A growing tribal free press, richer tribes and the demands of young journalists for more transparent tribal government will be among the items discussed when American Indian journalists gather here.
The 22nd annual convention of the Native American Journalists Association comes at a time when native journalists continue to develop and native publications are flourishing, President Mike Kellogg said. The association expects about 300 to attend the convention, Aug. 9-12, Kellogg said.
“I think more Indian Nations realize an open and fair press benefits citizens and the government,” Kellogg said. “Native journalists are not living under the old yoke of lack of press freedoms and they are doing better journalism.”
Tribal newspapers are being freed from institutional controls, and there has been a growth in independent publications, Kellogg said. He mentioned the Native American Times and Indian Country Today as examples.
“You also have things like the Chickasaw buying the newspaper in Newcastle,” Kellogg said, referring to the 2004 purchase of a weekly, central Oklahoma newspaper by the tribe.
Kellogg, publisher of the Stillwater NewsPress, said the convention would also focus on the skills that all journalists need. He mentioned a planned half-day session on business journalism as one example. Growing tribal revenue, particularly from gaming, made the session essential, he said.
“Ten or 15 years ago, tribes did not exert this economic influence,” he said. “The economic influence is growing, and the ability to cover that growth is crucial.”
Tulsa has seen some of the explosion in tribal gaming, with tribes owning casinos in and around the city. The Cherokee Nation, the host tribe for the convention, has a large casino in Catoosa, a city suburb.
“The cool thing about Tulsa is the energy of the tribes all around the area,” Kellogg said. “You’ve got Osage, Muscogee, Cherokee, all right there.”
NAJA has more than 575 members, including native journalists working in newspaper outlets and broadcasting, and journalism educators.
Among the members coming to Tulsa will be high school and college students who will turn out daily coverage of the event in print, audio and Web formats. The presence of students can only benefit the tribes and news outlets, Kellogg said.
“Younger native journalists demand a free press,” he said. “They want their own governments to be free and open.”