From the Editor’s Desk: Expanding our Alaska Native news coverage in The Cordova Times

Report for America position will enable all coverage areas to grow

Payton Sheakley (center) performs with the Yees Ku Oo Dancers at Native Village of Eyak’s 26th annual Sobriety Celebration. (Nov. 16, 2019) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times
Payton Sheakley (center) performs with the Yees Ku Oo Dancers at Native Village of Eyak’s 26th annual Sobriety Celebration. (Nov. 16, 2019) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

The Cordova Times Report for America position will cover an Alaska Native news beat. I’ve spoken with other newspaper editors that agree that there are not enough reporters in Alaska dedicated to this subject area.

In the least-densely-populated state, at just 1.3 people per square mile, and with vast geographic distances between rural Alaska communities, there are always more news topics in this huge, diverse, resource-rich state than there are news outlets and journalists to cover them.

With a population of over 14 percent Alaska Native and Native American peoples, Alaska is home to 11 distinct Alaska Native cultures, who speak over 20 different languages, are organized into 13 Alaska Native Regional Corporations and belong to five different major geographic regions — leaving lots of topics to explore in our reporting.

What many may not know is that Native Village of Eyak — which owns the newspaper — donates direct mail subscriptions of our newspaper to over 400 Alaska Native corporations and Tribal governments across the state. Up to 200 copies of print overrun are also delivered to patient rooms and waiting areas at Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium hospital in Anchorage.

Improving our coverage in this area fills a vital gap in the Alaska news media landscape and fits well with Native Village of Eyak’s mission of owning The Cordova Times to continue to give voices to the voiceless and to continue the newspaper’s century-long tradition of independent journalism in Cordova and Prince William Sound.

Since we have a unique ownership, I would like to reassure our readers that we remain an independent newsroom and that editorial decisions continue to be made by only myself and my news team without censorship or oversight.

The addition of this Report for America position is huge for The Cordova Times. It will effectively double our local reporting team from one full time reporter to two. It will also free up our current local news reporter to cover more non-Alaska Native related news topics. We will continue to cover local events, city council, crime, fisheries, science, environmental issues, natural resources, transportation, development, business, schools, and other issues that affect Cordovans, people in Prince William Sound and our statewide readers with the same level of focus and depth you have come to expect from our newspaper. It will also open us up to more topics and new possibilities.

We have a very small team, and everyone wears multiple hats. Our readers feel a strong sense of ownership of the newspaper and often we are running to catch up with all the possible news we want to cover. I’m so excited to see what we can accomplish together with this new position.

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