One thing about writing in the Trump era … there is no shortage of ideas.
I am fascinated by latest reports about Robert Weaver and his qualifications spurred by a story in the Wall Street Journal. An HHS spokeswoman told the Journal that “any suggestion Mr. Weaver is unqualified to run IHS is a pure act of character assassination.” (Another version here and here.)
But what are the qualifications to run a massive health care delivery system; a $6 billion plus agency that represents a huge chunk of Indian Country’s economy?
I am also interested in the new oil and gas leasing rules & I wonder if that will be an issue in Tara Sweeney’s nomination to be the Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs at Interior.
Every so often I like to post an update about the mechanics of Trahant Reports. I write often that transparency is a value in the digital world — and so that must include my work.
Trahant Reports, of course, is an unusual business. I give away my words for free. Every column posted on my blog is free for the taking by other media. It’s also found on my blog, Apple News, and across social media platforms. Once in a while people pay me anyway — thank you — and others, occasionally, commission pieces directly. But the bulk of my reporting is free use. My goal is to keep it that way.
How does that work? I try to make it up with paid speeches. I had planned last year on turning some of my work into a book that I could sell. In fact I sort of reserved the summer months for just that. Then the Republicans set out to repeal the Affordable Care Act and I was compelled to write everything I could on the topic. (I produced some 85,000 words on Indian health, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act.)
But I also wrote less in 2017 than I did in 2016. Last year I posted 109 pieces. The year before that it was 157. Why so few? I didn’t get lazy. It’s just 2016 was an election year. I am thinking that 2018 will require a lot more posts. (Speaking of that I am working now on my database of Native American candidates for Congress, state offices, and state legislatures. I should have a new graphic and post soon.) Please help: If you know of a candidate, drop me a note. Here is the #NativeVote18 list that I am updating.
Trahant Reports is also a broadcast and podcast. Every Monday morning I post a 3-minute commentary for Native Voice One. This year I did a little fundraising for this project — shout outs to First Peoples Worldwide, Norm DeWeaver, Shawn White Wolf and Gerald Sherman. This year I also produced three half hour special reports, one on climate change, another on health care, and a preview of the 2018 election cycle. There will be more audio in my future. And, ideally, I would like this part of my operation to be self-sufficient (even though all of the content remains free for tribal radio stations, other nonprofit users, and listeners.)
As many of you know, I also write daily news rhymes on Twitter … @NewsRimes4lines. I have been doing that since the Seattle P-I days. I took a break while I was out of the country, but I’ll start it up again next week. It’s not really a part of my business. But I like the discipline of writing something first thing in the morning. And it’s fun.
There are two big changes ahead for me next year.
The first one is after May I will no longer be an academic. I still want to find a ways to work with young people but for me it’s hard to do that in a university setting. I don’t want to worry about grades or lesson plans. Instead I’ll focus on news, our history, trends, and what we can learn. I am not sure how this will work as a practical matter … but after May my “free” operation will have to be self-sustaining.
Then that leads to the second big change. I will be working with FNX on a new TV magazine show. We’re naming it Wassaja — as a tribute to so many of the great journalists from previous eras. We have been working hard on the first few shows and hope to debut the 60-minute production this spring. As they say on TV … stay tuned.
Congress is back today and one of two things will happen: It will either do its work or all hell will break loose.
Crazy thing is Hurricanes Harvey and Irma could help Congress stay on task. The federal reaction will be costly and money will need to be appropriated. On top of that, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says Congress should tie Harvey funding to an increase in the debt limit. Conservatives don’t like that idea at all. But are there enough Republicans (along with Democrats) to make it happen anyway.
The Associated Press reports Rep. Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma, saying, “People need to know there’s some stability here. We’re not going to have to worry about defaults, we’re not going to have to worry about government shutdowns, these guys are all grown-up, they’re adults, and that ought to be the aim.”
Indeed. That ought to be the aim.
I will be posting later this week as events unfold.
Meanwhile, I am speaking Wednesday in Bismarck at the Tribal Leaders Summit sponsored by United Tribes Technical College. I will talk about the federal government, media history, Standing Rock, and Indian Country Today’s hiatus.
Later in the week I’ll be at the Native American Journalists Association and Excellence in Journalism conference where I will be exploring journalism and the health care debate.
A little more than a year ago I was teaching a class and was showing students how to build a map. I blogged about it: “What kind of map? Well, it would be cool to show where every American Indian or Alaska Native is running for office. At the federal level, Senate and House, at the state level, legislatures, and important offices, such as city councils or state superintendent of public instruction.”
A few days later I was using the hashtag #NativeVote16 and trying to cover the election in a way that had not been done before. Except, I should point out, I was impressed by the spreadsheets and regular political postings from Canada’s Indigenous Politics Blog. It reported a record 11 First Nation, Metis and Inuit candidates elected to parliament. I wrote about that, too, in a piece, Five Lessons for Indian Country from the Canadian Elections. And a few days before our national election, one point from that essay still rings true:
Turnout is key. Again, as pointed out often, if Aboriginal voters had voted in previous elections there would not have been a Conservative government. Not voting is a powerful statement. It’s the same in the United States. American Indian and Alaska Natives are pretty good voters during presidential election years; then we disappear. That’s backwards. We’d have far more pull in a low turnout, off-cycle national election. Of course if we have fifty-something candidates running for Congress, that could change for the better.
And not voting remains the most powerful statement.
A year later, a couple hundred thousand words later, I am struck by how much more there is to say. This election story is about Indian Country’s remarkable talent: People who look at what can be done. And then set out to do it.
Across the country there are more candidates, I think, than ever before. But what’s really interesting is the way that many chose to run, talking about Native American issues as a part of a discourse that every American should know.
There remains so much more to do, though. There needs to be a database of every Native American candidate, from school boards to county commissions, to legislatures, and, of course, Congress. It’s important because it’s not just names on a list, but a way to measure our success in the body politic. When we do that we maker it easier to discuss and engage in better policy options for tribal governments, or for Native people who are living on reservations, villages, and in urban areas.
We need to do more because Native American candidates don’t have the same access to public discourse. Last week I traveled across North Dakota with Chase Iron Eyes, Marlo Hunte-Beaubrun, and Ruth Buffalo. I asked questions in public forums. But the thing is, this should be the ordinary. This should have been happening all along by media other than me. This is how citizens get to know their leaders. Native politicans need to be included in the routine. It’s historic that three Native Americans are running for statewide office. It ought to be a big deal. It’s what we used to call, “news.”
Then the media is no longer even trying to reflect the country and its diversity. And that more than technological disruption is why media represents a failed enterprise. The country is changing rapidly. There is a new demographic reality that will require inclusion.
Native American voters are part of a growing coalition that will win the future (no matter what happens Tuesday.) My headline was: The Road to the White House is Red, Brown, Black and Young. I still think that way, but I should have added gender to the equation. All week I have been saying watch the numbers 53 and 56. Four years ago 53 percent of all ballots cast were by females. So far in early voting states that report gender, the number is 56. If that percentage holds nationwide, this will not be a close election.
Another lesson I learned this year is about the power of graphics. People today consume (and share) information in new ways. This really hit me after the Iowa caucus. I took a screen shot of a precinct from the Meskwaki Nation. It went viral. I lost count, but the views were more than a hundred thousand. So from that point on I have tried to make graphics a key part of my storytelling.
Some experiments did not work. I built an app (it’s still here) but it has virtually no audience. A new experiment, however, Apple News already has a significant audience. If you have an iPhone, check out Trahant Reports.
Of course it’s social media that makes Trahant Reports possible. I don’t have a news organization as a home. But I have found a distribution method that works for me. I post something and it travels via social media and is shared by others. Or it’s posted by other media, often as their own. Either way: I write. But I don’t control the distribution. It’s up to others. But there is a growing audience and that makes me wonder if there is a way to build a new kind of news organization, one that’s focused on policy discussions, data, and discourse.
Enough introspection. I have other stories I need to post this weekend.
I have been trying to think about how can I get the word out, inform Indian Country about the policy choices ahead, and, hopefully, celebrate the record number of Native Americans who got elected.
Live from the world headquarters of Trahant Reports … (I know, it’s cool, so I just wanted to write it) I will be posting election updates on my web site, via Apple News, on Facebook and Twitter. I will also use Facebook live a few times for breaking news.
First task. The #NativeElect16 spread sheet, including graphics.
I’ll post a spreadsheet that I can update through the night as votes come in. I’ll try to keep track of what’s going on across the country and post results as they occur.
Basically I plan to keep track of the congressional candidates and then other offices as I have time. I’ll write fast.
I am planning written posts, at least three, and will have them ready late Tuesday or early Wednesday morning.
This whole enterprise would have been impossible without social media — and that’s true for both getting the word and learning new things.My office will be set up with multiple feeds, TV channels and monitors. I’ll have a screen set up just to monitor Facebook, and another screen just for Twitter.
Let me know if there is a race or special information that you’re interested in finding out about. I’ll do my best. — Mark
I am still working off my idea list posted on Thursday with the addition of a couple of policy stories regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline. I especially want to write about water policy next.
The others on my list are more directly election related.
But first. I want to update my charts & graphics now that the primary season is over. We have a fantastic pool of candidates who will be on the November ballot. I’ll map them. I am playing around with ideas now to make the congressional data more interesting now that there are only five candidates. The sense I get after going through my spreadsheets: There is a lot of talent in Indian Country. That’s a story that needs to be told.
Thanks for reading. And especially passing along posts via social media. My blog has had extraordinary traffic this week, I’ll look through the numbers and report. — Mark
ps. I have a cool #NativeVote16 project planned for October … details soon.
Update. Since Arizona’s primary is Tuesday I’ll post two more#NativeVote16 candidate graphics today. I want to make sure to give people time to share & retweet.
Crazy travel schedule ahead. Off to Standing Rock today, then headed to Frazer, Montana, for the first congressional debate on Monday. Denise Juneau, Rep. Ryan Zinke, and Mike Fellows will explore issues on the Fort Peck Reservation.
I have been searching archival material to see if there has been another congressional debate in Indian Country * as in ever * but have not found one. So this very well might be the first. At any rate, it’s historic.
Good morning. A busy week ahead (but first I am stepping away from my political writing for a couple of days to fundraise for Trahant Reports and work on an overdue paying freelance gig.
Trahant Reports posted a flurry of stories over the weekend, so there is plenty of material if you need to spend more time reading.
One lesson from last week: Readers really love graphics.
I keep telling myself that the readership of a graphic is ten or fifty times more than a written report. Last week three graphics I posted pretty much broke readership records across social media. It’s a great form of storytelling and I will work on more of then.
I am happy to report that we have a sponsor for the audio version that’s distributed via Native Voice One (NV1) The weekly commentary is free for radio stations, podcasts, web pages.
Our underwriter is Kauffman & Associates, Inc. I am sorry to say I won’t be in Spokane, but if you’re at NCAI, and a fan of Trahant Reports, please thank them.
One event that KAI is promoting is important. From KAI’s Facebook page: “There will be a special event on Wednesday that we hope you can attend. The Lucy Covington Center at Eastern Washington University (EWU) will hold a reception for tribal leaders at the National Congress of American Indians mid-year conference, at the Spokane Convention Center, Room 303A/B, at 6:30PM – 8PM, Wednesday, June 29th.”
Remember all of the content produced for Trahant Reports and #NativeVote16 is free use. So share, post, reuse, publish, or even print. I now consider this election to be the Year of the Native Candidate because of the quantity and quality of candidates across the country.
After looking at this week’s campaign finance reports, it’s clear that there are now just seven active Native American candidates for Congress. (Two people I have been following in Arizona have not filed campaign documents or financial reports.)
I will have a new post on Sunday about money, but wanted to post an update about the number of candidates.
Here is my spreadsheet, via Google’s Fusion Tables. The interactive spreadsheet has three functions, a spreadsheet, a tab for individual cards for each candidate, and a map showing the location of each race.