Updated:
Original:

Indian country journalism grows

Author:

Indian Country Today took home several prized awards at the recent
UNITY/NAJA convention, including First prize for General Excellence
(weekly). We are greatly honored to be recognized by our peers in the trade
and extend our own congratulations to all those who toil on behalf of a
fair and accurate journalism.

Producing just such a journalism - fair and accurate, with human decency
and respect as guiding principles - is a serious goal. Perhaps the weakest
link for any community of people is the lack of experienced and honest
perspective. Too often, the comfort to express opinion recedes as attack
journalism becomes the mode of the day. Intense sharp and cutting
argumentation as currently demanded destroys the truth of common sense.
Civil discourse with adversaries deteriorates into a battleground
atmosphere where destruction of the enemy is a prevailing objective.
Illumination dims.

We believe Indian country and America needs better. We commend the Native
American Journalists Association - indeed all the participants of UNITY -
including the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, National
Association of Black Journalists and the Asian American Journalists
Association - for the foresight and dedication to create the greatly
representative process evidenced at the UNITY conventions. Changing the
meeting schdule to every four years (brilliantly coincided with the U.S.
presidential cycle), the UNITY process has coalesced the superlative minds
of a multi-cultural America. That its clout is growing is reflected in the
now-mandatory visits by candidates seeking national office.

It is worth noting that the major national story to emerge from UNITY 2004
was President George W. Bush's answer to a question on the issue of Indian
sovereignty. We loved the question for forcing the President of the United
States to utter the big "S" word, but could not have expected that his
minimalist understanding of our most fundamental issue would force Bush to
repeat "sovereignty" five times in three short sentences. For some the gaff
was unbearably inept and became the gristmill for thousands of news items
and even late night television jokes. Point is: The question was respectful
and straightforward. The politician, given a fair chance, diminished
himself.

Congratulations to the journalists, organizers and supporters of UNITY -
nearly 10,000 strong at the recent Washington, D.C. gathering. Among our
own this week, we recognize the dedication of the entire staff of Indian
Country Today on winning: First prize for General Excellence for weekly
newspaper and Second prize for Layout and Design for weekly broadsheet.

Managing Editor Kerri Lis has done a stellar job in tightening the
newspaper's national focus through original editorial content, a remarkable
feat to be sure given the vast geography and diversity that constitutes
Indian country, and by her commitment to the continued improvement of our
design and graphics department. Our goal is to ensure that both editorial
content and design reflect the highest standards possible.

Our incomparable Associate Editor, Jim Adams, gets a grand cheer for
gaining all top three slots for Best News Reporting. His articles "Search
for Sovereignty", "Campaign Kickoff 2004" and "Native Businesses Get Share
of Iraq Restoration", which came in one, two and three respectively,
showcased Dr. Adam's remarkable investigative and analytical talents. Adams
is one of those very special journalists who embraces each and every
assignment with enthusiastic and full intellectual engagement.

A resounding "hurray!" goes out to our own Washington-based policy analyst
and opinion-maker, Suzan Harjo, who won for Best Columnist for her piece
"Protecting Sacred Places Against All Odds." Few in Washington, D.C., or
anywhere in Indian country for that matter, possess Harjo's depth of
knowledge and experience in tracking federal policy matters involving a
vast array of American Indian issues. Her biography reads like a novel, and
she has positively influenced the shape of Indian country in more ways than
most folks realize.

Finally, hearty applause to our winners of all three slots for Best Feature
Writing: Reporter James May (1) for his brilliant series about the state of
California's Indian languages entitled "Defying the Silence: A Race Against
Time", and Correspondents Mary Pierpoint (2) for her series "Apache Tribe's
'Erin Brockovich'" and Anne Keala Kelly (3) for her investigative series
entitled "The Alaksa-Hawaii Connection."

You all make us proud, and certain that Indian country is the better for
your work. Indian Country Today editors join heartily in shaking your hand
to say, "Thank you." Trusted information and credible ideas are the
life-sustaining currents of our communities. As we continue our work we do
so with strengthened conviction knowing that, when applied to Indian
country discourse, integrity and principles of respect, still occupy a
valued place around the fire.