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Indian Country Today

From a reporter-producer at Indian Country Today to the ICT Newscast anchor, Kewa Pueblo journalist Aliyah Chavez is marching ahead.

Chavez previously anchored the daily newscast with Mark Trahant, ICT editor, and Patty Talahongva, executive producer. Tuesday was the first day of “ICT Newscast with Aliyah Chavez.” The new shift with Chavez being the sole anchor, as well as being a producer of the show, is gratifying, she said.

She finds news stories to fit the show, writes stories, interviews sources, tracks down photos and videos and delivers the stories on camera.

“This role is perfect for me because I genuinely love engaging in the journalism side of our newscast,” Chavez said. “I want viewers of the ICT newscast to watch our show and walk away knowing they learned something. That is my ultimate goal: to make our viewers smarter.”

Aliyah Chavez is from Kewa Pueblo, New Mexico. (Photo by LoriLei Chavez)

Chavez said she woke up Tuesday morning to a moment of reflection and the image of her family’s house.

“I pictured the brown adobe bricks that make up our house in Kewa. Then I thought about my late grandparents, Joe and Dolores Chavez, who watched the nightly news every day. I can just picture them sitting at the table after finishing supper and watching me on TV. It brings tears to my eyes,” she said. “Then I think about all of the Native grandmas and grandpas who would love to watch their grandchildren do something like that. It is an overwhelming feeling. Every Indigenous person deserves the kind of representation that the ICT newscast brings.”

ICT first announced Chavez’s new anchor role in July 2020 at the Indian Gaming Tradeshow & Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada.

“When I got the news that I was chosen to be the permanent anchor of Indian Country Today, I was over the moon. So excited,” she said. “As a young girl growing up on the rez, I never dreamed this would be possible. But I dreamt and worked — and here we are!”

The newscast was launched in April 2020. It runs on a variety of PBS stations nationwide in Alaska, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Arizona, and in urban areas that include Denver, Los Angeles and Chicago. It also reaches international audiences in Canada and Australia.

Chavez holds a bachelor’s degree in communication and comparative studies in race and ethnicity from Stanford University.

The reporter started her ICT journey in the fall of 2018 when she emailed Trahant seeking freelancing opportunities in the last year of her graduate program at Stanford University.

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Just after graduation in the spring of 2019, she told a Stanford news outlet, “I took a class taught by (communication lecturer) Janine Zacharia in my freshman spring. She said something I will never forget: Being a journalist is the best job in the world because you get paid to go around and listen to people’s stories. That hit the nail on the head for me. Journalism combines everything I love and value, especially wanting to give back to my community. So, I decided to co-term (take simultaneous under-grad and graduate-level courses). I really do love reporting.”

Chavez joined ICT as a fellow under the Rowland and Pat Rebele Journalism Internship Program at Stanford in the summer of 2019.

She moved into a full-time reporter-producer position in the fall of 2019. Since then, Chavez has covered the 2018 and 2020 elections, including the presidential race and the Iowa caucus.

Chavez now hopes to pave the way for others.

“I think one of my career goals is going to be nurturing the next generation of Native journalists,” she said.

She has also worked as an intern and at jobs with NBC’s Today show, TEDx, and Times Digital Media. ICT’s producing partner, Arizona PBS, also recognized Chavez’s talent and asked her to co-host “Break It Down,” a daily, 10-minute segment with conversations on news, politics, and pop culture.

“To my Indigenous relatives, I encourage you to look to the field of journalism and media because each of you are experts in your communities,” she said. “Thank you to my family, mentors, friends and loved ones. Your support is invaluable to me.”

The show is recorded every morning from its studios in Phoenix.

“ICT Newscast with Aliyah Chavez'' is delivered Monday through Friday by 5:30 p.m. ET, streamed from the digital news site www.indiancountrytoday.com, which features many more stories by an award-winning team of Indigenous reporters.

An audio version is available to NPR and tribal radio stations through SoundCloud.

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