COMMENTARY: I’m leaving, but will stay involved

by Feb 22, 2019OPINIONS





Sometimes things work out in ways that may not feel like it at the time, but it’s for the better. This is my last column as an employee of the Cherokee One Feather, however, don’t count on it being the last you read from me. I still plan to stay as involved with the publication as Robert Jumper and the editorial board will allow.

With new opportunities coming before me, it is with sadness that I decided to turn in my resignation.

This has been my second tenure at the One Feather. The first was as editor starting in 1996. I was an inexperienced 26-year-old with a little bit of reporting and writing experience and nothing else. Since I was essentially thrown into the water without being taught how to swim, I’d say I learned quickly, and I kept myself afloat. I lasted 11 years on a job that was high profile, often controversial and highly politicized whether I contributed to that environment or not. During that time, one of the best decisions I made was to hire Scott Brings Plenty as a reporter, he was and remains a great asset to this publication.

This time around it’s been as a reporter. I can say this for Jumper, he’s been a solid editor. The paper is still producing, and it’s still relevant at a time when newspapers are struggling to survive. In fact, one publication where I was associate editor, The Andrews Journal, has now been merged with The Cherokee Scout in Murphy, another publication where I was associate editor. So, Andrews no longer has a paper to call its own.

The One Feather has a huge online presence, something it didn’t have during my previous time, and that could serve as a model for other publications to follow.

There have been differences working for media owned by the tribe compared to private media, aside from the excellent compensation the tribe offers. For one, at private media we don’t have elected officials telling us what to do, and when they do, we just shrug it off. Here, elected officials decide our budgets, and make hiring and firing decisions. But the biggest differences, the private media have a lot more legal protection than the One Feather does. Some of that is due to being located under the state’s jurisdiction, which provides access to information, public meetings and other laws, with consequences for violations, to guarantee press freedom and their ability to hold elected officials accountable. Here, our laws have room for improvement.

I want to go ahead and make something perfectly clear, especially given how politically charged this environment is and the circumstances that surrounded the last time I left the One Feather. I am leaving by my own choice. I’m leaving under my own terms. I am not being forced out, and I have never felt pressured by the politics of our Tribe to make this decision or any writing or reporting decision since I’ve come back. That said, I encourage all tribal members to support candidates who support a free press, access to public information, access to what should be public meetings for any reporter, no matter where they work or whether they’re tribal members. Candidates who support such things support accountability to you.

Cherokee, I will be gone, but I will still remain involved. I’ve put a lot of my life into this publication, and I will always want what is best for it and the community it serves. Until we meet again. De-da-da-go-hv-yu.