"Freedom of the press is something most journalists in the United States fiercely protect and demand"(audio),Allison Herrera reported Friday for KOSU-FM in Tulsa, Okla. "It's seen as crucial to keeping those with power in check. But in Indian Country, it gets more complicated.
"There are more than 200 tribal newspapers in the country and only a handful [of tribes] have passed freedom of the press acts. Editors have had stories cut, websites shut down and staff threatened or fired for publishing stories tribal officials don’t approve of.
"Invisible Nations producer Allison Herrera tells us about one Oklahoma media outlet that only recently signed a freedom of the press act, and how that might affect the lives of both Native and non-native Oklahomans.
"Mvskoke Media's offices are located in a warehouse building behind the One Fire Casino in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. Their newspaper, radio and television show are all produced in-house with a small crew. When I visited, I found Mvskoke Nation News editor Sterling Cosper doing dishes — maybe not part of his official job duties but with so few people, he wears many hats.
"Last fall, while covering a tribal council meeting, Cosper heard rumblings about a tribal council member allegedly getting bumped up the federally mandated housing waitlist. If true, it would be highly illegal — a hot story for any editor to jump on.
"But, Cosper took a pause. He and his staff weren't sure if they should pursue the story. The ink was still drying on a bill granting them free press protections, and they were nervous they could lose their jobs if tribal officials didn't like what they read or saw. . . ."
"Last October, a McKinsey report declared, 'We believe that many of the people likely to abandon print newspapers and print consumer magazines have already done so…. We believe most of this core audience —households that have retained their print subscriptions despite having access to broadband — will continue to do so for now, effectively putting a floor on the print markets,'" Richard Tofel, president of ProPublica, wrote Wednesday for medium.com.
"Wow. Just because of inertia? Is the only medium-term threat to print the fact that most of its current audience will gradually die over the next 30 years? That would be great news, especially because nearly all newspapers still get most of their revenue from print advertising.
"But it doesn't feel right in a world in which even mature adults' media consumption habits seem to be quickly evolving. . . ."
Tofel compared circulation figures for major newspapers from 2013 and 2015 and wrote, "There remain only two print newspapers in the entire country (the Wall Street Journal and New York Times) that sell more than a half million copies per average weekday, only six that sell a quarter of a million copies and probably [correction: not many more than] 22 that sell more than 100,000. . . ."
He also wrote, "Finally, and to return to the McKinsey report with which we began, if print circulation is much lower than generally believed, what basis is there for confidence the declines are ending and a plateau lies ahead?"