A four person syndicate of Aboriginal leaders has made an offer to purchase embattled Aboriginal affairs newspaper the National Indigenous Times.
The syndicate is made up of controversial Melbourne University professor Marcia Langton, AM, former head of the Kimberly Land Council, Wayne Bergmann, indigenous businessman Clinton Wolf and former West Australian editor of The Australian Tony Barrass.
The newspaper was forced into voluntary administration last month after it was unable to pay legal costs amounting to about $75,000 for two court cases, one of which was an as yet undisclosed defamation claim.
A well known scholar of Indigenous studies and anthropology, Professor Langton in 2013 controversially praised mining arrangements with Aboriginal communities in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. During her 2011 Boyer Lecture series for the ABC she attracted criticism when for failing to initially declare the fact she received research funding from mining companies Woodside, Rio Tinto and Santos.
Honi understands that a rival group of bidders has also expressed interest in the paper. Although their identities are as yet unknown, The Australian on Thursday reported that the rival group has links to the paper’s current management.
A former national correspondent for the paper, Gerry Georgatos, says it is definitely a concern that the paper could change hands.
“It would be a further disengagement of the most marginalised, the most disenfranchised,” he said.
Former National Indigenous Times editor and current editor of New Matilda Chris Graham, who holds a 30 per cent financial stake in the Times, said that he has “no interest in what [the administrators] do”.
Describing the paper’s declining journalistic ambitions, Graham said that they had been “shredded”.
“Then they set fire to them then they pissed on them,” he added.
“I don’t seek to practice academia and I don’t think academics should practice journalism,” he said referring to the current writing staff, of whom many are involved with universities around the country.
Georgatos, on the other hand, said that the paper had “gotten tougher and harder in the last three years than ever before.”
According to Graham, any litigation against the paper would be a direct result of irresponsible and sloppy journalism.
“You can’t do that and not expect to end up in court,” he said.
Both men agreed that a voice for Indigenous people was vitally important in Australia.
The National Indigenous Times receives no government funding, and instead relies on subscription and advertising revenue. A fundraising campaign has been set up to save the award-winning paper in the wake of crippling legal costs.
The sale is reported to be finalised on February 17.
Honi approached Professor Langton for comment on this story. She responded with a one-word email: “No.”