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Arizona State University is creating the nation’s first named journalism professorship that will focus on the news coverage and media portrayals of Native Americans.
Christopher Callahan, dean of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, said the new Southwest Borderlands Initiative Professor will explore a significant challenge: the quality and quantity of Native American coverage in the news media.
“News media organizations across the U.S. too often ignore issues impacting Indian Country,” Callahan said. “And much of the news coverage that exists lacks depth, nuance and understanding of Native communities. We believe this new faculty position will shine a light on this important area and improve coverage here in Arizona and across the region and the country.”
Callahan added that he hopes the new professor also will help recruit Native Americans to journalism schools. A 2017 survey by the American Society of News Editors found just 0.36 percent of newsroom employees across the country identify as Native American, even though Native Americans make up nearly 2 percent of the American population and 6 percent of Arizona residents.
The Cronkite School is a nationally recognized leader in news coverage of Native American communities. Cronkite News, the student-produced and faculty-led news division of Arizona PBS, has made coverage of Indian Country an editorial priority.
“We need more and better news about the daily lives of people in tribal communities, and we need more Indigenous journalists," said ASU President's Professor Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy, who is a special advisor to the president on American Indian affairs and interim director of the School of Social Transformation. "This professorship moves the needle on both of these needs in deep and profound ways.”
Harvard University’s Nieman Reports identified Cronkite News as one of the few organizations providing strong reporting on Indian Country. Cronkite News coverage has included issues such as the protection of sacred lands, access to medical care, voting rights, entrepreneurship and access to clean water.
In June, Cronkite News students won eight National Native Media Awards from the Native American Journalists Association across broadcast, writing and online news categories for coverage focusing on issues of importance to Native American communities. The Cronkite School was tied for the most of any school in the nation and represented nearly a third of all NAJA student awards.
The new Southwest Borderlands Initiative Professor also will allow Cronkite News to deepen its ability to produce meaningful coverage of Native American communities in the Southwest and expand impact across the country, Callahan said.
ASU’s Southwest Borderlands Initiative aims to strengthen ASU’s scholarly and instructional resources on the Southwest with emphasis on the region and enhancing institutional recruitment and retention efforts toward building a faculty fully reflective of the Southwest Borderlands' diversity. Other Southwest Borderland Initiative Professors at Cronkite are Rick Rodriguez, former executive editor and senior vice president of The Sacramento Bee; Vanessa Ruiz, an award-winning bilingual correspondent for national and regional TV news outlets in Miami, Los Angeles and Phoenix, and Fernanda Santos, an award-winning author and former southwest correspondent for The New York Times.
ASU is a nationally recognized leader in Indigenous Studies and transdisciplinary work with Native American communities. The new Southwest Borderlands Initiative Professor will collaborate with colleagues in existing programs across the university such as the American Indian Policy Institute, American Indian Studies, the Center for Indian Education, the Indian Legal Program and the Office of American Indian Initiatives.