Editor’s Note: As of September 4, 2017, Indian Country Today Media Network, publisher of Indian Country magazine and IndianCountryMediaNetwork.com, is taking a hiatus to consider alternative business models. The staff of ICTMN has been honored to serve the best audience they could have possibly imagined, and direct all attention to the following letter from publisher Ray Halbritter. During the hiatus, new posts, new magazines and new books will not appear on the site and email newsletters will not be sent while we consider a new way forward. The site will remain accessible and maintained in its current form through January 31, 2018. Paid subscribers with active, unfulfilled portions of their subscriptions will be reimbursed automatically. (Details can be found here for magazines and here for books.) All purchased book and magazine entitlements will be honored through that time: Paid subscribers will continue to have access to material behind the paywall.
Shekóli. More than six years ago, the Oneida Indian Nation decided to develop Indian Country Today Media Network from its core property, the then-weekly newspaper Indian Country Today, with a singular goal in mind: We wanted to generate award-winning journalism that gives voice to Indigenous Peoples, wherever they lived, to the widest possible audience. That investment has succeeded beyond our expectations.
Over the last few years, ICTMN has aggressively covered the critical issues facing Indian Country—and has done so in ways that have empowered Natives to tell our unique stories from our perspective. We reported extensively on challenges to the Indian Child Welfare Act with a series of stories spanning several high-profile cases; produced human-interest stories and analysis of the latest studies regarding Intergenerational Trauma; corrected the historical record by presenting authentic, proven Native traditions about events and people, such as Pocahontas; celebrated the cultural achievements of Native artists, thinkers, actors and musicians; continued Indian Country Today’s groundbreaking coverage (now spanning decades) on murdered and missing Indigenous women; and worked tirelessly to report directly from the field in Standing Rock on the opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline. We conducted a Q&A with President Barack Obama during the 2012 presidential campaign, and later published editorials by him.
In these and so many other stories, ICTMN surfaced critical information and focused a spotlight on the debates and initiatives that affect Indian Country—but that are too often ignored or misrepresented by other media outlets. For that effort, ICTMN has won prestigious awards—30 alone in 2017 from the Native American Journalists Association; multiple Clarion Awards; and individual awards and grants to contributors from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Herb Block prize for cartooning, USC’s Annenberg Center and the Playboy Foundation. In any given year, we served stories to millions of readers from or interested in Indian country. Judged by audience size and appetite alone, ICTMN fulfilled a need with an approach and perspective that clearly works.
For all of that success, however, ICTMN 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 ICTMN operating at an enormous—and unsustainable—financial loss, and now have caused us to take a hiatus to explore new partnerships or economic strategies for ICTMN.
To be sure, ICTMN did not rest on its laurels in the face of those difficulties—the newsroom’s leaders addressed them head on. The organization, for example, transitioned from a weekly newspaper in 2011 to a weekly magazine to an online platform with a bimonthly magazine, building a stellar website and expanding its distribution. It also published more frequently, to keep up with the accelerated pace of the online media marketplace. That work sustained the publication for years, even as the headwinds intensified.
As ICTMN now halts its operations to explore alternative business models or partnerships, we know for certain that all of our past work has created an enduring legacy. The organization has served as a model of empowerment journalism, showing that unique and distinct communities of color require equally unique and distinct media coverage. ICTMN’s reporting has also helped shape political debates and policy decisions around our community’s priorities—and that will have an enduring impact on those debates and decisions in the coming years.
Just as important, we hope ICTMN has inspired communities throughout Indian Country to work together to invest in journalism and media. We know that when we leave our stories to be told only by other media outlets, those stories too often go untold—or get distorted. ICTMN proved that we do not have to sit idly by while that happens.
In short, no matter what happens in the coming months, we know we have already proven the value and necessity of journalism that respects and honors Native nations throughout the world. To do it, we relied on the best writers and correspondents in Indian Country, and were supported by dedicated sources, a committed advertising community, and passionate readers. And for that, we give thanks to all.
NΛ ki’ wa,