NAJA announces 2016 National Native Media Award winners

The Native American Journalists Association will recognize more than 200 members with awards for excellence in covering Indian Country during EIJ16 in New Orleans

NORMAN, Okla. -- The Native American Journalists Association will award more than 200 National Native Media Awards recognizing members’ coverage of Indian Country during the 2016 NAJA Media Awards Banquet on Sept. 20.

The annual competition recognizes excellence in reporting by Native and non-Native journalists across the US and Canada.

2016 NAJA-Medill Milestone Achievement Award

The recipient of the 2016 NAJA-Medill Milestone Achievement Award is Patty Talahongva, who was nominated by the selection committee for her lifetime of service to journalism and many years of dedication to the Native American Journalists Association. She is a lifetime NAJA member and past president.

Talahongva started her journalism career in1978 as a correspondent from her high school for the city newspaper, “The Teen Gazette.” 

In her senior year of high school she joined KOAI-TV in northern Arizona. The first presidential election she covered was the race between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. That led to a lifetime love of covering politics and people. From being the technical director of newscasts to producing live newscasts, Patty has enjoyed her career in broadcast news.

Eventually she turned to radio news serving as a reporter, anchor and executive producer. Along the way she has written long form stories for a variety of magazines. Patty has also produced several documentaries, which have aired on PBS and HBO. Her work can also be seen in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian and the Penn Museum. She’s covered just about every type of hard news story such as the economic crisis, forest fires, earthquakes, floods, and terrorist attacks. She’s also interviewed newsmakers like John Herrington, Richard Simmons, Phil Collins, Notah Begay, Anquan Boldin, Willie Nelson, Hillary Clinton and Wilma Mankiller.   

She is currently a freelance journalist based in Phoenix, Arizona. The $5,000 cash award for the prize is provided in partnership with the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.  

2016 NAJA Richard LaCourse Award

The recipients of the 2016 NAJA Richard LaCourse Award are Antonia Gonzales and Pauly Denetclaw for their coverage of the Gold King Mine waste spill in Colorado for National Native News.

Both Gonzales and NNN producer Pauly Denetclaw traveled to the Shiprock, New Mexico to report on issues involving affected tribal communities days after the spill. Millions of gallons of waste, contaminated by heavy metals and other chemicals, was making its way through the San Juan River, which many Navajo farmers and ranchers rely on for their livelihoods.

Tribal leaders, elders and young people were among those who shared their perspective, as well as US lawmakers and federal government officials. Sources went in depth to discuss the threat to their culture, finances and physical and spiritual wellbeing, which in many instances was lacking from mainstream media coverage. 

2016 NAJA Elias Boudinot Free Press Award 

The recipient of the 2016 NAJA Elias Boudinot Free Press Award is Mvskoke Media, located in Okmulgee, Oklahoma.

The Muscogee (Creek) Nation (MCN) added free press protections for the tribe’s media division, Mvskoke Media, with the passage of a free press act in Oct. 2015, enabling the agency to provide enhanced coverage, without interference from officials. 

Since that time, the independent media agency, which includes the Muscogee Nation News, Native News Today and Muscogee Radio, in addition to a graphic design and print division, has continued to produce outstanding coverage over the course of the last year. Mvskoke Media has filed important stories on tribal housing, health, finance and government, among others since these protections were put in place.

The Oklahoma Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists also recognized Mvskoke Media with a 2016 Carter Bradley First Amendment Award for their achievements in freedom of the press earlier this year.

MCN is the fourth largest Native American tribe in the U.S., and includes more than 79,000 citizens across the globe. It is the third tribe in the state of Oklahoma to enact free press protections, following the Osage Nation’s passage of the Independent Press Act in 2008 and the Cherokee Nation’s Independent Press Amendment in 2009.

2016 National Native Media Awards Banquet set for Sept. 20

There were more than 600 entries across the following categories:

Each year, NAJA honors individuals or organizations with the highest levels of achievement within the field of journalism. All National Native Media Awards will be presented during the 2016 Excellence in Journalism conference in New Orleans during the Native Media Awards Banquet Sept. 20.

Banquet tickets are $80 and may be purchased online at:

All award winners who are unable to attend the banquet to pick up their awards in person may request to have awards shipped to them at cost. For more information, please send an email to Rebecca Landsberry at [email protected] including your name, outlet, address and the number of awards to ship. Please note, if there are any requested edits or changes to the awards as listed, please send them via email with the division, category, outlet, name and corrected information no later than Friday, Sept. 2. 

NAJA thanks all of the 2016 judges, their outlets and organizations for the donation of time and expertise spent on making this year’s awards possible:

  • The University of Omaha Nebraska
  • Society of Professional Journalists
  • Society of Environmental Journalists
  • The University of Montana
  • The University of Idaho
  • Western Kentucky University
  • Texas Christian University
  • The University of Arkansas
  • CATV47
  • KOSU Radio
  • CBS 3 Duluth
  • The Olympian
  • Tapahe Inventive Design