Indian Country Today announced this week it’s opening an Alaska news bureau at Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage. The online news site is one of the largest news organizations in the country solely dedicated to Native journalists reporting on Indigenous issues.
Indian Country Today has been around since the 80s, but was relaunched last year as a digital news outlet. Managing Editor Mark Trahant says that despite efforts in the past to diversify journalism in the country, other news organizations weren’t keeping pace with the country’s demographics. He says Indian Country Today is a step in that direction.
“We are now the most diverse population this country has ever seen and growing more so every day,” Trahant said. “And if the media doesn’t reflect that diversity, then it’s got some major problems reaching its consumers. So just from a practical point of view, it’s way overdue.”
Indian Country Today is based at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University and currently has one other bureau in Washington D.C. Alaska Pacific University began transitioning to a tribal college in late 2016, and Trahant says university officials were eager to partner with Indian Country Today to establish its second news bureau. Trahant says they picked the college over other media partners to put an emphasis on student journalism.
Trahant says Indian Country Today has already given students opportunities to be a part of major stories, including a recent interview with Steve Bullock, governor of Montana and a Democrat running for president.
“After the end of our Indian Country Today interview, we turned him over to a student for the next 10 minutes. And so a journalism student and a university is getting a firsthand chance to interview a candidate for President of the United States,” Trahant said. “That’s pretty cool and it’s a direct result of the partnership between the two institutions. I think that same sort of thing will happen at APU.”
Trahant is no stranger to Alaska. He’s a former Atwood Chair of Journalism at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Trahant says Alaska is normally overlooked in national discourse, so adding it to their news cycle was essential.
“It’s almost a metaphor that when you see a map of the United States, it has this cut-off portion that’s Alaska somewhere in the middle of the ocean,” Trahant said. “And I think that’s a metaphor for how most people see Alaska, instead of seeing it as an integral part.”
Trahant says climate change is one of the most hotly discussed news items in the world today, and he sees Alaska as a main stage for that coverage.
“We want to get stories that show resilience and adaptation and what people are doing that’s really interesting to prepare for a new world that’s not of their making,” Trahant said.
Other topics Trahant wants the bureau to cover include state budget cuts and the ongoing efforts to keep Alaska Native Languages alive.
Trahant says Indian Country Today has already posted several stories from their Alaska bureau, and they are in the final stages of hiring the newsroom’s two staff positions.