NAJA selects Trahant as 2019 NAJA-Medill Milestone Achievement Award recipient

Photo by: Jaynie Parrish

Published June 22, 2019

NORMAN, Okla. — The Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) will recognize Mark Trahant (Shoshone-Bannock) as an awardee during the 2019 National Native Media Conference in Prior Lake, Minnesota.

NAJA selected Mark Trahant (Shoshone-Bannock) as the 2019 NAJA-Medill Milestone Achievement Award recipient.

The award honors an individual who has made a lasting impact on media to the benefit of Indigenous communities and is given jointly by the Native American Journalists Association and the Medill School of Journalism, Media, and Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University to celebrate responsible storytelling and journalism in Indian Country.

The award honors an individual who has made a lasting impact on media to the benefit of Indigenous communities and is given jointly by the Native American Journalists Association and the Medill School of Journalism, Media, and Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University to celebrate responsible storytelling and journalism in Indian Country.

The award also includes a $5,000 cash prize and an invitation to the recipient to speak with Medill faculty and students on campus in Evanston, Ill., to further advance the representation of Indigenous journalists in mainstream media.

Trahant’s contributions will be highlighted during the award presentation ceremony set for Monday, Sept. 16 from 12-2 p.m. in coordination with the NAJA Membership Luncheon during the 2019 National Native Media Conference at Mystic Lake Center Sept. 15-18 in Prior Lake, Minnesota.

Conference attendees must have a ticket to attend this event. NAJA members may RSVP for free. Tickets are available for $50 each for non-members andmay be purchased online in advance or on site at the registration desk (limited availability).

His nomination was reviewed and selected by the NAJA-Medill Selection Committee based on the following award criteria:

  • Body of journalistic work during career

  • Contribution to society through outstanding journalism

  • Recognition and respect from peers and community

  • Significant contributions to the advancement of Native Americans in the field of journalism

  • Commitment to NAJA and its values such as free press, accurate representation of Indigenous communities in media, etc.

Trahant is editor of Indian Country Today (ICT). He reflected on the first tribal editor, Elias Boudinot (Cherokee), the namesake for another of NAJA’s top awards, when reflecting on the standard for Indigenous journalism.

“[Boudinot] described his paper as ‘a vehicle of Indian intelligence.’ Even though ink has been replaced by pixels; the task remains the same – to publish an informative daily account that’s comprehensive and adds context to the stories missing from the mainstream media.

“We have so many stories to tell. Our mission is simple but important: Solid, factual reporting. Great writing. Photography that inspires and records. Provide a real service to readers across Indian Country’s digital landscape,” Trahant said.

Trahant has exemplified this standard during his career, which includes his past work as editorial page editor of ‘The Seattle Post-Intelligencer’ and employment with the ‘Arizona Republic,’ ‘Salt Lake Tribune,’ ‘Seattle Times,’ ‘Navajo Times Today,’ and ‘Sho-Ban News.’

He has been a reporter for the PBS ‘Frontline’ series, publishing ‘The Silence,’ which detailed the sexual abuse by priests in an Alaska Native village.

Trahant is known for his election reporting in Indian Country, developing the first comprehensive database of American Indians and Alaska Natives running for office. His research has been cited in publications ranging from ‘The New York Times’ to ‘The Economist’ and most recently, ‘Teen Vogue.’

During the 2018 Election, Trahant launched a journalism initiative and as a result, more than 40 Native media professionals conducted the first ever live coverage of election night.

Six hours of TV programming was produced at the First Nations Experience | FNX studios in California and viewers were able to get reports about the dozens of Native candidates running for office during this election, which included the first two Native American women voted into Congress.

Trahant was recently elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has been a professor at the University of North Dakota, the University of Alaska Anchorage, the University of Idaho and the University of Colorado.

He moderates his blog, www.trahantreports.com and reports on events and trends on Facebook, Twitter (@TrahantReports) and social media.

He does a weekly commentary for ‘Native Voice One’ and is chair of the board of directors for ‘Vision Maker Media,’ which works with Native producers to develop, produce and distribute education telecommunications programs for all media, including public TV and radio.

Trahant was appointed to lead ICT as a digital enterprise on March 1, 2018 after the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) took ownership of the outlet the month before. In May 2019, ICT assumed a new legal structure and board of directors under the ownership of the non-profit arm of NCAI.

Trahant explained how this will support the outlet’s operational autonomy, a mission in line with the highest values of NAJA.

“The structure of a company does two things. First: It sets us on course as an independent, non-profit media enterprise. And second it sets in place a governing structure to protect that independence,” Trahant said.

This year, ICT completed the first investigative series on #MeToo, begun opening a newsroom on the campus of Arizona State University and developed a national news program for PBS stations.

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