NAJA selects Indigenous Investigative Collective as 2022 Richard LaCourse Award for Investigative Journalism recipients

ICT, High Country News and Searchlight NM to be recognized during 2022 National Native Media Awards Banquet Aug. 27

NORMAN, Oklahoma — The Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) has selected the Indigenous Investigative Collective as the recipient of the 2022 Richard LaCourse Award for Investigative Journalism, which recognizes groundbreaking work by journalists that creatively use digital tools in the role of community watchdog. 

Special consideration is given to journalism that helps a community understand and address important issues. The 2022 NAJA Awards Committee selected the Indigenous Investigative Collective in recognition of the outlets’ joint efforts to investigate and report on the impact of COVID-19 in Indigenous communities.

“In addition to the work done by each journalist and outlet in the project, we also want to showcase how well collaborations work by awarding them all,” NAJA President Francine Compton said. 

The Indigenous Investigative Collective is a project of the Native American Journalists Association in collaboration with High Country News, ICT, National Native News and Searchlight New Mexico. Coverage was produced in partnership with MuckRock with the support of JSK-Big Local News. Other team contributors include: Tristan Ahtone (Kiowa), editor; Kate Schimel, freelance writer / editor; Aleta Burchyski, copyeditor; and Jolene Nenibah Yazzie (Diné), illustrator. 

Indigenous Investigative Collective – Editorial Staff

  • Jourdan Bennett-Begaye (Diné), ICT 
  • Sunnie Clahchischiligi (Diné), Searchlight New Mexico
  • Christine Trudeau (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation), High Country News

Jourdan Bennett-Begaye
Jourdan Bennett-Begaye is the editor of ICT. She is the first woman to be the chief news executive and top editor of the 40-year-old newspaper and website. She is Diné and based in Washington, D.C. She’s also a NAJA board member. 

Since her hire with ICT in 2018, Jourdan has reported stories on health, education, public health, 2020 Census, policy, politics, entertainment, and more. Jourdan created Indian Country’s COVID-19 database in 2020, the first database to track COVID-19 cases, deaths, and vaccines. Johns Hopkins and ICT partnered up on this database to make it more comprehensive and to share with the world. 

Jourdan received her master’s degree in magazine, newspaper and online journalism through the Newhouse Minorities Fellowship at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in New York. She is an alumna of NAJA’s Native American Journalism Fellowship and the American Indian Journalism Institute.

Sunnie R. Clahchischiligi
Sunnie R. Clahchischiligi is a Diné multi-award winning journalist from Teec Nos Pos, Arizona. She previously served as an investigative reporter for SearchlightNM. Sunnie served as the sportswriter for the Navajo Times and reported for the New York Times, The Guardian, Arizona Highways magazine, Rolling Stone, and others.

She helped the SearchlightNM team that received the Society of Professional Journalists 2020 Sigma Delta Chi Award for COVID-19 Reporting Excellence in Journalism for their “Hitting Home Series.”

She is a 2021 Doris O’Donnell Innovations in Investigative Journalism Fellow and was named the 2022 North American Indigenous Athletics Hall of Fame Sportswriter. Sunnie is also a PhD candidate in Rhetoric and Writing in the Department of English Language and Literature at the University of New Mexico and a Russell J. and Dorothy S. Bilinski Fellow.

Christine Trudeau
Christine Trudeau (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is an investigative reporter and editor who currently manages the Indigenous Investigative Collective (IIC) Covering Covid-19 in Indian Country project. Trudeau is on the Native American Journalists Association’s Board of Directors, and is an inaugural Muckrock Transparency Corps cohort fellow, focusing on skill building in collaborative investigative public records projects, audience engagement and data analysis.

Trudeau’s work can be read in High Country News and heard on National Native News and NPR. Recently, she was a Contributing Editor for HCN, managing their Catena grant-funded coverage of natural resources on their Indigenous Affairs Desk. 

The Indigenous Investigative Collective will be recognized during the 2022 National Native Media Awards Banquet Aug. 27 as part of the 2022 National Native Media Conference Aug. 25-27 at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Phoenix.

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