Trahant: Data is in our DNA

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Mark Trahant discusses data’s importance during a presentation on Accountable Journalism within Native Communities at The National Native Media Conference on Thursday. (Benjamin C Yazza)

The National Native Media Conference hosted a panel on Accountability Journalism for Native Communities with a focus on data reporting. Mary Hudetz, past-Native American Journalism Association president and current Associated Press reporter, presented on resources she uses when reporting on tribal lands.

“I hear often that data does not exist for us Natives. Sometimes we’re not worked into the mass scale U.S. population wide data sets. There is a lot of data available to us. It’s just all behind the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act),” Hudetz said.

Hudetz said that she has yet to come across a story or subject on Indian Country that isn’t already reported in the Government Accountability Office or Office of Inspection General. In 2017, she reported on the availability of hospital care for inmates within tribal jails.

“I get that you have to get real tough with your FOIA requests sometime, if you need that data at a certain time,” Hudetz said. “If you have time you should play the long game because now those same people I dealt with in 2017, I’m dealing with now and they are super helpful.”

Mark Trahant, editor of Indian Country Today, showed free methods of data processing. Recommending a complete Google-based system, from throwing data into a Google Sheet to sharing through Google Drive. Even first-hand experience working Google Fusion.

Trahant said data is in our DNA, its history composes a narrative that we can look back on. He presented an image of cave drawings highlighting different periods of history. Only one attendee noticed the outlier which happened to be a reference to small pox.

“The way healthcare is often reported is to report everything compared to right now. They look at the disparity gap and they say there’s this huge disparity with American Indians and it shows up in the data because you look at it right now,” Trahant said.


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