As a prisoner of war, John McCain missed one thing more than anything — more than food, friends, freedom or family. “The thing I missed most was information, free uncensored, undistorted, abundant information,” said McCain, now a U.S. senator from Arizona.
As human beings, we all share an inherent need for information. We embrace public discourse, and all opportunities to exchange ideas and opinions on issues of public concern. Author Dan Gilmor in “We the Media: Grassroots Journalism By the People, for the People,” addresses the views of historians and sociologists who agree that news satisfies a basic human impulse. “People have an intrinsic need – an instinct – to know what is occurring beyond their direct experience. Being aware of event we cannot see for ourselves engenders a sense of security, control and confidence.”
As American Indians, we historically had ways to communicate with each other and share news, camp criers are but one example. The U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples signed in 2006 affirms our need to be informed world citizens. Article 16 states: “Indigenous peoples have the right to establish their own media in their own languages and to have access to all forms of non-indigenous media without discrimination.”
Additionally, “States shall take effective measures to ensure that State-owned media duly reflect indigenous cultural diversity. States, without prejudice to ensuring full freedom of expression, should encourage privately-owned media to adequately reflect indigenous cultural diversity.”
In the United States, we don’t have state-owned media, so that’s one venue that doesn’t apply to American Indians. The UNDRIP states the next step is to encourage privately-owned media to adequately reflect indigenous cultural diversity. Let’s not hold our breath waiting on an industry that has historically failed to report on us. The solution: Indigenous peoples need to create privately-owned media companies. It’s called self-determination and we should be doing it.
Since I left corporate-owned media in 2009, I’ve had a chance to view news from the other side. The view from over here has inspired me to start my own media company, one in which I will share news about Native people in addition to publishing authentic and original views and opinions from topic experts in Indian Country. How will I do this? It’s already in progress. I am currently transforming the Buffalo’s Fire blog into a news site. We plan to be operational by Dec. 31.
All the details are on the Indiegogo website where we have a fundraiser/campaign drive underway. It ends Dec. 7. We ask all our readers to watch our Buffalo’s Fire media video lend their financial support to help expand Buffalo’s Fire into an independently-owned digital press operation.
In the past, I thought about being the editor of print newspaper dedicated to Indian news, but it was easy to see that print media was on its way out. Consider these facts about the print news industry, according to the Pew Research Center.
*Newspaper advertising revenues fell nearly 48 percent since 2006.
*Daily circulation, which stood at 62.3 million in 1990, fell to 43.4 million in 2010, a decline of 30 percent.
*The number of newspapers declined from 1,611 in 1990 to 1,387 in 2009, the most recent year for which figures are available. That is a decline of 14 percent.
The American Society of News Editors notes there were 1,900 minority reporters in 1978. At the peak in 2006, there were 7,400 minority reporters. The number has declined during the layoff years to 5,500 at the end of 2009, (the same year I quit daily newspapers to work on a book and complete a master’s degree in law, creative writing and environmental studies. I’ll be done in spring 2012).
Full-time professional editorial staff at newspapers peaked at 56,400 in 2000. It then fell 26 percent through 2009. More recent estimates site a loss of about 30 percent of newsroom staff.
With thousands of news reporters no longer working in newsrooms, this means there are tens of thousands less stories being told. So, what does this mean for us human beings who have such an inherent need for news? Where do we get our news?
We are going online. We are using cell phones and ipads to read it. When print and online audiences are combined, many newspapers can actually claim to be expanding their total audience reach even though their paid circulation numbers continue to tumble.
In this new media market, I’m convinced a digitally-based, Native-owned media company can greatly add to the diversity of opinions and enhance the exchange of ideas from the best and the brightest minds in Indian Country.
I ask you to support the Buffalo’s Fire media campaign before Dec. 7.