Indian Country Today is officially on “hiatus” while the Oneida Nation looks for a new owner or a new business model.
This is Trahant Reports.
Publisher and Oneida Nation Representative Ray Halbritter wrote Monday: “Indian Country Today Media Network has faced the same challenges that other media outlets have faced. It is no secret that with the rise of the Internet, traditional publishing outlets have faced unprecedented adversity. These economic headwinds have resulted in Indian Country Today Media Network operating at an enormous—and unsustainable—financial loss, and now have caused us to take a hiatus to explore new partnerships or economic strategies …”
Most Native American publications (Internet or not) lose money. Howard Rock, the legendary founder and editor of The Tundra Times, once called it “an unselfish venture.”
But it’s also an essential venture. There is no chance that stories important to Indian Country are going to be covered by mainstream media. Oh, perhaps, once in awhile. But nothing systemic. It comes down to this: No one has to explain to an editor of a Native publication why it’s a story. That can only happen in a medium that serves American Indian and Alaska Native readers.
And over the years Indian Country Today has done good work. It’s been a forum for so many outstanding Native American writers and voices. It was that unselfish venture.
So what’s next? I hope that someone considers a nonprofit model, one where fundraising is a part of the “business model.” These days journalism needs people who are willing to write a check for no other reason than the good work that’s done. Someone needs to give them a reason.
Indian Country still has remarkable talent and media outlets. Some are local, a few national.
The problem is that none of these vehicles have deep pockets. That means there is little or no money for the writers, photographers, and artists, who create content. And that’s what we need: Money for ideas. A fund that values writers no matter where their content surfaces.
News is something that informs and once in awhile, inspires. We are better citizens when we are informed. Elias Boudinot had the best phrase when he was editing The Cherokee Phoenix. He called it “a vehicle of Indian intelligence.”
We need that intelligence now more than ever. As Elias Boudinot wrote in 1832 (as he was losing his editorship of The Cherokee Phoenix) “I do conscientiously believe it to be the duty of every citizen to reflect upon the dangers with which we are surrounded; to view the darkness which seems to lie before our people— our prospects, and the evils with which we are threatened; to talk over all these matters, and, if possible, come to some definite and satisfactory conclusion.”
That is the why. I am Mark Trahant.