intelligent together, discuss and debate; let us not only survive together; let us thrive.