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Indians to HuffPo: What About Us?

On the news that the Huffington Post website is planning to launch a section for African American topics, Native Americans are asking the popular mainstream blog and news site to consider featuring a space that highlights the richness and diversity of American Indian culture. Native attention has increasingly turned toward the Huffington Post because it’s a news-based website showing major signs of growth and strong financial backing. Irrepressible political commentator Arianna Huffington co-founded her namesake site in 2005, and back then it largely featured prominent political columnists and celebrity bloggers. In the years since, the site has broadened its coverage to include sections for entertainment, media, comedy, travel and sports.

The section is to be titled “GlobalBlack,” and will be the 27th section offered by the site. It will be the first racially focused section, but the Associated Press said the Huffington Post plans to soon launch a Latino section as well. The news has some Native American journalists hoping that the Huffington Post will soon fill another major void in the American mainstream journalism scene. “Huffington Post’s site would only benefit from having a Native American site—after all, news should reflect all people regardless of race,” said Lori Edmo-Suppah, editor of the Sho-Ban News, which covers the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes.

The AP included some statistics that hint at why the Huffington Post is adding this section now. It reported, “A February 2010 survey by Edison Research and Arbitron found that about 25 percent of all Twitter users are black, roughly double the percentage of blacks in the U.S. population. About 11 percent of all U.S. Facebook users are black, the social-networking site reports. A greater percentage of whites than blacks and Latinos have broadband access at home, but laptop ownership is now about even for all these groups.” In comparison, several studies have noted the relatively low coverage of Internet service in Indian country, especially compared to African Americans and Latinos, which may be one reason Huffington isn’t racing to highlight the “first Americans” as her first race-based experiment. A 2009 report by Native Public Media found a large disparity between Internet availability in tribal communities and, “a very real digital divide” between Native America and the nation as a whole in terms of access, coverage and affordability of service. The report estimated broadband penetration in Indian country to be less than 10 percent, which, according to the Internet World Stats organization, puts Indian country behind Algeria, Cuba and Christmas Island. However, Indian journalists who work for mainstream outlets have found that indigenous coverage can resound with a wide audience, regardless of race, and, in turn, widespread coverage can help shed light on the connectivity problem.

A handful of Native American writers already contribute to the Huffington Post as unpaid bloggers; no Native Americans are known to serve on the full-time paid staff (the organization said it doesn’t disclose that type of information.) Some Native writers have found success in getting their work published on the Huffington Post by working with the Race-Talk blog hosted by the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University. Articles from that site are regularly cross-published on the Huffington Post, AlterNet and OpEdNews.

At press time, the Huffington Post had not responded to queries on whether a Native American section is in their plans.