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Seattle paper taps Mark Trahant

SEATTLE - Mark Trahant of the Shoshone-Bannock tribe in Idaho has been named editorial page editor of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, effective March 3. He succeeds Joann Byrd, who is retiring.

Trahant was CEO of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education in Oakland, Calif., from January 2001 to December 2002. He will stay on as chairman of the board. The Maynard Institute, based in Oakland, Calif., is a non-profit corporation working to expand journalism opportunities for people of color.

Trahant, 45, was a columnist with The Seattle Times for two years prior to joining the Maynard Institute. Previously, he was publisher of the Moscow-Pullman Daily News in Moscow, Idaho, and Pullman, Wash. He also wrote a syndicated weekly column, "Letter From Moscow."

Prior to Moscow-Pullman, he was executive news editor of The Salt Lake Tribune, a reporter at The Arizona Republic in Phoenix, and editor and publisher at several tribal newspapers.

Trahant also writes a twice-monthly column for MSNBC.com.

Trahant lives in Fort Hall, Idaho, with his wife, Lenora, and their two children. They will move to the Seattle area.

Trahant, who cut his teeth in journalism at the Sho-Ban News, joins a newspaper that is engaged in a bitter rivalry that has made industry headlines. The Seattle Times, owned by the Blethen family and Knight-Ridder, wants to end its joint operating agreement with the Post-Intelligencer (P-I.).

Times Publisher Frank Blethen claims his newspaper has lost money for three years because of the joint operating agreement. The P-I disputes Blethen's claim.

The Seattle Times has 224,140 daily and 215,111 Saturday circulation, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulation. The Hearst-owned P-I has 157,558 daily and 144,484 Saturday. The combined Sunday Times/P-I has 473,010 circulation.

Some media watchers have said that the end of the agreement could mean the end of the P-I. Trahant doubts that.

"It's an exciting time to be involved in Seattle journalism," Trahant said. "Hearst is investing an extraordinary amount of money in good journalism ? We can give readers concrete examples of why two newspapers are better than one."

Trahant believes Seattle benefits from having two newspapers. "It's fun to give readers a voice. And two voices are better than one."

As editorial page editor, Trahant said he could contribute to a better understanding of American Indian issues, such as "why treaties matter and how gaming is managed."

Trahant has long worked for diversity in America's newsrooms.

"News coverage still has a long way to go before it fairly portrays all of America's distinct communities," Trahant wrote in a March 12, 2002 online column for the Maynard Institute.

"Forget race or ethnicity for a minute: Imagine how a news organization would fare if it only routinely covered sports, crime and entertainment from a city's major suburb? Folks who live in that suburb would find another way to get information - which is exactly why ethnic media is growing at unprecedented speed. Dozens of newspapers have sprung up printing the news in Korean, Chinese or Spanish across the nation.

"This is the reason this narrative thread matters. One way or another all segments of society will find a way to get their news. But how much will we know about each other? Will our discourse be the same, at least on occasion? Or, will we just give up and go our own way?"

The Maynard Institute and the University of Montana School of Journalism operates reznetnews.org, a Web site written by American Indian college students, and blackcollegewire.org, a Web site written by black college students.

Trahant is author of "Pictures of Our Nobler Selves," published by The Freedom Forum in 1995. The book covers the history and status of American Indian journalism.

He was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 1989 for the series, "Fraud in Indian Country," about the U.S. government's mishandling of American Indian trust money.

He is past president and a current member of the Native American Journalists Association, and is a trustee of The Freedom Forum.

(Beginning March 3, you can read Trahant's editorial pages online at www.seattlep-i.com)

Richard Walker is a correspondent reporting from San Juan Island, Wash. Contact him at irishmex2000@yahoo.com

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