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Indian Country Today Goes Mobile: How The Once-Ailing News Outlet Bounced Back

iPhone with the Indian Country Today app open.
Chelsea Naughton / KUER
Indian Country Today has put an emphasis on mobile consumption — and revived itself after nearly shutting down — in the past several months.";s:

As The Salt Lake Tribune and other regional papers have cut staff, a news outlet for indigenous Americans has been resurrected with a former local journalist at the helm.

The news site Indian Country Today has bounced back after briefly suspending publication last fall. In May, it was relaunched, delivering news primarily through cell phones, other mobile devices and online.


“I really want this to be seen as an innovative journalism enterprise aside from being a Native one,” said Mark Trahant, Indian Country Today’s new editor and a member of the Shoshone-Bannock tribes.


Mark Trahant stands in front of an Indian Country Today banner.
Credit Courtsey Mark Trahant
Mark Trahant was hired to revive the news outlet after it nearly closed down last fall.

The longtime journalist, blogger and former executive news editor at the Tribune was hired earlier this year, when the National Congress of American Indians, a Washington, D.C-based educational nonprofit, took over the ailing news organization.


During a gathering of the Native American community in Washington, D.C. in May, Trahant declared: “We’re back. Thank you.”


Now Indian Country Today is designed for mobile devicesbecause they’re ubiquitous, even in the most remote corners of reservations. And, Trahant said, millennials check their phones 150 times a day on average.


“The cell phone is first,” Trahant said. “That allows us to do things a little differently.”


Screenshot of the Indian Country Today mobile app.
Credit Screenshot / Indian Country Today News Maven App
Indian Country Today's app on News Maven puts an emphasis on conversations around the stories.

Accessed through the Maven app, the Indian Country Today page offers tabs for “stories” and “conversations.” Stories zero in on issues that might be overlooked in mainstream media, like how separations of Native American children from their parents used to be U.S. policy.

That story sparked dozens of comments and thousands of shares during the height of the national firestorm about family separations at the southern border.

Ken Doctor, a national media analyst who writes about the industry at Newsonomics, called the smartphone focus “a smart move.”


Doctor said most digital news reading takes place on cell phones. And he added that few news organizations have done a good job of harnessing the full power of smartphones — especially their power to facilitate active dialogue within communities.


“It provides a direct communications link between publishers and journalists on the one hand, and the readers on the other,” he said.


Freelance media consultant Sahar Khadjenoury, a Navajo, said she’s looking forward to watching Indian Country Today bring together members of all 573 federally recognized Native American tribes.


“It’s here, it’s now, it’s moving — progressing with technology,” Khadjenoury, who splits time between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City, said. “We can be traditional, but we can also utilize technology to our benefit.”


July 24, 2018 - The number of federally recognized tribes has been corrected to reflect the most current update.


Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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