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Indian Country Today editor discusses TV expansion, search for Alaska reporter

Apr 25, 2019

Indian Country Today editor Mark Trahant, left, works with Native Voice One's Bob Petersen and KNBA programming manager Loren Dixon during coverage of the 2018 Alaska Federation of Natives annual convention in Anchorage, Alaska. Trahant said that Indian Country Today is expanding and could be looking for an Alaska-based reporter. (Photo by Tripp J Crouse/KNBA)

Veteran journalist Mark Trahant started working in radio broadcasting as a teenager. Forty-some years later he’s now leading Indian Country Today, a national publication that focuses Native issues and policies. His goal is to bring more Native stories and more Native journalists to the public eye.

“It's so debilitating for folks to grow up and not see themselves in media and not see themselves in the public discourse and to have our entire world be communicated through someone else's eyes.”

Formerly a nation-wide print platform, Trahant took over leadership in February 2018. And it relaunched in June. Now it’s primarily a web and digital-based platform.

“In addition to that we designed the entire product for the cellphone," he said. "If you think about particularly millennials but just all pretty much almost anybody now -- the mobile phone is the most powerful medium ever developed for news.”

But the staff  looks at producing the news differently, he said.

“We want to look for stories with context and kind of the big picture on stories,” he said. “While others will race to chase breaking news, sometimes we'll take three, four, five days and think about it more and report more. And when we come something we want to put the story in context so people understand what it means."

Trahant said that Indian Country Today wants to expand – adding staff at Arizona State University to produce a weekly television news program.

He said that’ll include hiring an executive producer, an anchor and a news team. It’ll also mean establishing producers throughout the country – including Alaska.

"The Alaska story is so important and one of the things I'm most eager to get started is I'm working on a couple of partnerships but to get a reporter up there both writing for us and when the television show starts being one of the first voices to be heard."

Trahant and Indian Country Today plan to open their Arizona newsroom July 1 and have the national weekly news program ready by fall.

"I think that's really enlightening for people where it gives a sense of authenticity and the story will change," he said. "I also think it will change the story to the greater society, the larger society because they'll start to see one, how much talent there is in Indian Country, and how much promise there is."

For Trahant, the biggest goal is to bring Indian Country and indigenous voices together.

“That's the most important reason to go forward is this idea of tying the country together by story," he said. "If Native people in Maine don't know what's going on in Alaska and make that connection on a regular basis they're going to be richer. And that's something we can do now.”

The second newsroom will be located at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. Indian Country Today will maintain its Washington D.C. newsroom for its digital operations.

Trahant will speak at noon Wednesday, April 24, at Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage, Alaska.

Editor's note: Trahant's weekly news commentary segment, "Trahant Reports" appears Mondays at 7:30 a.m. on 90.3 KNBA.