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Char-Koosta News: Indigenous News on Wikipedia Project

Note: It’s important to recognize the fact that mainstream media has openly misrepresented Indigenous people in media such as film, television, history books and news—often through harmful stereotypes, minstrelsy, appropriation and erasure.

Despite these occurrences of misrepresentation, Indigenous news media has very much been alive and thriving for decades—even centuries.

Char-Koosta News is just one of many news publications that have been using journalism as a way to take back the narrative and give a voice to Indigenous folks who have otherwise been silenced throughout history.

What’s my goal with participating in the News on Wiki Project? My goal is to bring Char-Koosta News’ accomplishments and notoriety to Wikipedia’s attention and to, hopefully, bring them closer to getting a well-deserved Wikipedia page. And thus, I really wanted to go above and beyond to provide evidence in supporting Char-Koosta News’ notability. (Feel free to view the Wikipedia page here.)

Screenshot of the Char-Koosta News Notes Before and After Research on Wikipedia News Project Page
Screenshot of the Char-Koosta News Notes Before and After Research on Wikipedia News Project Page

The Process: Research + Editing

The researching portion of this project was actually quite fun—kind of like a maniacal treasure hunt. Why maniacal, you ask? Because of Wikipedia’s secondary sources rule. Don’t let the simplicity of the rule fool you—this is actually quite a challenging rule to follow.

The easiest portion of the researching process was finding the Mondo Times, Library of Congress and ‘Edpub‘ sources.

I wasn’t sure if ‘edpub’ meant a website that states the editor and publisher, or if it meant the physical website—however, I opted for the former and chose the website United States Newspaper Listing.

These initial sources led me to some useful information to add to Char-Koosta News’ notes, but not nearly enough— especially if I wanted to prove Char-Koosta News’ notability to Wikipedia.

And I was determined.

Screenshot of Char-Koosta News' Library of Congress Page
Screenshot of Char-Koosta News’ Library of Congress Page
Screenshot of Char-Koosta News' page on Mondo Times
Screenshot of Char-Koosta News’ page on Mondo Times

As I was attempting to change the links for Char-Koosta News, I audibly gasped.

Screenshot of the edit mode on Wikipedia, featuring code and html
Screenshot of the edit mode on Wikipedia

Code. Code everywhere. (Yes, I’m referring to that Woody and Buzz meme you’ve probably seen all over Twitter.) As someone who isn’t necessarily keen on HTML or code, this was definitely overwhelming and intimidating at first; for a second I felt like Neo from the Matrix trying to decode gibberish.

Too dramatic?

Fortunately for me, I did get the hang of the editing process. My initial worry was making a mistake and subsequently being yelled at by the Wikipedia Lords—but that never happened.

Google had been my first resource for gathering information on Char-Koosta News—because, well, it’s the largest search engine in the world, according to Search Engine Journal. I thought: Google is obviously the best choice for conducting research.

But—oh, how I was so wrong.

Screenshot of Google's many pages of search results
Screenshot of Google’s many pages of search results

Depsite Google being the mammoth of information it is, this was the kind of research that required going all the way down to page ten of “Goooooooooogle” yet still being left with little information.

At this moment, panic started to sink in with perspiration following slowly behind—until I remembered, the ASU Library database. Cue the angelic sounds of a choir hymn.

This moment of epiphany led me to come across a gleaming piece of gold amongst the rubble—a database called Ethnic NewsWatch.

Screenshot of the EthnicNewsWatch database
Screenshot of the EthnicNewsWatch database
Screenshot of EthnicNewsWatch search results
Screenshot of EthnicNewsWatch search results

I was still left with very little secondary sources even within the Ethnic NewsWatch database. The majority of journals and articles came from the news publication itself—which was a whopping 17,609 items.

Ctrl+f and frantic clicking became my best friends whilst sifting through the Ethnic NewsWatch database.

I clicked on nearly every article just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything noteworthy. And then, I came across these archived newspaper articles from the Confederated Umatilla Journal and Indian Country Today.

Although the first article was mainly about the CUJ, the brief mention of Char-Koosta News at the end proved to be highly valuable information. The article stated that Char-Koosta News had won the ‘General Excellence Award’ for weekly newspapers at the Native American Journalists Association Convention in 2001.

If I hadn’t been adamantly looking through every article, I’m sure I would have missed this tidbit of information. An award is a big deal, and it means Char-Koosta News is one step further toward being noteworthy enough to have a Wikipedia page—according to Wikipedia’s general notability guidelines.

Screenshot of Google Books search engine results
Screenshot of Google Books search engine results

The next challenge was finding a good source to replace Char-Koosta News’ “books” link.

Ironically, Char-Koosta News is used as a source of information itself in countless books, scholarly articles and newspapers, but has rarely been talked about at length by a secondary source. Surely, if a news publication can be considered an expert source for other published works, there would be extensive information from secondary sources on the history of said news publication. Right? RIGHT?!

Alexa, play Ironic by Alanis Morissette.

I was reluctant to go with the particular book source I found—titled American Indian and Alaska Native Newspapers and Periodicals: 1925-1970 —because the book’s contents is only available as a preview; essentially a snippet.

The book also isn’t available within the ASU Library—at least not in digital form.

Screenshot of the American Indian and Alaska Native Newspapers and Periodicals Preview
Screenshot of the American Indian and Alaska Native Newspapers and Periodicals Preview

This, I came to find, is the trouble with locating sources for Wikipedia; many books are only available in physical libraries which hinders the research process.

However, with what little preview Google Books did show, I considered the information to be of value and really interesting.

The excerpt stated that the effect of the Klamaths termination by the U.S. government either directly or indirectly “influenced numerous tribal governments to establish newspapers of their own in the latter half of the 1950s.” One of which was Char-Koosta News.

At this point, I felt exhausted with the amount of research I had done for very little information obtained.

Out of desperation came my second epiphany.

Screenshot of the search results from Montana's government website
Screenshot of the search results from Montana’s government website

I decided to look on Montana’s government website for information regarding the news publication, but my expectations of finding information was low.

Clearly, there is a reoccurring theme throughout this entire project—I was wrong about a lot of things.

While skimming through every page of search results on the state government’s website, I discovered the Montana Historical Society and came across an enormous amount of information about Char-Koosta News in several educational documents.

Screenshot of the PDF document from the Montana Historical Society
Screenshot of the PDF document
from the Montana Historical Society
Screenshot of the PDF document from the Montana Historical Society
Screenshot of the PDF document
from the Montana Historical Society

My happiness quickly dissipated when I realized there was contradicting information compared to what I discovered within the Mondo Times and Library of Congress pages—the documents state the newspaper started 30 years earlier in 1956, not 1985.

Uhhh, what now?

Well, considering this is Montana’s official government website, I opted toward trusting this as a more accurate source of information. Government websites that have the .gov domain are considered to be highly credible sources of information—according to LibGuides.

Evaluating the credibility of information one finds is a vital key of contributing to Wikipedia.

It was with these sources that I discovered the origin of the Char-Koosta News’ name and found that the newspaper was not only the first and official newspaper for the Salish and Kootenai people, but was also the first Montana tribal paper to go online.

Being the first is definitely notable according to Wikipedia‘s guideline which states: “It is historically significant because it was the first newspaper in the area for a given ethnic or religious group.”

The more I researched, the more I found Char-Koosta News’ notability to be quite high.

(Since Montana’s government website also recognizes Char-Koosta News as a legitimate source of information, this ticks yet another one of Wikipedia’s notability guidelines—i.e. it is included in a list of newspapers published by its state government.)

Screenshot of Montana Association Newspaper Search
Screenshot of Montana Association Newspaper Search

After looking through more of Wikipedia’s general notability guidelines, I noticed this guideline: “a member in good standing of a recognized association.”

Consequentially, I Googled “montana association newspaper” and came across the ‘Montana Newspaper Association’.

After clicking the website, I searched “Char-Koosta News” within their website’s own search engine and came across this directory of members.

This is especially notable because Billings Gazette is not only a member of this association as well, but the publication also happens to have its very own Wikipedia page.

My Findings

Contributing to Wikipedia takes passion and dedication. Through the News on Wiki Project, I realized just how important and vital it is to have information accessible online. Not everyone has access to an online library like ASU Library and not all information is available online. I ran into several barriers during the research process—and in consequence—had to brainstorm, re-assess and adjust until I found the information needed that was also credible.

Through the arduous process of research and editing, I came to realize the importance of collaboration—one person can’t do all this work alone! One thing is certain: the News on Wiki Project is in desperate need of more editors.

What’s the result? I found Char-Koosta News to be more than qualified for its own page according to Wikipedia’s general notability guidelines:

☑ The paper has won state, province, or national level awards for reporting, feature-writing, editorial, or photography.
☑ It is historically significant because it was the first newspaper in the area for a given ethnic or religious group.
☑ It is referred to in one or more strong reliable sources as the newspaper of record for a certain locale, in the reputational (i.e., subjective) sense.
☑ It is a member in good standing of a recognized association.

Ultimately, I hope someone will turn these notes into a draft and submit it for approval. But now that I have some Wikipedia editing experience under my belt, perhaps that someone is me.

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