There is a new chapter for Indian Country Today. The newspaper and media network has new owners, but an old task, serving readers of tribal nations.
This is Trahant Reports.
Many years ago Richard LaCourse and I would sit around and toss ideas around what the perfect Indigenous newspaper would look like. LaCourse, at the time, was trying to create a new publication in Washington, DC.
Imagination was his currency. What was possible?
LaCourse had a lot of experience answering that question. He had helped build the American Indian Press Association. He had edited or written for several tribal newspapers, including his own, The Yakama Nation Review. He launched a one-person crusade to raise the standards of Native American journalism.
I even remember the first time I heard him do that. It was on Feb. 24, 1977, at a workshop in Spokane. A speaker was telling tribal editors that they worked for tribal councils and should slant the news accordingly. LaCourse stood up. Angry. Shaking his finger. “Are you aware of the 1968 law that guarantees freedom of the press in Indian Country? Indian newspapers should be professional, straight reporting operations, and your assumptions about cheerleaders for a point of view has nothing do do with the field of journalism. Why are you making this presumption?”
I am thinking of Richard LaCourse as I set out to lead a new chapter for Indian Country Today. The news operation has been on hiatus since September. That cannot be.
Our goal is to build on the legacy of LaCourse—as well as from the first two chapters of Indian Country Today. The publication was founded by Tim Giago in South Dakota in 1991, followed by the ownership of the Oneida Nation of New York.
Indian Country Today is now owned by the National Congress of American Indians—but we will act independently. We are creating a framework to ensure that. But our primary task is the same as LaCourse’s vision: Professional, straight reporting that tells stories about Indigenous people and our nations.
The best way I know how to demonstrate our independence is to produce solid, thoughtful journalism. Every day. So there is a lot of hard work ahead. (And we will need some time to make this so.)
But Indian Country Today is back in business and we are ready to serve.
I have been teaching journalism for the past seven years and I am always telling students that this is a time of great opportunity. The digital world means that we can reach our audiences instantly. We can communicate ideas. We can explain a complicated process. We can expose wrongdoing. Or write a story about pop culture that makes us smile.
We can even invent a new kind of news organization, one built on the currency of imagination.
I am Mark Trahant.