Brandon Ecoffey: Columnist fired for praising Native-owned paper

Brandon Ecoffey

A note from the editor’s desk
By Brandon Ecoffey
Lakota Country Times Editor

Just a couple weeks ago, Jim Kent, a widely publicized columnist was informed by the Rapid City Journal that he would no longer be employed by the paper. In this industry, columnists come and go but they are not often fired over pieces that are not controversial or inflammatory.

The column that led to Mr. Kent's dismissal was published two weeks ago in both LCT and the RCJ. In the column, Kent compared our enormous social media following to that of Native Sun News and the Rapid City Journal. Although the two do have a significant presence on the web, the reality is that their reach does not compare to us at all. We have over 200k followers and our two competitors combined do not equal half of that.

Mr. Kent's column ran in both the Rapid City Journal and Lakota Country Times as it has for the last 6 years. The RCJ based their reasoning for discontinuing Kent's column on a possible conflict of interest because his column ran in both papers. I could understand this reasoning but to claim this conflict of interest only came to their attention recently is an absolute bold-faced lie.

Jim Kent. Photo from South Dakota Public Radio

There isn't a week that goes by when one of the writers from the RCJ hijacks a piece written by a native journalist. The only person they have working at the Journal who understands this part of South Dakota is Seth Tupper. The rest are transplants who spend a majority of their time publishing petty crime stories that do a wonderful job of casting Lakota people in a bad light. We all remember how bad the Journal messed up the coverage of the #Lakota57 incident.

The irony is that the collusion that occurs between RCJ and NSN is quite significant. The two "independent" entities work hand in hand every single week. The Journal prints and helps distribute each issue of NSN and the communication between members of the RCJ editorial board and staff at NSN is continuous. Did it hurt their feelings that Jim Kent pointed out their embarrassingly low digital numbers? Maybe NSN should have taken my advice that this is a digital world, and that it would be smart to make the bold move of joining the rest of us in it. Luckily NSN has Christy Tibbits to keep them afloat and moving forward as her professionalism and aptitude would surely flourish in any other business.

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I avoid engaging in spats between LCT and other papers in our region for the simple reason that our paper is engaged in an effort to improve our communities. Unlike many writers in the Native media I grew up in my community and I have the relationships and scars of trauma that come with it. This fact matters when covering our issues because improving the life of my family members is why I do this. Not all publications are driven by this desire.

When Native journalists are asked where they are from, many will say Pine Ridge. When people from Pine Ridge are asked where I am from, the answer is always "here."

Brandon Ecoffey is the current editor of LCT and the former managing editor of Native Sun News. His work has earned him more than thirty state and national journalism awards.

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