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Indian Country Today

ICT will begin 2022 with a new editor: Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, Diné. She will be the first woman to be the chief news executive for the 40-year-old newspaper and website.

Mark Trahant, Shoshone-Bannock, is taking on a new role with ICT. He will be the lead correspondent for an Indigenous economics project and will work on special projects with IndiJ Public Media President Karen Michel, Ho-Chunk. Trahant will carry the title of editor-at -large.

IndiJ Public Media is the nonprofit organization that owns ICT and its daily TV newscast program.

“This is a rez kid’s dream come true,” Bennett-Begaye said. “Mark has built an extraordinary news organization from its ashes, and his mentorship has been invaluable. I’m incredibly grateful for him, Karen, and the rest of our leadership to have confidence in me to lead a newsroom that is so rich with talent, innovation, and immeasurable compassion.

“My love for ICT goes back to college when I saw the potential of this organization in delivering the most accurate information — the digital way. I hope to continue to take ICT forward in an industry that often overlooks Indigenous journalists and news. My goal is to change the larger narrative of Indigenous people, and set the agenda for mainstream journalism,” she said. “Ultimately, I hope to cultivate a newsroom for young people that we have never seen before. One where we write the news thinking of our grandmas reading it, capturing history for Indigenous youth to learn in school, and educating our people so they can make informed decisions for their kids and grandkids.”

“This is an exciting time in the evolution of ICT and Jourdan is the right person to take the editorial lead of our digital news site and digital staff,” said Karen Michel, president and CEO of IndiJ Public Media. “Jourdan has strong news judgment and essential talents that make a good editor. She has been mentored these past few years by Mark Trahant, so I am confident that she will use her expertise and experience to build on ICT’s foundation of journalism excellence.”

“There is so much to say here,” Trahant said. “ICT is in great hands with Jourdan Bennett-Begaye. She already has a legacy of leadership and service. She cares deeply about the quality of journalism at ICT and she’s continuing to build the newsroom of the future, one that opens up a career door for Indigenous writers, reporters and editors.”

Trahant said this is an incredible moment. “ICT has grown so much over the past four years,” he said. “And we know this enterprise needs a long arc. We need to be thinking about the next decade … not just the next edition. Jourdan is the ideal candidate to do just that.”

Trahant said he is eager to launch the Indigenous economics project. “Reporting on these issues will change how people perceive the very nature of Indigenous economics,” Trahant said. “The project will be evidence-based, focused on the Indigenous economy both as it is and as it should be.”

That includes the exploration of investments that include a structure for Free, Prior and Informed Consent. The project will also chronicle innovation, using Indigenous knowledge and economics, to showcase tribal enterprises that are building sustainable models.

The innovative economics project is funded by the Bay and Paul Foundations. The project will also partner with Arizona State University to create new research on economic issues, including using social risk as a metric. Trahant said: “Imagine how Standing Rock would have been covered if there was a transparent accounting of the social risks involved for Energy Transfer Partners? Now that the government has recognized the power of using ESG frameworks — Environment, social and governance — there is a potential to dramatically shift the balance. But that can only happen if there is a transparent reporting and an accounting of the risks for such projects.”

Bennett-Begaye has been ICT’s managing editor, deputy managing editor, and the Washington editor. She is also a Native American Journalists Association board member.

She identifies as The Towering House Clan, The Coyote Pass Clan of Jemez, The Mexican Clan, and The Hopi with Red Running Into the Water Clan.

Since her hire with ICT in 2018, Bennett-Begaye has reported stories on health, education, public health, 2020 Census, policy, politics, and more. She has focused on the COVID-19 pandemic coverage in Indian Country, in which she built a COVID-19 database on a spreadsheet using publicly available data from tribal nations. Johns Hopkins University partnered with ICT on the project to make it more comprehensive.

She received her master's degree in magazine, newspaper and online journalism through the Newhouse Minorities Fellowship at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in New York in 2016. After graduate school, she taught high school journalism, video production, and theater in her home state, New Mexico. Her health experience comes from her undergraduate degree in athletic training from Fort Lewis College, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s CUPS Program and Future Public Health Leaders Program.

She’s written for Native Peoples Magazine, Fan First, MediaShift, The Daily Times, NAJA’s Native Voices News through the Native American Journalism Fellowship, NPR’s NextGen Radio Project, and Post-Standard. While in New Mexico, Jourdan co-founded the Survival of the First Voices, an art and media organization for Native youth.

ICT is an independent, nonprofit news site that reaches 800,000 people each month with 1.3 million pageviews. The broadcast studios for ICT are based at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and Arizona PBS. The digital newsroom is virtual with reporters and editors across the country. Bennett-Begaye will remain based in Washington, D.C.

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