A Voice from the Eastern Door

An Honest Conversation

By Isaac White

As I sit down to pen this piece, it's with a heavy heart that I share the critical state of the Indian Time Newspaper, a cornerstone of our Akwesasne community. For over 42 years, we've stood as a beacon of news, culture, and voice for our people, a testament to the strength and resilience of our community. But today, we face an existential threat, not from external forces, but from an internal crisis of sustainability. Despite the herculean efforts of a devoted part-time staff, our newspaper is teetering on the brink of closure due to severe revenue shortages. Your support is crucial in this challenging time.

Indian Time isn't just a newspaper; it's the pulse of Akwesasne, the only news outlet dedicated to covering our stories, our politics, and our events with the depth and respect they deserve. As the landscape of journalism shifts beneath our feet, with digital media reshaping how we consume news, our financial model struggles to keep pace. This is a call not just for awareness, but for action. It's a reflection on what losing this unique institution, a symbol of our community's strength and resilience, would mean for our community. Your support is not just a plea, but a crucial part of our survival.

I’ve been honored to work alongside the other employees at Indian Time. I’ve never experienced staff dedication to an organization's work like I’ve seen in my time with the paper. The team is committed to the institution in a truly inspiring way. My co-workers aren’t trying to impress people with their dedication, they do it out of reverence for the foundational piece that is Indian Time. Most of all, they do it for our community, for you.

There are many reasons to commend these folks with whom I’ve been lucky enough to work side by side for this year and a half or so. The selflessness I’ve witnessed them put in every week has helped push me to keep going. I recognize the importance of Indian Time as an institution—more than that, the paper is the meeting place for Akwesasne.

The past year has been a test for all of the staff. I’ve taken my cues from them as they go without pay for extended periods to continue serving you, our community. It would be all too easy for us to give up and fade into history. 'Remember Indian Time?' Yes, we could become that forgotten question of our community's past.

No one is shamed into going forward despite the significant struggles we go through in terms of financial and resource shortages. I have seen a group of incredibly dedicated Akwesasronon relying upon each other for strength. There is no sense of pressure for any of us to keep doing this work. Telling you they have helped push me to keep going is just that. The encouragement to know that I’m not alone and that what we do is worth the fight to battle in this current news landscape.

As you’ve already gathered, the main problem we face is financial. We’re not beggars over here; we’re not asking for something in return for nothing. We’re in dire straits, and unfortunately, as many problems are, ours is financial. This isn’t due to a lack of effort. We’re in a new world with digital and independent news becoming the dominant force. Indian Time is independent, and we strive to stay that way.

News outlets rely on advertising dollars to keep the doors open, the print running, and all of you in the know. We’ve seen a reduction in advertising dollars, shocking to the system. As most of you already know, we have had to reduce our physical print editions to once a month. Is that something we want to do? Of course not. We understand that many people in Akwesasne want the paper in their hands. We like that as well. The cost is prohibitive based on our sales and lack of advertising revenue.

With our new focus on digital editions, we were excited to tout this as our online readers far outnumber physical print readers—not just a couple of dozens more, either. We literally have thousands of interactions and people reading our material on Indiantime.net. This is a great opportunity for advertisers, yet we seem to not be making that message connect with all of you.

We are on the ground covering the stories that you want to read. From the tragedy last year when nearly ten people lost their lives in the river to community events like Strut Your Mutt, we’re there. Would we love to be able to attend and write about everything that happens within our territory? Indeed, we would, and with more resources, we would do just that. Most of you have seen Margie or me out in the community asking for you to let us take a picture of you or share a quote.

When we share the stories of what happened out there with the rest of the team, you see real happiness in the offices of Indian Time. We enjoy doing this work. I say that with all sincerity. With that joy from the work comes feelings of being unappreciated as well. There’s no need to go into every detail, but it can be disheartening to feel you’re doing something to benefit the community but go home wondering if they care. I tend to be cynical, but I believe that’s not the case.

So, what can you do to help? If you’re a business, you can advertise with us. With more than 100K engagements per year on our website, companies will benefit from a reach you didn’t know existed before you read this. As an individual, you can buy a subscription. When we do print, purchase a copy. If you have other ideas to help keep Indian Time up and running, we’re here. We want to stay here for you.

Though I’m certainly biased, I believe with every fiber of my being that Indian Time shutting operations would be an enormous loss for Akwesasne. We’re looking deeper into the community's issues than you’ll see in any other outlet. We can and want to do more. But most of all, we want to keep working for you right now.

I don’t know how this will read to you. All I know is that I’ve been candid with you all. What I’ve written here is very personal, and while I know it’s easy to ridicule and laugh at such a thing, I think this is an accurate representation of myself and how I approach the job of getting the news to you.

This is also an homage to the rest of the team I’ve shared this incredible experience with over the time I’ve been lucky enough to have with Indian Time. I hope everyone reading this understands how excellent the team over here is. I don’t need accolades, but Margie, Cathy, Bruce, Randy, and Christie sure deserve them. Hopefully, this missive will be a spark that ignites a movement to keep Indian Time as the preeminent news outlet in Akwesasne.

Niawen Kowa.

 

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