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New Report on American Indian Media Finds Challenges for Native Journalists and Tribal Citizens

By Democracy Fund / 2018 November 19th

Today Democracy Fund released an important new report on the state of American Indian media in the United States. Authored by Jodi Rave, Founder and Director of the Indigenous Media Freedom Alliance, the new report highlights the critical role Native American journalism in communities across the country, as well as the struggles these newsrooms are grappling with. Democracy Fund believes that a healthy democracy depends on quality journalism that reflects the diversity of our nation. This report is the first in an ongoing series of reports commissioned by Democracy Fund that examine community and ethnic news media’s vital role in our communities.

“This report helps bring light to the need for independent reporting and the issues faced by American Indian journalists,” said Rave. “Armed with a better understanding of the landscape, we hope that news practitioners, philanthropists and journalists will be able to make better informed decisions when it comes to supporting journalism that is so vital to the Native community.”

Native American media faces a unique set of challenges that reflect the complicated history of indigenous communities in our nation. Native American journalists, who have struggled for representation in mainstream media, have created important new outlets to serve their community. However, these newsrooms are grappling with urgent questions of sustainability as they navigate funding from philanthropy, tribes and their readers.

Other key themes in the report include:

  • Philanthropic funding for Native American journalism has not kept up the pace with the community’s needs or responded fast enough to support innovation and independence for many important projects.
  • Native American journalism plays a vital role in critical discussions facing native communities and native lands, covering pressing issues around land use, economic and health issues.
  • Tribal government ownership of media creates complicated conflicts of interest and unique press freedom challenges for Native American journalists who often face a lack of openness and even intimidation when trying to cover their tribes.
  • There needs to be renewed attention in cultivating the next generation of Native American journalists and publishers who will work in both mainstream and Native American publications.

“This report has been invaluable in understanding the needs and challenges of Native American media,” said Democracy Fund’s Lea Trusty, a program assistant on the Public Square team. “We hope that the report shines a spotlight on the important contributions of Native American media in communities across the United States and serves as a catalyst for efforts to support Native American journalists.”

The report provides a number of recommendations to strengthen Native American media outlets including collaborating on stories between mainstream newspaper reporters and Native American journalists, creation of fellowships for aspiring Native American journalists, and engagement of Native American communities on the meaning and importance of freedom of the press and freedom of information.

The full report is available for downloading here.

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About the Indigenous Media Freedom Alliance

The Indigenous Media Freedom Alliance is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit media organization working to create a news system that can respond to the news gap of information in American Indian communities in the Great Plains. News and information are critical to economic development and sustainable, thriving communities, and IMFA is dedicated to creating a news environment where citizens can control their destiny by making informed decisions. To learn more, visit www.imfa.us.

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