Special to The Transcript
VERMILLION, S.D. -- With an eye toward the future and the goals in its new strategic plan, the Native American Journalists Association has accepted an invitation to move to the University of Oklahoma.
NAJA will be housed in the 61,000-square foot Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication, which opened in June 2004 and already is undergoing an expansion. The NAJA board of directors saw that as a critical resource.
The association's strategic plan calls for adding staff members to expand and develop educational programs, increase professional development and raise additional funds, among other initiatives. The plan also calls for greater interaction with tribes and Native media, and Oklahoma has both in abundance.
"Moving an organization such as NAJA ahead presents many challenges," said NAJA President Mike Kellogg, a Navajo and publisher of the Stillwater NewsPress. "After debating the proposals, the University of Oklahoma was a good fit for the strategic plan. OU has a doctoral program, which will allow us to benefit from the expertise of their faculty and team with researchers to study journalism issues."
Joe Foote, dean of the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication, said the journalism school and OU are proud to provide a new home for NAJA.
"President David Boren has made Native issues a priority within the University, and the Gaylord College has launched a variety of journalism education and outreach initiatives that complement NAJA's mission well," Foote said. "I know that Oklahoma's 39 recognized tribes will share our enthusiasm in welcoming NAJA to the state during Oklahoma's centennial year. We appreciate the importance of NAJA's role in journalism and journalism education and are committed to supporting this outstanding organization in any way we can."
In addition to capacity-building and organizational strength, NAJA's strategic plan also calls for recruitment and retention of Native Americans into journalism. The interest, however, is already rising. NAJA currently has 657 members, an all time high for the 23-year-old organization. Nearly half of the organization is made up of students.
Since 2002, NAJA has been on the campus of the University of South Dakota, and in 2003 moved into the Al Neuharth Media Center, sharing space with the Freedom Forum. NAJA members have supported and participated in the Freedom Forum's programs, such as the annual Native American Journalism Career Conference in Custer, S.D., and the American Indian Journalism Institute to help recruit more Native Americans into the profession.
"Deciding whether to move was a tough action to take," Kellogg said. "The Freedom Forum has been a wonderful partner for bringing more Native journalists in the industry. The Freedom Forum also took action to ensure NAJA's stability. We will be forever grateful for what they did for NAJA, and we will continue to work together to increase the number of Native journalists."