OPINION: Seeking a new direction for Indigenous journalism

By Trevor Greyeyes

Now, more than ever there is a need for independent Indigenous voices to offer reporting and commentary on, what else, Indigenous issues.

Just look at recent developments and those that are going to happen in the future like Peguis First Nation converting 1075 Portage Avenue to reserve status or future developments at Kapyong Barracks by Treaty One First Nations or what’s going to happen at the Assiniboine Downs.
Take the Treaty One Development Corporation that held an event at the Kapyong Barracks on Indigenous Day 2019.

I want to know about their plans, how much it’s going to cost and who’s getting paid how much because I am a band member of a Treaty One First Nation. The leadership involved in this development must be held accountable to ordinary people like me who are from Treaty One First Nations.
As opposed, for example, to some mainstream columnist.

To that end, I am redeveloping the First Nations Voice website to give it a more modern look and give me the chance to directly post editorial, audio and video content on a daily basis.

I am also going to use a post modern approach to using my journalistic voice and employing more a traditional voice into my narratives. Have to find a way to differentiate myself from the mainstream crowd.

Another limitation on a publication this small is the control that advertising considerations have over editorial content.

Now, here’s a concrete example.

There’s a First Nations gas station in Winnipeg that I used go to when I had a vehicle.
This one bright summer Saturday morning there was a lineup that was unusual and it seems someone in charge was not there at 8:00 am to open the place up.

However, this First Nations gas station has the best customer service of any such business that I have ever frequented as a customer. The employees told me it would be a few minutes so I waited while the employees there made those of us waiting comfortable and relaxed.

It wasn’t too long after that my vehicle was furled up and I was on my way so I wrote about it in my paper.
I had one of my salespeople get back to me about a month later that the guy talked to was rude and brusque.

After asking around, I was told that the dude in charge of among other things the gas station felt that I had defamed the gas station.

Though about apologizing but that’s not what I do.

And by all means, whether your First Nations or not, I would say if you want quality customer service from a gas station then visit the Long Plains gas station on Madison Ave. in Winnipeg.

I will just have to accept that there is no way this particular person is ever going to advertise in any publication I am connected with.

I think there is a real need because I have to find a way to separate myself from this need to pander to advertisers and potential advertisers.

When I took over the First Nations Voice, it was with the understanding that I wouldn’t alter the editorial content of the publication.

Which, of course, was to offend the least amount of people that leads to some fairly mediocre stories. That feeds into the cycle of why should anyone pick it up to read that leads to why should anyone advertise.

So hopefully I will start writing more compelling pieces that will create a bigger audience so I can then sell more ads.
The print edition of the First Nations Voice will then become the “best of” from that month’s edition.

Why am I taking this route?

Well, number one it is the twenty first century.

Second, the First Nations Voice is not immune to falling advertising rates that has been happening in the newspaper industry all over North America.

Just doing some basic Internet research, I found this sobering statistic from The Atlantic (The Collapse of Print Advertising in 1 Graph FEB 28, 2012):
Print newspaper ads have fallen by two-thirds from $60 billion in the late-1990s to $20 billion in 2011.

As well, this declining advertising rate has hit the First Nations Voice.

I was talking to one advertiser that used to sign a yearly contract with this publication but told me that their organization had decided to devote more of their annual budget to developing their social media content.

Now, that’s important that any organization or company should be doing at the bare minimum.

However this is the problem: EVERYBODY is doing it.

Not just organizations and companies but individuals as well. There 42 million Facebook pages. There are111 million Instagram accounts. Twitter claims 321 million people used their platform last month.
So there’s a reason to advertise with the First Nations Voice.

Not only are you supporting independent media that offers a unique voice and perspective on the world but you can also increase traffic to your website and recognition for your organization.

Cut through the social media noise now.