NAJA to host board candidates forum, online vote to elect 2020 candidates

The Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) will hold an online election Aug. 26 through Sept. 10 to determine incoming board members. There are three vacancies for 3-year terms, and candidates will be available to answer questions from the membership during a virtual candidates forum at 6 pm CT on Aug. 25.

The NAJA board of directors is made up NAJA members in good standing who volunteer their time and talents to strengthen journalism in Indian Country.

Fundraising is a major function of the volunteer board, which supports membership needs and the pipeline of Native talent into media careers, including the Native American Journalism Fellowship and next generation of storytellers.

Elected board members are required to attend monthly meetings as well as regularly scheduled committee meetings. Meeting times are determined by the board. If an elected member misses more than three meetings due to unexcused absences, they may be removed from the board.

Online Voting

Current NAJA members will receive a message to their email inbox with a unique link to the online ballot. Members may only cast one vote per person. All votes will be verified by the NAJA board of directors election committee to ensure there are no duplicates.

Candidates Forum

A virtual candidate “meet and greet” will be held at 6 pm CT on Aug. 25. Candidates will be introduced by NAJA election committee chair Christine Trudeau, and each candidate will have the opportunity to present their board service priorities and answer questions submitted by the membership. The candidates forum will held via Zoom, and members are encouraged to join:

NAJA board candidates forum

August 25, 2020

6 PM Central Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting:

Meeting ID: 881 2507 7203

Passcode: forum


The 2020 slate of NAJA board candidates are:


Kevin Abourezk (Candidate did not send bio, resume or platform by deadline)


Graham Lee Brewer (Cherokee Nation)Brewer-sq

Graham Lee Brewer is an associate editor on the Indigenous affairs desk at High Country News and a regular contributor to NPR and the New York Times.

“Over the last three years, most of my energy as a board member has been focused on helping NAJA respond to problematic coverage by working with and training editors and journalists at publication both large and small. A big part of this has been reinforcing the necessity to hire Indigenous people.


“If elected for another term, I’d like to focus more of my efforts on providing training for our members and building partnerships to increase the number of working Native journalists. Part of the strategic plan we outlined is to increase our presence in newsrooms nationwide from less than one half of one percent to 2%. I think not only is this achievable, it’s vital. I first became involved in NAJA as a student, attending conferences and participating in the student projects. Those experiences changed my life, providing invaluable mentoring, training and relationships. Helping a new generation of Native storytellers reshape the coverage at many of the outlets we as an organization work with is an important goal of mine. And now, at a time when the media industry is attempting to come to terms with its lack of inclusion, there are many avenues to pursue. I plan to do my best to continue to uphold NAJA’s high editorial standard when it comes to coverage of our communities, and I want our members to be leading those conversations.”


Jourdan Bennett-Begaye (Diné)Begaye-sq

Jourdan is the deputy managing editor for Indian Country Today in Washington, D.C.  She 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 Post-Standard. While in New Mexico, Jourdan co-founded the Survival of the First Voices, an art and media organization for Native youth.


“The Native American Journalists Association has been the greatest support network in my journalism career and provided me with opportunities as a young journalist, such as the American Indian Journalism Institute and the Native American Journalism Fellowship. One of the tasks I hope to achieve during my time on the board is to create similar opportunities to students, high school to college. When I was a high-school teacher, I constantly told my students how many Indigenous journalists there are in the world, and that we need more. Sparking the interest of young minds can happen in a variety of ways, such as talks with high schools in their English, journalism or video production classes, a one-week training in different Native communities, trips to different newsrooms or studio sets, and weeks-long programs where students can work with journalists. From my experience, high school students are not sure what journalists do until you show them the multimedia tools to report a story. With college students, I can assist in creating relationships with journalism programs to recruit students and promote our services. 

“Of course, the training never stops once you’re a working journalist. I hope to bring a variety of training to the members. The different workshops we can bring are investigative journalism (because refresher courses always help), how-to training like FOIA requests, data journalism and visual workshops, new tools journalists are using as well as social media hacks because it’s always evolving. NAJA can provide these workshops for a small fee and/or make connections with other journalism entities to provide such training. Other ways to get this training could be mini regional conferences in different parts of the country so journalists can network and attend such workshops. 

“The last idea pertains to what I’ve learned as a young journalist who became part of the leadership team in the last two years. I’ve been in various leadership positions but nothing like this before. I’ve had few editors in my life so I’m using what I have now to figure out what type of leader and editor I want to be. I think having leadership, management and editing trainings would be great workshops to have so many Native journalists can be better leaders. If we want more Native journalists in decision-making positions in newsrooms (tribal, intertribal or mainstream), we also need to provide guidance and show how Native journalists how to manage people and how to be effective leaders. 

“Since we are in a pandemic, the fundraising ideas are all virtual. Some ways the organization can raise money are to do TED Talk style events, virtual walk or runs, online community bingos (these are big!), donation drives, documentary movie nights with the director and/or writer, virtual paint or craft night, educational clinics in non-Native newsrooms, and selling merch.”


Pauly Denetclaw (Diné)Denetclaw-sq

Pauly is a citizen of the Navajo Nation and from Manuelito, N.M. She is Haltsooi (Meadow People) born for Kinyaa’áanii (Towering House People). Denetclaw is currently a staff reporter for the Navajo Times in Window Rock, Arizona where she has worked for the last three years. Denetclaw is an award-winning reporter who has received awards from the Arizona Newspaper Association and the Native American Journalist Association. She has been a member of NAJA since 2014 when she was selected as a Native American Journalism Fellow. Later becoming a lifetime member of the organization. She has also been a Knight-CUNYJ Journalism Fellow in New York City, Emerging Fellow for the Journalism and Women Symposium and Indian Country Today Tribal Media Fellow in Washington D.C. Her radio work has been aired on National Native News, NPR’s Latino USA and Texas Public Radio. Denetclaw started off as a cub reporter for the Navajo Times in 2012 and has been a reporter ever since. Follow her on Twitter, @pdineclah. 


“I have been a member of NAJA since 2014 when I was selected as a Native American Journalism Fellow. I came into this organization as a young Diné woman trying to find my place in a journalism world I knew wasn’t made for me to succeed. Yet, here were mentors and journalists who believed in me. This was invaluable to me as a young reporter and inspired me to keep going.

“Now, I feel like it is my turn to give back to the organization and membership who helped me get to where I am today. As a board member for NAJA, I would like to use my time to begin organizing more webinars and roundtables for our membership. I think continuing to provide the NAJA membership with information on how to report on the LGTBQ2S+ and other underrepresented communities would be invaluable. In general sharing information on storytelling and reporting would be great to build out for the membership.

“I also spent four years at a nonprofit media organization and the knowledge I gained there would be an asset to the NAJA Board. I have learned how to create a fundraising campaign, engage with funders and strategize for fundraising opportunities as well as writing for grants. I would definitely utilize these skills as a board member. Additionally, I would be happy to learn about more innovative ways to fundraise and report back to the organization.

“As a young reporter who went through the Native American Fellows program, I would be happy to work on the program. I have worked to help train young journalists of color and even organized a small conference through the organization I was previously employed by. This brought me new insights on how to teach reporting skills that I could help build into the fellows program. I can also help to recruit young Indigenous journalists to apply for the program.

“These are the ideas I have for my time on the board. However, I am open to whatever the membership or the board needs. I am very flexible and willing to do the work that is needed to continue to grow this organization.”

Election Guidelines

The terms of the election are determined by the Native American Journalists Association bylaws, and can be found under Article VII, and the Board Guidelines Manual found on

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