There is a new phrase I’ve added to ICT’s about page: “An Independent news enterprise.” It’s kind of funny, though, because most of us still call this digital thing “a newspaper.” A newspaper without ink, only pixels. And, of course, a daily broadcast.
ICT’s journey began a new path Friday. We have our whiteboard ready, it's blank and we are ready to scribble new ideas. ICT is no longer owned by an individual, a tribe, or the National Congress of American Indians. (All a part of our history.) Our enterprise is now operated by journalists and our cause is simple, report the news and make sure Indigenous voices are heard in the public square.
(Previous: Indian Country Today, NCAI split)
This is a chapter in a long story. Cherokee Chief John Ross summed up the contradictions in one speech in 1828.
He called the Phoenix “a public press” that “should be cherished as an important vehicle in the diffusion of general information, and as no less powerful auxiliary in asserting and supporting our political rights.” Then he warned “to guard against the admission of scurrilous productions of a personal character, and also against cherishing sectarian principles on religious subjects. The press being the public property of the Nation, it would ill become its character if such infringements upon the feelings of the people should be tolerated. In other respects, the liberty of the press should be as free as the breeze that glides upon the surface.
Free as the breeze is a high calling for press performance. This was the goal of ICT 40 years ago when Tim Giago founded it at Pine Ridge. It was a similar idea for Howard Rock and the Tundra Times in 1962 in Fairbanks when he wrote that the paper is “here to express your ideas, your thoughts and opinions on issues that vitally affect you. With this humble beginning we hope, not for any distinction, but to serve with dedication the truthful presentation of Native problems, issues and interests."
Same now. Our mission statement: “Indian Country Today is a spacious channel that serves Indigenous communities with news, entertainment, and opinion.”
How to help
There are three ways we carry out our mission. We produce the digital report at IndianCountryToday.com; the half-hour broadcast on public television stations; and now the management of the public media company, IndiJ Public Media, led by our company president Karen Michel, Ho-Chunk.
To make all of this work ICT needs the support of readers, foundations, and the larger community. Independence is not free, it requires funding support from readers and viewers.
There are lots of ways to help.
First: Direct contributions. We have three membership categories ranging from a donation of a few dollars to the very special $5,000 Phoenix 100 category.
Second: Advertise on our site or on our public television program. If you watch any show on public television you’ll see a string of credits at the end about who’s supporting the program and sometimes that will be followed by a 15 or 30 second spot that says good things about a company. (There are specific rules about advertising on public television.) If you think about what that could look like coming from our communities … say a resort advertisement?
Third: Share Indigenous content (and not just ours) on social media. One metric for the media is eyeballs. There are rewards for stories that more people see, building advertising and for overall readership. So when news is breaking, it really helps us when our content is shared across social media. Plus, we have some great writers that deserve that kind of attention.
Then there is a good reason to do that. We cover stories that the rest of the media does not. Every single day.
The new company IndiJ Public Media has some challenges ahead. But the prospects are amazing. As the newspaper comic book possum, Pogo once said, “We are faced with insurmountable opportunities.”
So now, let's make it work. Thank you.
Indian Country Today is a nonprofit news organization. Will you support our work? All of our content is free. There are no subscriptions or costs. And we have hired more Native journalists in the past year than any news organization ─ and with your help we will continue to grow and create career paths for our people. Support Indian Country Today for as little as $10.