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Kalle Benallie
ICT

Osage News becomes the first tribally-owned newspaper to join The Trust Project. A huge step for an independent press.

Teresa Lamsam, an Osage News editorial board member and Osage Nation citizen, said she can only assume The Trust Project will give their loyal readership a sense of security about Osage News.

“This is going to continue to better serve our communities of readers,” she said. “By coming under The Trust Project and making it very clear to our readers about how they can trust us and why they should trust us and all the indicators and factors that is going into our website.”

Osage News has both a newspaper and an online news site.

The Trust Project was launched by award-winning journalist Sally Lehrman to “amplify journalism’s commitment to transparency, accuracy, inclusion and fairness.” They have eight “Trust Indicators” for the press to build into their news sites including: best practices, journalist expertise, type of work, citations and references, methods, locally sourced, diverse voices and actionable feedback.

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More than 200 hundred news partners and digital platforms across the globe have joined the project. Buffalo’s Fire, an independent Native American news organization, is also a partner.

Lamsam has been a board member for at least 10 years and thought about joining The Trust Project from being acquaintances with Lehrman. They once discussed the hurdles a tribally-owned publication would face to join The Trust Project, but Lamsam pointed out Osage News’ trajectory of independence and achieving editorial independence.

“Over the last decade or so, and particularly these past eight years, we’ve been able to make great strides in our independence and putting up legislative barriers between us and the government,” she said.

For example, this year Osage News sued the Treasury Department of the Osage Nation Executive Branch to seek a public records request concerning payments that the Treasury Department made to a Tulsa, Oklahoma-based law firm called Barrow & Grimm. In May, Osage News agreed to dismiss the lawsuit after the Osage Nation granted access to the records.

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Additionally, Lamsam said leadership has made a difference.

“Thankfully in the last couple of election cycles the Osages’ have elected tribal congress people and a chief who really believe(s) in freedom of the press and freedom of information. And that has opened up pathways that previously we just didn’t have,” she said.

The organization applied for The Trust Project in May and was accepted in July.

Lamsam and Tara Manthey, the Osage News editorial board vice chair, are currently going through the cohort process with about 20 to 25 other news organizations. Lamson estimates it’ll take six months to write the policies, change their website to increase transparency and the integrity of the news, make it clear when there are mistakes, etc.

They have weekly meetings where they learn about the different indicators and how to meet those standards.

Lamsam is optimistic that there will be more tribally-owned newspapers that will also join The Trust Project. She understands the battles some may be facing that Osage News was also facing 10 years ago.

Manthey has been on the board for three years and was on the board that founded the current version of Osage News 12 years ago. She said joining The Trust Project shows how community support has made it possible.

“The people of every sovereign nation deserve an independent media and it is one of the ways to advance and uphold our sovereignty is by telling the truth and helping people understand what’s going on in our culture, in our government, in our reservations,” Manthey said.

Lamsam hopes being a part of The Trust Project is the final step toward independence and protection of the freedom of the press.

“It will be kind of the acknowledgement from our colleagues across the world because The Trust Project is not just domestic, it’s international. We join a group of very strong journalism organizations,” she said. 

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