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The nation’s leading association dedicated to Native journalism has elected new leadership, including a president and two new board members.

Francine Compton, Sandy Bay Ojibway First Nation, will serve as president of the Native American Journalists Association for the year. She is the executive producer of APTN News, an award-winning television program headquartered in Winnipeg on the world’s first national Indigenous broadcaster.

Diné journalists Jourdan Bennett-Begaye and Pauly Denetclaw were elected as first-time board members to NAJA. Graham Brewer, Cherokee, was reelected as a board member and will serve as secretary.

The organization’s full slate of officers for the 2020-2021 year includes:

  • Francine Compton, NAJA president
  • Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton, vice president
  • Christine Trudeau, treasurer
  • Graham Brewer, secretary

Compton says her goal for the organization is to expand membership. She was nominated then chosen by the previous board members to serve in the position.

“I was shocked to be asked and honored at the same time,” Compton said. “I thought about my ancestors, my granny, who I know would be so proud. I thought about the past presidents and what a strong line I’m following. These are big boots to fill, and I will do everything I can for NAJA.”

Compton joined the NAJA board in June 2019, serving as treasurer before being elected president.

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Newly elected board members, whose main function is to fundraise for the organization, will serve on a volunteer basis for the next three years.

They were chosen following an online election and virtual candidate forum held in late August.

Both Bennett-Begaye and Denetclaw credited NAJA as a support network in their careers, having completed the organization’s fellowship together. It teaches Native college students multimedia reporting skills at the organization’s annual conference.

The fellowship, Bennett-Begaye says, was instrumental in her decision of becoming a journalist.

“I was on the fence about going to journalism school or public health school until the organization’s Native American Journalism Fellowship showed me that this profession is for me. I can’t wait to give back,” Bennett-Begaye said. She is currently the deputy managing editor of Indian Country Today.

Denetclaw says participating in the fellowship and looking up to previous board members provided a path into media and journalism for her, too.

“NAJA, as an organization, and its membership, has always supported my career in every way possible. I’m forever thankful for everything they have provided for me and continue to,” Deneclaw said. She currently reports as a staff writer for the Navajo Times out of Window Rock, Arizona.

Following the election, new board members will attend an orientation meeting to acquaint them with their new role. At the meeting, they will receive job descriptions, an overview of NAJA’s history and minutes from previous board meetings.

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