Native Voice

The Native American Journalists Association has developed a highly successful student training program that is in its 20th year and has become a cornerstone in the organization’s commitment to raising the next generation of storytellers. 

Native Voices for college students now stands alone as this country’s single most important career pipeline created specifically for aspiring Native American journalists. Each year, the program pairs students with professional journalists who often continue to provide academic and professional advice long after the program week ends.

NAJA’s student program is scheduled each year during the week of NAJA's annual conference. This year, the NAJA conference will take place at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Santa Clara, Calif., from July 10-13.

Students will work on stories under the guidance of mentors who are professional journalists. Stories produced by students during the conference will be published by NAJA in a printed newspaper and on our website. Students also gain hands-on experience in producing radio and television newscasts.

The Native American Journalism Fellowship

In 2014, NAJA is pleased to introduce a one-year pilot program for selected Native Voices participants who desire additional journalism training and mentoring. It’s called the Native American Journalism Fellowship and it is a partnership between NAJA and the Newseum Institute. This innovative opportunity involves multimedia training, webinars and ongoing mentoring, plus guidance in applying for existing internship opportunities in tribal and mainstream media.

Ten participants will be selected for Native Voices and notified by May 15. Of those 10 participants, anyone who indicated an interest in being considered for the pilot project will automatically be accepted into the NAJ Fellows program.

Also new this year is a two-day training course in the nuts and bolts of journalism, held immediately before the conference. The pre-conference training gives students the basic tools they need to excel in reporting on the week’s activities at the conference. The printing of the newspaper is a highlight of the program because it represents the progress made within the course of a week and gives students an immense sense of achievement. A reception held in the students’ honor also is a major event because it celebrates the students and gives them the opportunity to network with recruiters from universities and news organizations.

NAJA’s leadership takes pride in our students’ work, believing it holds a connection to the long-held storytelling traditions found within our Native cultures. Our programs have helped aspiring journalists land jobs in the industry. Some former students have gone on to become journalism educators themselves.

College students interested in learning more about writing, photography, videography, design, radio and online media are encouraged to apply for our programs. Students serious about pursuing careers in journalism are also encouraged to apply for scholarships awarded annually by NAJA by June 2.


The students will work in a newsroom-style setting at the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara (5101 Great America Parkway). 

Journalists from tribal and mainstream media will mentor the students and work closely with them to provide guidance and editorial direction.

This year’s Native Voices site also lies in the heart of Silicon Valley, a leading hub for high-tech innovation and development. It’s also near some of the nation’s most prestigious journalism schools, such as Stanford University and the University of California, Berkley. The San Francisco Bay area is home to nearly 50,000 Native Americans, according to the most recent census figures. Student reporters will primarily cover the Native American community in the Bay area for the student newspaper and videos that will be presented at the Friday, July 11, student reception.


"My decision to become a journalist can be attributed to life-changing experiences I had at UNITY and NAJA conferences. Having NAJA's support has taught me that as one journalist, you can make a big difference in the world." -- Ramona Marozas, KBJR 6 | Northland's CW

Students will gain a deep sense of accomplishment and understanding of what it takes to be a successful journalist after a week of meeting deadlines and new challenges. Together, they produce a newspaper and television news and radio packages.

College students will complete at least two stories, with at least one of the stories produced in two or more mediums, whether it be text and video, photography and audio, or any other combination of approaches to storytel

All students will learn how to use new equipment, and learn about news topic and issues as they interview sources and develop storytelling skills. Stories students and editors choose for publication will be reported throughout the Phoenix Valley, under the guidance of their professional journalists who will mentor them and work as editors guiding stories. Most stories will focus on the local Native American and journalism communities.ling.

College students will meet with their mentors at least three times in advance of the gathering via phone and/or Skype to begin brainstorming story ideas and determine logistics for reporting projects so students can hit the ground running on Day One in Santa Clara. 

When students have identified stories and pitched them, the mentors will help vet the ideas and work with the students on how to best begin reporting. Students will arrive on the afternoon of Sunday, July 6, for orientation and introductions. First thing Monday morning, they will begin their intensive, nuts and bolts training. Within the next few days, students will follow their best leads, gather information, and deliver stories in a newsroom environment. Students will go out on assignment each day. 

Throughout the week, guest speakers and select visitors attending the NAJA national conference also will deliver brief presentations and take part in question-and-answer sessions with the students. On Friday, their last full-day in Santa Clara, students will be recognized at an evening reception held in their honor to showcase completed news stories and give students -- especially those preparing to soon enter the field -- an opportunity to network with professionals and recruiters attending the conference.

Students depart for home on the afternoon of Saturday, July 12.


Meet some of NAJA's former Native Voices students:

Dalton Walker is the web editor and social media manager for The Gazette in Colorado Springs, Colo. He also serves on the NAJA board of directors as chair of the membership committee.

He is a former digital reporter at the Argus Leader in Sioux Falls, S.D. He reported for NAJA's Native Voices newspaper in 2005, which was produced at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. Working on the newspaper gave Dalton an early look at the school where he would later earn his journalism degree. He says the NAJA program helped him understand what can be accomplished when a strong organizational structure is in place, and introduced him to an important mentor -- Lincoln Journal Star reporter Kevin Abourezk. Dalton credits Kevin's mentoring with providing key support during his academic career. 

Tetona Dunlap is a features reporter at the Times-News in Twin Falls, Idaho. Tetona also currently serves on the NAJA board of directors as secretary.
A member of NAJA since high school, she has been the recipient of several NAJA scholarships and she took part in the Native Voices program during UNITY 2004, when she was a student photographer at the convention in Washington, D.C. Later, Tetona served as a NAJA mentor during the 2008 UNITY conference in Chicago and 2009 Native Voices program in Albuquerque, N.M. She has worked at The Associated Press in Seattle, The Washington Post and the Oklahoman in Oklahoma City. She worked at the Kansas City Star for three years as a photojournalist/videographer before attending the University of Montana School of Journalism where she received her masters degree in journalism in 2011.

Jason Begay is the director of Native American journalism projects at the University of Montana School of Journalism. He graduated from the school in 2002, with the help of NAJA scholarships and the opportunity to grow as a reporter through the Native Voices program. He has worked at The New York Times, The Oregonian and the Navajo Times, where he spent six years before accepting his current position.

Past program: 2013 Native Voice News