In May of 2020, the Navajo Nation reported one of the highest per-capita COVID-19 infection rates in the United States. But even the dire official numbers didn’t tell the full story. The Native American Journalists Association’s Indigenous Investigative Collective brought together three newsrooms to launch a public records campaign to dig into how a mix of varying access rules and bureaucratic intransigence have made it impossible to get a complete picture of the pandemic, hampering efforts at accountability and relief.
Come hear the story behind the reporting as members of the cross-newsroom Indigenous Investigative Collective share how they used public records to dig into the poor data keeping that hid the impact of COVID-19 on the Navajo Nation. The IIC, a project of the Native American Journalists Association, brought together High Country News, Indian Country Today, and Searchlight New Mexico on the investigation in partnership with MuckRock and with the support of JSK-Big Local News.
Christine Trudeau, a contributing editor at High Country News and managing editor for the project, will moderate as the team talks through the genesis of the project, how they crafted and managed the records requests, and potential story ideas for other newsrooms looking to dig into the full impact of COVID-19 in their communities.
Christine Trudeau, Prairie Band Potawatomi, is a contributing editor for the Indigenous Affairs Desk at High Country News, and the Indigenous Investigative Collective’s Covid-19 project managing editor. Follow on Twitter @trudeaukwe or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She currently serves as Treasurer Executive Board Member on the Native American Journalists Association‘s Board of Directors. A graduate of Institute of American Indian Arts, and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, her work has appeared in NPR, National Native News with Koahnic Broadcasting Corporation, Native Peoples Magazine, and Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting.
Sunnie R. Clahchischiligi is an award-winning Diné investigative journalist for SearchlightNM. Her work has appeared in Rolling Stone, The Guardian, The New York Times, USA Today, The Navajo Times, Sports Illustrated, Arizona Highways, and other publications. She was awarded a Doris O’Donnell Innovations in Investigative Journalism Fellowship from the Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University in 2021. Sunnie is also a PhD candidate and composition instructor at the University of New Mexico. You can find some of her most recent work here.
Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, Diné, is the deputy managing editor for Indian Country Today in Washington, D.C. She is also a board member of the Native American Journalists Association. Jourdan received her master’s degree in magazine, newspaper and online journalism through the Newhouse Minorities Fellowship at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in New York. After graduate school, she taught high school journalism, video production, and theatre in her home state, New Mexico. She’s written for Native Peoples Magazine, Fan First, MediaShift, The Daily Times, NAJA’s Native Voices News, NPR’s NextGen Radio Project, and Syracuse.com/The Post-Standard. While in New Mexico, Jourdan co-founded the Survival of the First Voices, an art and media organization for Native youth. Follow her on Twitter at @jourdanbb.
Joe Hanel is communications director of the Colorado Health Institute, an independent, nonprofit research institute that aims to improve health for all through evidence-based policy analysis. He performs research and analysis on the intersection of politics and policy and the interaction of federal and state health policy. He has worked at CHI since 2014, following a 19-year career in Colorado newspapers. He served nine years as The Durango Herald’s Denver bureau chief, covering the legislature, federal courts, statewide campaigns, and natural resources issues. Before that also worked as a designer and copy editor for the Rocky Mountain News, the Longmont Daily Times-Call and the Greeley Tribune.
Read more about and support the Indigenous Investigative Collective. Art by Jolene Nenibah Yazzie.