UM striving to bring more Native American journalists into field

2013-01-20T19:30:00Z 2013-02-18T16:47:33Z UM striving to bring more Native American journalists into field missoulian.com

The face of journalism in Montana may be on the verge of change, with more Native American reporters looking to join newsrooms across the state.

If the vision holds true and today’s American Indian journalism students join tomorrow’s workforce and hit the streets of Montana’s cities and towns, credit will go in part to Jason Begay.

“What I try to bring to UM is the perspective of tribal journalism,” said Begay, an assistant professor of journalism at UM. “Indian country does exist. We’re not a bunch of tragic figures.”

Begay was recruited to UM to study journalism by Dennis McAuliffe, the first Native American journalist-in-residence at UM. Begay graduated in 2002 before earning opportunities to intern with The New York Times and the Oregonian – two giants in the newspaper industry.

Armed with his new skills, he took his pen and notepad back to Gallup, N.M., to write for the Navajo Times. He returned to UM six years later to teach.

“It changed my life,” Begay said. “I thought it would be cool to come back and do what he (McAuliffe) did for me. They agreed that I might be able to do a good job here.”

Inspired by the role McAuliffe played for him, Begay looked to do the same for other Native students, and joined UM’s teaching staff in 2010. The university wanted to attract more Indian students while educating all students on Indian issues.

Many Montana newspapers would do the same in the mid-2000s. They too were on a quest to hire American Indian reporters and achieve diversity of coverage.

But finding qualified Native American reporters in Montana remains a difficult task. Just one Native American student was in the School of Journalism’s professional program when Begay began two years ago.

Now, he says with a hint of pride, there are four American Indians in the School of Journalism’s professional program and three more in the pre-professional program. It’s the beginning of what Begay hopes is a continuing trend.

“Teaching wasn’t something I would have considered in my future,” Begay said. “The thing that drew me here was the thought of recruiting students and encouraging them to join the program. Fortunately, I’ve managed to do that.”

Begay said he was reluctant to join the faculty at UM and the School of Journalism. He feared they were offering him a token position to achieve their own agenda.

As it turns out, he said, the offer was legitimate and his concerns were quickly laid to rest.

“I found out pretty quickly they (UM) take seriously the issues that Indian Country faces,” he said. “Everyone was serious about wanting more Native students in the program, and we needed more professors here. I recognized that sincerity.”

Begay, who grew up near the Navajo Reservation, understands the issues his Native American students face.

He and his American Indian peers on the UM faculty play an important role in serving as an inspiration to Native students. They also lend an understanding ear when UM’s Native students face problems or concerns.

“There are a lot of things they talk about,” said Begay. “They don’t want to seem like they’re using their family tragedies or bad news to gain favor. But me, being from a reservation and growing up near one, I know what they’re talking about. Having someone with the same background helps.”

Reporter Martin Kidston can be reached at 523-5260, or at martin.kidston@missoulian.com.

Copyright 2015 missoulian.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(3) Comments

  1. Roger
    Report Abuse
    Roger - January 21, 2013 12:02 pm
    What a farce, just more political correctness - it's sickening to read the nonsense that's driving UM policy these days.
  2. hellgatenights
    Report Abuse
    hellgatenights - January 21, 2013 2:34 am
    And what is "Different" about indian writers? Did they invent some special "Prose?" Are any of these people recognized by peers for excellent writing? Any unique and thought provoking verses?

    No.....none of the above. It's all about people like Engstrom, a failed and miserable president, begging for crumbs at the federal table. Go git 'em stickboy.
  3. golfer1
    Report Abuse
    golfer1 - January 20, 2013 11:34 pm
    thats all we need more liberal professors, who pays for there education? the white man.
Missoulian Civil Dialogue Policy

Civil Dialogue Policy for Commenting on Missoulian.com

We provide this community forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the news of the day. Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. Comments can only be submitted by registered users. By posting comments on our site, you are agreeing to the following terms:

Commentary and photos submitted to the Missoulian (Missoulian.com) may be published or distributed in print, electronically or other forms. Opinions expressed in Missoulian.com's comments reflect the opinions of the author, and are not necessarily the opinions of the Missoulian or its parent company. See the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy for more information.

Our guidelines prohibit the solicitation of products or services, the impersonation of another site user, threatening or harassing postings and the use of vulgar, abusive, obscene or sexually oriented language, defamatory or illegal material. You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability or other classification. It's fine to criticize ideas, but ad hominem attacks on other site users are prohibited. Users who violate those standards may lose their privileges on missoulian.com.

You may not post copyrighted material from another publication. (Link to it instead, using a headline or very brief excerpt.)

No short policy such as this can spell out all possible instances of material or behavior that we might deem to be a violation of our publishing standards, and we reserve the right to remove any material posted to the site.

Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Kate Haake presents the latest news you need to know about today's headlines in about t…

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Martin Kidston presents the latest news you need to know about today's h…

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian digital director Emily Foster presents the latest news you need to know about tod…

Visual note-taking at Asia-Montana Energy Summit

Visual note-taking at Asia-Montana Energy Summit

Watch visual note-taker Alece Birnbach record a 90-minute seminar on global energy in 21 sec…

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Kate Haake presents the latest news you need to know about today's headl…

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian digital director Emily Foster presents the latest news you need to know about tod…

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian digital director Emily Foster presents the latest news you need to know about tod…

Montana from the Air

Montana from the Air

Skyworks filmed over 45 hours of Montana aerial video footage 2012. Using a specially equipp…

loading...

Search our events calendar