If you’ve never thought about the parallel between journalism and poetry—meaning distilled to an essence—consider this recent Twitter poem by journalist extraordinaire Mark Trahant: “Most senators don’t give a rat’s ass/skipping NSA briefing with the brass/Too important to hear secret spin/they care about elections to win.”
Trahant’s innovative cross-genre, multimedia talents—Twitter poems, video news blogs—have landed him a plum assignment: Trahant has been named the 20th Atwood Chair of Journalism at the University of Alaska Anchorage for the 2013-14 school year. The prestigious position brings nationally known journalists to teach courses and speak to students, journalists and the public in Alaska. Past chairs include Mike Doogan, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, photojournalist Richard Murphy, and Scott Jensen, a two-time winner of the National Press Photographers Association’s National Ernie Crisp Television News Photographer of the Year award.
Trahant, a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, is an editor, reporter, television correspondent, and columnist—frequently for Indian Country Today Media Network. He has written a number of books, including, recently, The Last Great Battle of the Indian Wars about Sen. Henry M. Jackson, Forrest J. Gerard and Indian tribes’ campaign for self-determination. Trahant has been reporting on Native American issues since the 1970s and is a former president of the Native American Journalists Association. He publishes a daily Twitter news-poem under the handle @newsrimes4lines and he was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting.
His website, Trahant Reports, includes a biography and sections on his books, videos and a business plan, which, he says humorously, “may provide too much transparency.” Trahant also does speaking engagements—he’ll be giving the keynote address at the National Congress of American Indians’ mid-year conference in Reno. The title of his speech? “Flip this House—and end the sequester.”
His curriculum vitae goes on and on: he was a recent fellowship recipient to the Rockefeller Bellagio Center in Italy; editor in residence at the University of Idaho, School of Journalism and Mass Media for the past three years; Kaiser Media Fellowship awardee in 2009 when he wrote about health care reform, focusing on its impact in Indian country; reporter for PBS’ Frontline series, featuring a program titled “The Silence,” a piece about sexual abuse committed by priests in an Alaska Native village; former editor of the editorial page for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, where he chaired the daily editorial board, directed a staff of writers, editors and a cartoonist. He has been chairman and chief executive officer at the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education and a former columnist at The Seattle Times. He has been publisher of the Moscow-Pullman Daily News in Moscow, Idaho; executive news editor of The Salt Lake Tribune; a reporter at the Arizona Republic in Phoenix; and has worked at several tribal newspapers.
Trahant clearly has a passionate love for his work as a writer and is looking forward to the Atwood Chair of Journalism. He will teach Information Gathering and Global Media and Communications Systems this fall and Multimedia Journalism and Enterprise Reporting in the spring, according to the Green and Gold News, the university news site. “This is an exciting time for a young person to begin a career in journalism today,” Trahant told the Green and Gold. “I look forward to working with the students at the University of Alaska Anchorage to help shape that future.”
Trahant will travel to Alaska from his home in Idaho to begin work the second week of August. “I have been fortunate enough to have spent considerable time in Alaska as a reporter, including winter trips. But it will be really great to go through a longer stay where I get to know more of the incredible Great Land. What’s really nice about the Chair is that it provides resources to get around the state,” he told ICTMN.
Being a multimedia journalist who uses every tool he can to tell a story, Trahant said he hopes to show his students the diverse nature of the craft today. “Journalism today means not being a ‘print’ journalist or a ‘TV correspondent’ but using every medium that you can, including the web, apps, everything. It’s also opening up new career paths.”
He hopes to instill in his students the same energy and passion that he has for journalism. “I want young people to know that the gloom and doom of legacy media misses out on the flip side: There is tremendous opportunity out there, especially for people from Indian country,” Trahant said. “It doesn’t take a TV station to be a reporter. It doesn’t take a newspaper. It just takes imagination. My career has been a remarkable ride, and I look forward to sharing a passion for what journalists can do.”
Watch Trahant’s video blog about What Impact Native Americans Had on the 2012 Elections: