Hoopa Valley tribe abruptly shuts down its newspaper

Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation, California (AP) July 2011

A Northern California Indian tribe abruptly shut down its weekly newspaper, citing financial troubles at the nearly 20-year-old publication, as well as disappointment over recent editorial decisions.

Hoopa Valley tribal council Chairman Leonard Masten Jr. sent a memo to the Two Rivers Tribune staff Friday ordering them to stop operating immediately and remain closed until they develop a plan to correct the paper’s “deficiencies.”

The Two Rivers Tribune is distributed throughout eastern Humboldt County and claims to be California’s last Native-owned newspaper.

Masten said the publication has cost the tribe $189,000 over the past three years, calling the sum “unacceptable,” according to a copy of the memo provided to the Times-Standard of Eureka. He also criticized recent articles, including several that he said promoted drugs.

“This is not in the best interest of the tribe,” he said of the articles, which he did not identify individually.

In an article posted Friday on the Two Rivers website, interim managing editor Allie Hostler disputed Masten’s assertions, saying the newspaper was profitable last year and was on track to make money again this year. In addition, she said, stories that ran last month in a marijuana-themed issue of the paper didn’t endorse the use of the drug.

Hostler told the Times-Standard she was able to get the paper’s Internet service reinstated after it was disconnected. She said she planned to keep publishing and was rallying supporters to attend a tribal council meeting to discuss the issue.

Hostler and Masten did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press on Sunday.

Byron Nelson Jr., vice chairman of the tribal council, said council members discussed the Two Rivers Tribune at their meeting, but he was unaware that Masten planned to shut down the newspaper the following day.

Nelson, a former managing editor of the publication, acknowledged that some members of the community had voiced concerns about recent articles.

“The frustration is that there are stories that are more crucial than trying to be an investigative tool trying to take on controversial issues,” he told the Times-Standard.

Nelson predicted the paper would remain closed only temporarily and that the tribal council would elect an editorial board to help determine future content.

“It’s not exactly like a paper on the outside,” he said. “It’s a tribal paper, and there are a lot of politics involved.”