Noel Lyn Smith has been selected to participate in a new graduate partnership between Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) and ICT, formerly Indian Country Today. The fellowship will provide support for Noel to complete a Cronkite master’s degree while producing journalism with colleagues at ICT.
Cronkite/ICT fellows can select any of the three Cronkite master’s degrees offered on Arizona State University’s downtown campus: Master of Arts in Investigative Journalism, Master of Arts in Sports Journalism, or Master of Mass Communication.
Smith, a Diné journalist whose maternal clan is Honágháahnii (One-Walks-Around Clan) and parental clan is Hashtł’ishnii (Mud Clan), will pursue a Master of Arts in Investigative Journalism.
During her fellowship, Smith will have the opportunity to work with Indigenous journalists from a variety of experiences and produce stories focusing on the Indigenous world for ICT digital and/or broadcast audiences.
Smith previously worked at the Farmington Daily Times for nine years, covering the Navajo Nation in San Juan County, New Mexico. Prior to that, she was a staff reporter for four years at the Navajo Times in Window Rock, Arizona. Smith also completed the Hearst Fellowship program, spending two years learning from editors and reporters at the Houston Chronicle, Midland Daily News in Michigan and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Smith said she wants to use this fellowship to develop new reporting techniques, as well as learn how to dig deeper and present stories that go beyond daily coverage.
In addition, she believes this fellowship program is also important because it could help increase the presence of Native American journalists in newsrooms, which should lead to more accuracy when telling stories in Native American communities, she said.
“While it is great to see more interest by mainstream media in reporting about Native nations, it is important for Native American journalists to tell these stories. I think the strive for accuracy is greater and the dedication is stronger when the reporter comes from the community,” Smith said. “There is also pride from tribal members in knowing one of their own is telling the story. I think this program will help further careers among the current pool of Native American journalists by providing the tools and the support to strengthen their reporting, in addition to transforming newsrooms by hiring these individuals.”
The Cronkite/ICT fellowship program is open to NAJA members who have a bachelor’s degree in any discipline from a regionally accredited institution. Fellows have to apply and be accepted into a Cronkite School master’s degree program prior to the fall semester and have to commit to working 15 hours per week for ICT.
“We are thrilled to have Noel onboard, learning from our talented newsroom,” said Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, Diné and editor of ICT. “This fellowship in an Indigenous student shows Cronkite’s investment and commitment in Indigenous journalists and training the next generation. Values that align with ICT.”