Indian Country Today to open newsroom at Arizona State; goal is to create national TV news program

This summer Indian Country Today will open a newsroom in Phoenix at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

Indian Country Today is on the move. It has a new legal framework — and soon will have a new newsroom and partnership with Arizona State University.

Last month the news organization officially incorporated as Indian Country Today, LLC., a non-profit news company, owned by the non-profit arm of the National Congress of American Indians. The new legal structure codifies the news organization’s independent course.

Update: Spring fundraising drive to support Indian Country Today's next steps

This summer Indian Country Today will open a newsroom in Phoenix at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. Indian Country Today will maintain a Washington newsroom for its digital operations.

“We are excited to be partners with Arizona State University,” said Mark Trahant, editor of Indian Country Today. “This is game-changing because it builds on so much of the work that ASU is already doing with the journalism focused on borders, its large population of Native students, a new research professor, and its commitment to representation in media. Plus the Cronkite school has become a magnet for great journalism with Cronkite News, Arizona PBS, and other innovative programs.”

“We are delighted that Indian Country Today, the iconic and influential news site, will be coming to Cronkite,” said Dean Christopher Callahan. “ICT has long been the leading voice for Native American communities across the Americas, and under the inspiring, innovative and digitally focused leadership of Editor Mark Trahant, the future is bright. Through this partnership, we will not only be able to provide our students with more opportunities to cover these critically important stories, but also to help better serve our Native communities regionally and nationally and to grow the pipeline of young Native students who may be interested in careers in journalism.”

Callahan said the Cronkite School has been focused on increasing both the quantity and quality of Native American news coverage, which he said is too often ignored or reported in a way that lacks depth and understanding of Native communities.

Cronkite also is seeking to create pathways for American Indian high school students to study journalism and enter the field. Callahan pointed to a recent American Society of News Editors survey that found Native Americans represent just 0.37 percent of U.S. journalists, even though Native Americans make up nearly 2 percent of the U.S. population and 6 percent of Arizona residents.

Cronkite News, the student-powered, faculty-led news organization of Arizona PBS, has made Native American coverage a prime area of focus through its news vertical, Indian Country. The school also is in the process of a search for the nation’s first named professorship focused on the intersection of Native Americans and the news media. Cronkite also is working to create one of the first student chapters of the Native American Journalists Association.

“We hope through these initiatives we will be able to recruit more young Native American students to journalism programs like ours while helping to provide deeper and richer news coverage,” Callahan said.

Indian Country Today is planning on a major expansion, and, if all goes well, will launch the first-ever national television news program by and about Native Americans.

The background: Indian Country Today re-launched on June 1, 2018. The enterprise was gifted to the National Congress of American Indians by the Oneida Nation.

“The goal then, and now, was to use this legacy and build a new kind of news operation, one that could be sustainable and a career path for Native American journalists,” said Trahant.

“The first year has been amazing. On election night we did something extraordinary. We recognized that the election year would be historic in Indian Country, so we responded with the first-ever election night broadcast working with the FNX / First Nations Experience network and Native Voice One. We brought together some 40 Native journalists and a technical team for the broadcast.”

Indian Country Today is planning to do this again with a national weekly news program. The staff we will hire will also contribute to the daily reports in Indian Country Today. This will be the largest news operation ever created in Indian Country.

“I think a lot about the perception of American Indians and Alaska Natives in media. We all know the stereotypes and narratives that come out of Washington or Hollywood,” Trahant said. “So a news program, one that reaches millions of people via public television stations, has the chance to change the story, showing the beauty, intelligence and aspirations of Native people.”

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(Indian Country Today, LLC., is a non-profit news organization owned by the non-profit arm of the The National Congress of American Indians. The Indian Country Today editorial team operates independently.)

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