Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Shut Down: Tribal Council Closes Hopi Newspaper Serving 10,000 People on an Arizona Reservation

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Shut Down: Tribal Council Closes Hopi Newspaper Serving 10,000 People on an Arizona Reservation

Article excerpt

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 Kykotsmovi, 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 rounding editor in 1988, denied accusations that the paper was a mouthpiece for Masayesva or anyone else.

"When I took the job, I insisted on total independence and that the paper would be published for the Hopi peopie, 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. …

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