Times selects permanent editor, sports editor

By Bill Donovan
Special to the Times

WINDOW ROCK, November 8, 2012

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T om Arviso, publisher for the Navajo Times, announced Tuesday two major appointments to the tribal newspaper.

Candace Begody has been named editor of the paper and Quentin Jodie has been named the paper's sports editor. Both have been acting in those two positions for the past three months.

Begody, who was raised in the Kinlichee-Cross Canyon, Ariz. areas of the reservation, is the first woman to hold the editor's position in the newspaper's 51-year history. She is a 2005 graduate of Ganado High and a 2010 graduate of the University of Arizona where she majored in journalism and American Indian studies.

Jodie, who has been with the paper for more than two years as a sports writer, has been a valuable asset to the paper because of his wide range of knowledge about all of the sports that are played by reservation teams.

"We are vey happy with his work," said Arviso.

He worked for several years as a sportswriter for the Gallup Independent but since coming to the Times, he has been instrumental in seeing that the Times provides a good cross section of the area's sporting world.

As for Begody, she was one of three persons who had applied for the editor position and Arviso said the three were interviewed by a team he set up which included, besides himself, a former copy editor for the paper, the paper's human resources director and a member of the paper's board of directors.

Begody was the unanimous choice of all four, Arviso said, adding that her background as an intern in several newspapers and her training in multi-media made her the best candidate.

Begody is taking over the reins of the paper at a key point in the paper's history.

As newspaper organizations, both big and small, are feeling the effects of a national economic downturn coupled by younger readers abandoning the printed versions of the paper for on-line editions, Begody has been given the challenge of bringing the Navajo Times into the 21st century.

The good news, said Arviso, is that the Times has not been affected by these problems as much as many other papers.

"The ethnic newspapers have not been affected that much," he said. "Hispanic papers are doing well as are Asian American papers."

The Navajo Times has seen its circulation dip slightly over the last couple of years.

"We were as high as 25,000 (a week)," he said adding that the latest circulation figures showed that one issue recently had a print run of 24,000 copies and 23,300 were sold.

The paper has started an on-line edition but Arviso said that is slowly getting paid customers.

As for advertising, Arviso said that advertising lineage went down when the economic downturn hit three years ago but the paper has rebounded and the sales are now looking a lot better.

However, he said he will be looking at Begody to make changes in how the paper approaches the news to keep up with modern trends.

Begody, who began working for the paper as a summer intern and as a freelancer when she was in college, said she realized that the paper will have to change and said that her college education included use of everything from videos to slideshows, so online readers will eventually see the paper doing more of these kinds of things to provide readers with a more in-depth look at the issues facing the Navajo Nation.

And while a lot of discussions are going on about the online edition, Arviso stressed that this doesn't mean that the paper is abandoning its print edition as some big-city papers have done in the past couple of years.

"We will continue to have a print edition," he said pointing out that a majority of the paper's readers, especially those that live on the reservation, don't have the access to the Internet or are not as comfortable getting their news in that way.

One of the things that gave Begody a boost up over the other candidates for the position is that she has worked as an intern in a number of off-reservation papers such as the Detroit News, the Tucson Citizen and the Missoulian in Missoula, Montana.

During those months, she said she was given a chance to cover all kinds of beats, even covering crime in Detroit as the city was seeing the affects of GM cutting back on employment.

She said it provided her with a wide range of experience in covering all types of stories.

"I received a really good education working at these papers," she said, adding that editors would sit down with her and go over her stories with her, showing how she could improve her writing or how she could approach her story in a way to make it more interesting to the readers.

That's something she said she found lacking when she was working at the Navajo Times and she said she planned to spend time with new reporters at the paper to make sure that they too could reach their full potential and become better writers.

Another area that both Arviso and Begody said the Times needed to improve was covering of Navajo communities.

Almost from year one, the paper has come under severe criticism from community leaders throughout the Navajo Reservation that it concentrates too much on Window Rock and covering the Navajo government as opposed to going out into the chapters and communities and reporting on what is going on out there.

Begody said she agrees that the paper has to start looking more at what's going on at the chapter level and she said she will be sending reporters out more to the hinterlands as well as working with the various freelancers the paper has in places like Page and Pinon to see that the paper gets more news from the smaller communities.

She said the paper also has correspondents in places like Phoenix and Albuquerque and the paper will be doing more in the future in writing about issues affecting urban Navajos.

In connection with that, Arviso said he has received a lot of requests from Navajos living in places like Phoenix and Albuquerque for more places where the paper can be purchased. Navajos living in places like Salt Lake City, Denver and Tucson also want to have the ability to buy the printed edition of the paper.

"What we need to do is find sales outlets in those places," Arviso said.

As the paper continues to grow, both Arviso and Begody said time will have to be spent in hiring more Navajo reporters to cover the news, especially Navajos who can speak the language.

"We are always on the outlook for Navajo-speaking reporters but they are hard to find," Arviso said.

And when they are found, they are even harder to keep because some of the Navajo reporters who have been hired in the past decade or two have stayed with the paper only for a couple of years before moving on to higher-paying positions at either other papers, with the tribe or in the private sector.

Navajos who can speak the language and can write well are in demand by a lot of government agencies and businesses, Arviso said.

To attract Navajos, Begody said she would like to work more with area colleges and universities, urging Navajos to consider journalism as a livelihood and also to consider working for the Times, either as an intern while they are completing their studies or permanently when they get their degrees.

The paper is currently seeking writers to cover reservation news and sports, said Arviso. "If anyone knows of someone who has the ability and wants to be a reporter, have them come see us."

One thing that has changed over the years is the way readers view the paper, Arviso said.

For most of the paper's early history, the Times, like every other tribal newspaper, suffered because of the belief that the news printed in the paper was censored by the tribal government and, as a result, some readers questioned its fairness.

"We haven't heard that criticism for a long time," said Arviso.

The 70s and 80s were turbulent times within the paper and its staff as they attempted to present news that was fair and without censorship. This resulted in a number of cases where current staff at the paper, including Arviso, came under fire and even were threatened to be fired because of stories they had written.

But that all died down in the 1990s as the paper separated from the tribe and became an enterprise with its own board of directors. The shareholders of the paper, however, continue to be represented by members of the tribal council and Arviso come under criticism at times, especially during tribal elections, for stories in the paper that some viewed as being unfair or biased against one faction or the tribal government in general.

Arviso said he expects this kind of criticism, adding that he feels the paper is doing a good job in being fair because often both sides of an issue will say that the paper is favoring the other side.

In the last couple of years, some members of the council have been talking to Arviso about going one step further and privatizing the paper, removing it totally out from under the tribe.

As some point in the paper's future, Arviso said, this could happen with the paper issuing stock that would be owned by the Navajo people much like the Green Bay Packers are owned by ordinary people who buy the football team's stock.

Navajos who own the stock in the paper wouldn't expect to see a lot of return on their investment from the stock but they could take pride in being a part of the paper, Arviso said.

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