This begins ICT’s August donor campaign. We have budgeted $230,000 to be raised from individual donors. As of today we’re at about $130,000 — so we have $100,000 to go for this year. I know this is a long shot, but as an incentive, if we hit that goal this month … we won’t bother our readers again in 2021. (An old public radio trick.) To put in perspective that’s about 10 percent of our annual budget.

My favorite number: We have 2,500 donors so far this year and the average transaction is $33.59.

That is really cool because reader support is essential. The products of our journalism are free. We don’t charge subscriptions (and most other media can reprint our work at no cost). We are a public service and it’s something your contributions make possible. Thank you.

Invisibility

This week Pew Research released a report, the State of the Media 2021. There is a lot of good data that is helpful to what we do.

For example: Across the country donations to public radio stations is up slightly and the total number of donors reached 2.4 million people in 2019 (the only available data point). That’s about the same as 2018.

The picture is better for a national program, the PBS NewsHour where individual donors now account for 24 percent of the program’s budget. (We share office space at Arizona State University with the NewsHour West.)

That’s remarkable — and something we would love to do. Eventually.

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Then there was another chapter that caught my eye.

A fact sheet for Hispanic and Black News Media. “News media made by and for the two largest racial and ethnic minority groups in the United States – Black Americans and Hispanic Americans – have been a consistent part of the American news landscape,” the report said. The story: “While newspapers aimed at both of these groups have recently had audience declines, Univision and Telemundo have fared better with both network and local television audiences.”

Authors of the report followed that summary with an apology of sorts. “Pew Research Center is not aware of any current directory with publicly available representative data for news media companies oriented toward Asian-American audiences and is therefore unable to produce audience or economic analyses for Asian American-oriented news outlets at this time,” the fact sheet reported.

Indigenous media? Nothing. Not a word about how hard it is to get data (true enough). Nor any reflection in any of the documents that we even exist. Not even an asterisk.

I tweeted my disappointment. Pew’s Senior Communications Manager Rachel Weisel emailed a response. She wrote:

“We also want to acknowledge your feeling of deflation and let you know that Pew Research Center is committed to expanding our research on race and ethnicity. We have recently centralized this work under a single strategy with the goal of studying different populations’ unique experiences and attitudes comprehensively. We hope to do more research on Native Americans in the future, in addition to research on other groups. Though it will take us some time to do this rigorously, we are committed to studying the full spectrum of the American experience.”

That mission is more important than it has ever been because the country is changing so fast (something I have been saying for two decades now). As long as the data does not include the larger story of the media there is an error of omission and is therefore inaccurate. I am going to be all wonky here, but in 1947 a group of scholars, the Hutchins Commission, studied the relationship between the news media and democracy. One of the key points: Facts are not enough. Context has to be a part of the story. Without that context “an isolated fact, however accurate in itself, may be misleading and, in effect, untrue.”

Any story about media today must include the context of news enterprises like ICT because our narrative is so different from what some call “mainstream media.” Indeed, I would argue we are now the mainstream media.

(And if you don’t think this invisibility matters, consider that members of Congress are more representative than the national news media.)

The story about ICT is about growth. It’s a story about our reader support and connections. Ever since I started in the business I have heard editors say, “I can’t find anyone” and therefore don’t have a diverse newsroom.

We hire when we have money. The more funding we raise from all sources, the more people who will work in our newsrooms. Simple as that. That’s because the story I see coming from our communities and our young people is about how much talent we have; our main job is to build the platform.

I spent most of my career trying to diversify the existing media. I was wrong. We have hired more Native journalists in the past two years than I have done in any newsroom in my last 30 years. I can’t wait to double our team again.

And our readership continues to grow, too. Last month we had 607,950 people look at our main page. We had 907, 839 pageviews (getting so close to a million). What’s really cool is that if you look at our top 10 stories, you can see how much time people are spending with each story, 3 minutes, 6:55, 5:52 and on and on. Thank you.

That is how you end invisibility.

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Recent stories about ICT:
From the rez to national news anchor
Kalle Benallie: Creating a pipeline for young journalists
ICT at 40: 'We reported like Indians, from the ground up

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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. Sign up for ICT’s free newsletter