A year of newscasts: We 'were not prepared for a virus like this'

Take a look back as we mark the one year of the Indian Country Today newscast.

ICT's newscast started out a year ago with the idea of broadcasting timely information on our website and through social media. In just a short time we were airing on the FNX network and PBS stations. Managing editor Jourdan Bennett-Begaye and associate editor Vincent Schilling show us the work it takes to make a show.

As we prepared to go on air, we thought about who would be the best first guest to put this pandemic in perspective. There are very few American Indians who have experience working with pandemics and infectious diseases. Dean Seneca, who is a Seneca citizen, is one of them. He joins the show with his own pandemic year in review.

(First ICT newscast: Newscast with guest Dean Seneca)

We remain committed to bringing you experts from Indian Country. Our newscast evolved from covering the COVID19 pandemic to covering all news from an Indigenous perspective. Joining us to talk about how you can watch us on an actual television station is our vice president of broadcasting, Shirley Sneve.

A slice of our Indigenous world

  • The U.S. Supreme court is hearing oral arguments for United States v. Cooley. 
  • A new office is targeting anti-Indigenous racism in Manitoba, Canada’s health system.
  • In Santa Fe, the New Mexico Indian Affairs department is creating an Indigenous Youth Council.
  • There’s something about being outside that’s focusing high school students in Canada's Northwest Territories.
  • It’s going to be an intense five weeks for some Native writers who are hoping to join the ranks of television production. 

Find more details on these stories at the top of today's newscast.

Some quotes from today's show.

Dean Seneca:

"Well, unfortunately I was right. We really are not prepared or were not prepared for a virus like this. We have about 190,000 infections throughout Indian Country. Right now we just have over 6,100 deaths. And those are climbing. We have some significant health disparities throughout all of the statistics regarding COVID-19 infection."

"Right now our hospitalization rates are 3.8, almost 4 times higher than the white population. Our death rates are 2.7 higher than the Asian population and almost 2 percent higher than the white population. So we're dying at twice as the rate as any other racial group. And our infections, we're being infected at our incidence rates are 3.5 times higher than the white population, so we're being infected much higher."

"Then here, we are being vaccinated very well. We have in many of our communities up to 60 to 80 to 90 percent of the community have been vaccinated, but still we're seeing spikes and we're seeing cases climb in our, in our communities. So, we can't let our guard down. We have let our guard down. I have spotters throughout the whole country, reporting communities not really practicing prevention, not wearing a mask, not practicing safe, social distancing, not washing their hands properly. And that has impacted us throughout the whole pandemic."

Shirley Sneve:

"Real estate, it's all about real estate. There are only a certain number of hours in the day and some of these programs have been on PBS for years and years and years. And so to find a reason for individual stations to carry this. That's the other thing about the PBS system, is that each station is unique and they really are there to serve their audiences. So what we saw early on is a lot of states, South Dakota and North Dakota, Oklahoma that have a large population of Native Americans were quick to get on the bandwagon and carry the program."  

"Now we're to the point where our delivery system is stable. And I know that's an interesting thing to say, but we have to have closed captioning and we taped this program early in the morning, get it closed captioned. And the broadcast team Dre and Max have just been outstanding at getting the program to the stations in time to broadcast. The first broadcast time that we're on is 6:30 central daylight time in Oklahoma. And I think that's just a remarkable feat to deliver a daily program like that."

"I think that it's a program that's really important because nobody does this kind of work in public broadcasting. We're in 17 States and two foreign countries. And I think that's remarkable for a program that's only a year old. The fact that it's a half-hour newscast makes it easier program. And I think we'll see more and more stations pick it up as we get the program out there."

ICT logo bridge

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

Shirley Sneve, Sicangu Lakota, is vice president of broadcasting for Indian Country Today. Follow her on Twitter @rosebudshirley She’s based in Nebraska and Minnesota.

Patty Talahongva, Hopi, is executive producer of Indian Country Today. Follow her on Twitter: @WiteSpider

Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, Diné, is the managing editor for Indian Country Today. Twitter: @jourdanbb. Email: jbennett-begaye@indiancountrytoday.com

Vincent Schilling, Akwesasne Mohawk, is associate editor of Indian Country Today. Twitter @VinceSchilling. Email: vschilling@indiancountrytoday.com

Indian Country Today is a nonprofit news organization. Will you support our work? All of our content is free. There are no subscriptions or costs. And we have hired more Native journalists in the past year than any news organization ─ and with your help we will continue to grow and create career paths for our people. Support Indian Country Today for as little as $10.