"NAJA’s been pretty important to me in my career"
J-school assistant professor Jason Begay can’t help feeling excited and a bit nervous as the news sinks in that the Native American Journalists Association elected him this past weekend to serve as its president.
“It’s pretty scary,” Begay says.
NAJA launched in 1984 to address challenges faced by American Indian journalists and to foster educational and professional opportunities for indigenous members of the media. Begay, who’s a Navajo from Gallup N.M., says he’s nervous about taking over the organization because he knows first hand how important it is.
“NAJA’s been pretty important to me in my career,” he says.
Prior to graduating from the University of Montana School of Journalism in 2002, Begay received NAJA scholarships and mentoring from organization members. Such support helped pave the way for a series of professional successes, including a New York Times internship and reporting jobs for The Oregonian and The Navajo Times.
In 2010, Begay signed on as J-school faculty. He now serves as the school’s Native American Journalism Projects director and co-teaches UM’s award-winning Native News Honors Project. He also oversees Reznet, a Native American news, information and entertainment website.
Begay says among his first tasks while at NAJA’s helm will be to devise strategies for continuing to grow upon the organization’s recent successes. Under outgoing NAJA President Mary Hudetz’s leadership (Hudetz also studied at the J-school), NAJA membership is thriving. Notably, Begay says the organization’s annual National Native Media Conference in Washington D.C., when he was selected NAJA president, drew more attendees than it has in roughly a decade.
“How do you keep that going?” Begay asks.
Also during this year's NAJA conference, the organization granted former UM J-school professor Denny McAuliffe the 2015 Medill-Native American Journalists Association Milestone Achievement Award in recognition of his ongoing commitment to mentoring and teaching American Indian journalists.
Posted July 14, 2015