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50 Years Ago: July 8th edition of Navajo Times sets ad, circulation records

The July 8, 1971, issue of the Navajo Times set all kinds of records, including the first with 48 pages and the biggest circulation so far in the Navajo Times history, according to its publisher at the time, Chet MacRorie.

It would also set a standard that the Times would folllow for the next five years – specials loaded with stories and pictures,

That doesn’t mean that the issue was good because it wasn’t. The top stories of the week – Council urging Congress to pass a bill and the problems of Navajo migrant workers in Colorado – were not exactly earth-shaking news.

But the paper promised readers something out of the ordinary and MacRorie promoted it for several weeks as something readers would like and keep on hand for weeks.

There were more than 90 articles in the paper, almost all of which could be viewed as glorified press releases. It appears that at most four or five were written in house and the rest were written by the program of which the article was about.

MacRorie said later he had been thinking of putting out a special issue of the Times ever since he was renamed the paper’s managing editor in January. He said he realized from his earlier two stints as editor that readers were seeking news about what was going on in the government, even if it came from the program directors themselves.

With this success, MacRorie would put out an annual “progress” edition, giving tribal programs a chance to speak directly to the Times’ growing readership. They could say anything they wanted to, anyway they wanted to. All he did was place a limit on how long the articles could be.

The other thing he did was urge companies that did business with the tribe or wanted to increase their Navajo customer base to buy ads congratulating the tribal government for the progress the tribe was making while at the same time pointing the role they played in this progress.

As a result, companies like Peabody Coal and General Electric, who had never advertised in the paper, bought full-page ads listing how many Navajo employees they had or how much money they spent annually on salaries for Navajo employees.

And MacRorie soon realized how much the companies looked forward to taking part in the progress issue and took advantage of this by increasing ad rates, for that issue only, by 150%.

Because of the profit made for the July 8 issue and the fact that the paper received more responses from tribal departments, MacRorie decided to continue providing a bigger paper than usual so 40-page editions continued throughout the summer, leading to circulation staying in the 12,000 range.

He also used these figures to justify asking the Navajo Tribal Council to approve a bigger budget, providing funds to hire an additional reporter and someone to handle advertising and circulation.

Aid for drought

Navajo Trbal Chairman Peter MacDonald spent a lot of his time this week seeking federal, state and county help to provide relief to Navajo farmers who were seeing their livestock dying because of drought conditions on the reservation.

MacDonald said he was receiving complaints from chapters throughout the reservation about dying cattle and sheep with many ranchers worried that they would lose a good portion if they didn’t receive some kind of financial assistance immediately.

Tribal officials said the tribe needed $3.1 million to provide money for water hauling and emergency feed for more than 5,000 ranchers and farmers.

Within a week, the states of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah as well as the counties that covered the reservation had all declared emergencies and these were sent to the BIA and the U. S. Department of Agriculture for their help to get drought relief.

MacDonald stressed that the funds would all be used between now and mid-August when the area’s monsoon season was expected to begin.

What they actually mean

There have been so many stories in recent weeks where federal officials have responded to reporters in non-answers, many of these being reprinted in the Times, that MacRorie took it upon himself to give readers a translation of what they actually meant.

“We are in the process of looking into it” actually means it’s so wrapped up in red tape that there’s no chance that anything will come out of it.

“The proposal is going through channels” means it’s being held up by someone who has left on vacation and has put the information in a drawer that won’t be open for weeks.

“We’re looking at taking action” means that the proposal is now being copied by a secretary to send to more people who will just put it a stack of papers to look over when they have time.

“It’s under consideration” means the speaker has probably never seen the proposal and will have someone on his staff go find a copy.

“It’s under active consideration” means someone was able to track it down and government officials are setting up a meeting to determine why it can’t be implemented.


About The Author

Bill Donovan

Bill Donovan has been writing about the Navajo Nation government since 1971 and for the Navajo Times since 1976. He is currently semi-retired and is living in Torrance, California, and continues to report for the Navajo Times.

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