Shut Down p.

By: M.L. Stein Tribal Council closes Hopi newspaper serving
10,000 people on an Arizona reservation sp.

A HOPI NEWSPAPER serving 10,000 people on an Arizona reservation has been shut down by a vote of the Tribal Council.
According to the Native American Journalists Association, the bimonthly tabloid was killed recently following a month of "intense public criticism of its performance."
The paper's former editor, Catherine Elston, said the closure and dismissal of her and three staff members "was not entirely unexpected."
"We had received several threats from council members that we were not presenting balanced news," Elston said. "Basically, they wanted to dictate what we should print."
Frequently, she added, council members would demand that she disclose the names of anonymous sources in stories and that she name the humor columnist, who was using a pseudonym.
"He was satirizing everyone, but this is a small town and he felt more comfortable being anonymous," Elston explained.
The Hopi Tribal Council voted to close the tribe's public relations office, which published the paper, Hopi Tutuvehni, on the reservation in Ky-kotsmovi, Ariz.
Hopi chairman Vernon Masayesva, who opposed the move, was quoted in the NAJA's publication Medium Rare as saying, "I totally disagree with it [the closing], and I told the council so."
Two council members, Steve Youvella and Patrick Dallas, said Hopi Tutuvehni was used to promote Masayesva, who regularly submitted a chairman's report for publication. The paper was funded entirely by the Tribal Council as are virtually all Indian newspapers.
Youvella was not available for comment, and Dallas did not return a phone call. Medium Rare quoted Youvella as calling Hopi Tutuvehni a "propaganda paper."
Elston, Hopi Tutuvehni's founding editor in 1988, denied accusations that the paper was a mouthpiece for Ma-sayesva or anyone else.
"When I took the job, I insisted on total independence and that the paper would be published for the Hopi people, not the Hopi government," she said.
Elston said the Tribal Council voted its members annual raises of $9,000 to $10,000 and then announced that there were no funds for the public relations office and its newspaper. Hopi Tutuvehni took no advertising.
Medium Rare observed, "Native American journalists mourned the news of another Indian newspaper being abolished by its tribal publisher, noting that this has been a trend since the first Indian paper, the Cherokee Phoenix, was introduced in 1828."
Mark Trahant, former NAJA president and news editor of the Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City, said the main problem in publishing an Indian paper is the almost total dependence on tribal funds.
"Too few people control reservation newspapers because there are so few options for starting an independent one," he continued.
Trahant speaks from experience. He was editor of the daily Navajo Times Today in 1987, when it was shut down by former Navajo tribal chairman Peter MacDonald. Trahant then launched an independent paper, Navajo Nation, which folded for lack of funding.
In his column in Medium Rare, NAJA president Paul DeMain observed, "Members of NAJA continue to face the challenge of tribal government censorship and self-censorship for the preservation of jobs. New challenges to freedom of information are occurring in the gaming area, tribal courts, the closing of tribal newspapers and the firing of editors for political reasons or disagreement.
"This must come to an end someday for the betterment of our communities. It is not only the challenge to become self-sufficient within a tribal or Indian organization but to become independent of these entities that will be the key issue for future generations of Native American journalists."
Elston said the issue usually separating Indian newspaper editors and tribal governments is "a conflict of values."
"Unfortunately, there are people [in the tribes] who don't want a free flow of information," she said. "That's why many journalists on Indian publications feel as if they're in a revolving door" because of frequent closures.
Elston, author of two books on Indian culture, is a doctoral candidate in history at the University of Texas at Austin and teaches part-time at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.
Lamenting the loss of Hopi Tutuvehni as the community's only local newspaper, she commented, "I have places to go. The Hopi people do not."
Elston said the Gallup (N.M.) Independent, an Indian daily, and mainstream Arizona Daily Sun, Flagstaff, partially serve the Hopi reservation, the latter by mail subscription.
Joanne Bercu, press secretary for the Hopi tribal government, said there is a possibility that Hopi Tutuvehni will be "reinstated" within a few weeks, following Tribal Council elections.
?( When I took the job, I insisted on total independence and that the paper would be published for the Hopi people, not the Hopi government.") [Caption]
?(-Catherine Elston, former editor of the defunct Hopi Tutwehni) [Caption]


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