Crisis and Collapse Mode

 


Indian Time Newspaper was created in 1983. That’s 41 years, 3 months and two weeks of bringing news, announcements, notices, ads, gardening columns, a Mohawk language lesson and a culture column, community events and more. We also include solemn obituaries and cheerful birth announcements.

Indian Time has withstood – through the dark and turbulent times of Akwesasne and the joyous times – from announcing remarkable accomplishments of our community members to the traumatic inducing events that make front page for the wrong reasons.

I’m honored to be part of such a long-standing Akwesasne institution. I’m also grateful to be part of something that is truly unique – a living, evolving work that tells the stories of Akwesasne. We’ve experienced what Akwesasne has experienced – we write what Akwesasne experiences; a global pandemic (Indian Time continued to publish weekly, never closing), a horrific boating accident, local elections, a pandemic and not missing a beat. I love my work here. The staff of Indian Time is grateful for the support the community of Akwesasne, and surrounding communities have embraced our small newspaper.


First and foremost, Indian Time is an independent, small, local business. I’ve sure you’ve all heard the saying, ‘shop small.’ A newspaper is fueled by ads. The number of copies sold cover only a small portion to operate at a print media outlet.

Indian Time isn’t owned by the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, nor the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne. Indian Time does business with both community entities, but we are not on their payroll. SRMT and MCA purchase ads for announcements, job postings, notices, and such. Over the years, their job postings have been reduced to a single listing of jobs, rather than a detailed job posting offering Akwesasronon a full description of any given job for their perusal. They have moved their fully descriptive job ads to other media outlets. This is in a direct result to the creation of their own government/state run media – the Onkwèta:ke and Kawennì:ios. Which in itself, serves its purpose to provide important information to its community, but it does not provide direct engagement with community members the way a newspaper does.


It comes with a heavy heart to announce Indian Time is at the ‘crisis and collapse’ stage. Unless the community rallies, as the Akwesasne community often does in times of need, distress or calamity, Indian Time Newspaper will collapse. The paper isn’t asking for donations, Indian Time needs to be considered what it is - a small, local business. A local, small shop delivering community news.


Indian Time isn’t national. Indian Time Newspaper is a community paper. We write about our seniors in high school. We picture every senior possible during the month of June and July.

We write “our dogs” getting vaccinated, “our hunters and trappers” skinning a dear or smoking a sturgeon.” We write about “our local maple sugaring farms”, and “our great crops of corn.” We write about “our incredibly talented basketmakers, potters and painters.”

We write to announce our ceremonies, our Great Law of Peace gatherings, our residential school survivors’ dinners, and big and small fundraisers throughout the community. When it comes to matters of great importance, no matter what we write – someone becomes upset. The hardest to write – is to write about the internal divisiveness and divisions which have plagued our community for years.


In as much, Indian Time would like to express the need to understand that a local newspaper is a ‘vital public good.’ “News deserts” have proliferated across the U.S. and Canada. More than half of the U.S. more than 3,140 counties now have only one newspaper and nearly 200 of them have no paper at all. Of the publications that survive in the U.S., researchers have found many are “ghosts” of their former selves.


In Canada, the outlook is the same. The Local News Research Project at Toronto Metropolitan University’s School of Journalism, said between Jan. 1 and Dec. 1, of 2023, more than 35 local news outlets closed in Canada. Twenty-nine were community newspapers and seven were privately-owned radio stations.

We are already seeing the near disastrous effects of otherwise allowing news to disintegrate in the free market: namely, a steady supply of misinformation, often masquerading as legitimate news, and too many communities left without a quality source of local news. Former New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan has a called this a “crisis of American democracy.”

The terms “crisis” and “collapse” have become nearly ubiquitous in the past decade when describing the state of American journalism, which has been based on a for-profit commercial model since the rise of the “penny press” in the 1830s. Now that commercial model has collapsed amid the near disappearance of print advertising. Digital ads have not come close to closing the gap because Google and other platforms have “hoovered up everything,” as Emily Bell, founding director of the Tow Center for Journalism at Columbia University said. In June the newspaper chain Gannett sued Google’s parent company, alleging it has created an advertising monopoly that has devastated the news industry.

Journalism has problems nationally: CNN announced hundreds of layoffs at the end of 2022, and National Geographic laid off the last of its staff writers in June 2023. Not long after, the Los Angeles Times cut 13 percent of its newsroom staff. But the crisis is even more acute at the local level, with jobs in local news plunging from 71,000 in 2008 to 31,000 in 2020. Closures and cutbacks often leave people without reliable sources that can provide them with what the American Press Institute has described as “the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their daily lives.”

When it comes to where Americans/Canadians and Akwesasronon regularly get their news, it varies. Our very own Elders are considered Indian Time’s largest population of readers. They enjoy holding the newspaper. And yet, if Indian Time goes online, we will disregard our most dedicated audience.

Millennials gather their news on all platforms; print and hardcopy, social media, and online. Even as Facebook outpaces all other social media sites, Facebook captures only 42% of the population. Indian Time could tell you how many have advertised or posted their event on Facebook and in the end only reach 5 to 8 people when the plan was to reach 25 to 50 people. Ever walk into a meeting with just 5 community members? That’s from advertising and posting on Facebook. Plastering a poster on an organization’s Facebook page does not reach our Elders, nor does it reach the Baby Boomers.

We’re here to serve the community, we are a historical part of the community. And we are grateful to serve you. The next few weeks are critical in the survival of Indian Time. We encourage you to share with us your ideas, ways to engage more directly with the community.

For true in-depth investigative reporting, a newspaper needs resources to be able to do that. Indian Time’s reporters have the investigative skills to uncover the truth no one else is going to tell them, we just need the resources to complete the task.

With more resources, Indian Time can also have a chance to do more profile pieces on local artists, musicians, businesspeople, and athletes. We could also have a special in-depth feature on the social activists of Akwesasne, those who played a big role in the Indian Civil Rights going back to objections to the Seaway and before.

In a proactive move, we’ve applied for local and national grants. Depending on the outcome of those grants, we will decide whether we will continue to publish a hardcopy newspaper, or to go entirely online or to close its doors after forty-one years within the next two weeks.

Akwesasne and Indian Time Newspaper have stood for Standing Rock and supported Wetsuweten, and raised red flags for Palestinians. We also stand by our residential school survivors and MMIWG and LGBTQ. Indian Time needs your support, to stand by us.

Indian Time staff, past and present, sincerely thank you for the opportunity to serve the community of Akwesasne and surrounding area. It is our goal and mission to continue to serve Akwesasne.

Niawenko:wa.

 

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