SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – A weekly magazine that is a leading source of Native American news is abandoning print in favor of an online-only presence, in a cost-cutting move that worries some readers who fear they may lose access because of the switch.
This Week From Indian Country Today, a New York City-based publication owned by the Oneida Nation, will become an online newsletter starting with its July 17 issue.
“In the age we live in, technology is really advanced to a point that we’re trying to make sure we’re serving what our audience really needs,” said Indian Country Today publisher Ray Halbritter. Converting to an online newsletter that is emailed to subscribers will eliminate some of the lag time between when news happens and when it appears in writing, he said.
The magazine, which was started in 1981, provides a mixture of straight news stories and commentary by tribal members, and it is often a way for politicians to get their messages out to Native American communities. President Barack Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner have all done interviews or written opinion pieces.
For Native Americans on isolated reservations, access to broadband Internet is anything but guaranteed and print media is a staple of life. According to the Federal Communications Commission, just 43 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives have access to broadband Internet at home, compared to 65 percent of the U.S. population as a whole. Access on reservation and tribal lands is even scarcer, at less than 10 percent, although there are government efforts to expand such access.
Suzanne Sobel, the managing director of Indian Country Today Media Network, said she’s not worried about the statistics.
“The reservations that don’t have broadband Internet, quite frankly they were also having a hard time getting the magazine too,” she said. Sobel said most tribal members on such reservations use their smartphones to get information. She noted that the website had 550,000 unique visitors in June and continues to grow.