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Mark Trahant
Indian Country Today

Two years ago we set out to do something audacious: Report the election in a live broadcast.

Of course the world was so different then.

Indian Country Today was a small digital publication. We had a staff of five people and more ambition than resources. But we had (and have) an amazing audience. So we thought, “what if we bring together Native journalists, and get them out into the field and cover the Native Americans running for Congress and other offices?”

We partnered with FNX and Native Voice One. We worked with dozens of talented people doing everything from reporting to making sure the picture and sound were broadcast quality.

It was a great night. We had great live interviews (most shot on cell phones) and profiles with so many candidates making news, now Rep. Deb Haaland, Rep. Sharice Davids, Lt. Gov, Peggy Flanagan, and candidates for governor Paulette Jordan and Andria Tupola.

(Previous story: Recap of Election Night LIve)

It’s time to go again.

We are again partnering with FNX and Indian Country Today’s Election Night broadcast will air on FNX plus on many PBS stations. The broadcast will be live starting at 8 pm Mountain Standard Time until 10 pm. We limited the broadcast to two hours in order to get more distribution through our public media partners.

We will also have a live feed on Vimeo and social media.

We knew this year was going to be a bit more tricky, since we are following social distancing rules.

We will broadcast from a studio at the Phoenix Indian School Visitors Center where we are limiting the staff to less than ten. Anchors will be more than 6 feet apart. And everyone will be wearing masks.

Much of the content -- and we are hoping for more great interviews -- will be on Zoom.

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We are following more than a dozen candidates for the U.S. House and Senate, plus more than a hundred for other offices. This year our coverage will be both digital (which will update throughout the night) and the broadcast.

Of course we will also be reporting on the national elections, including the White House, the Congress, and a few key state races.

This year’s election desk will be anchored by Patty Talahongva in Phoenix, Jourdan Bennett-Begaye in Washington; and then in the second hour, Aliyah Chavez and Mark Trahant, both in Phoenix. Sky Vasquez will produce the program (a job she excelled at two years ago.)

While our goal is to inform people in real time, we also hope to reflect our audience. This year’s plan includes covering watch parties that take place on Facebook and other social media.

Not everything worked perfectly two years ago. Our many page script went out the window in the first 15 minutes because so many races were called so early. And our Skype calls did not always work. This time it’s Zoom.

But it was still an amazing production. I wrote that I was blown away by Indian Country’s talent. “If anyone in a news company ever, ever says, “I can’t find anyone” when hiring … I will make them sit and watch all five hours. The talent from Indian Country is amazing.”

That’s sort of what happened. Indian Country Today’s staff grew from that small core to nearly twenty today. And in addition to our digital report, updated several times a day, we also broadcast a daily 30 minute news program carried on FNX, Arizona PBS, Alaska’s 360 North, and soon more PBS stations.

That all started on that election night.

We are excited to do this broadcast again. There are so many stories yet to tell. 

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Mark Trahant, Shoshone-Bannock, is editor of Indian Country Today. On Twitter: @TrahantReports Trahant is based in Phoenix.

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