Starting Jan. 26, Montana Free Press, based in Helena, will share a reporter with ICT, formerly Indian Country Today, in a partnership designed to increase coverage of the Montana Legislature’s American Indian Caucus.
MTFP and ICT have hired JoVonne Wagner, Blackfeet, for the inaugural shared legislative fellowship between the news organizations.
Wagner, who is from Browning, graduated from the University of Montana School of Journalism in December. Previously, she has worked for Buffalo’s Fire, a nonprofit news organization based on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in western North Dakota.
Wagner will primarily cover the Montana Legislature’s American Indian Caucus for both Montana Free Press and ICT. The news outlets will work together to provide Wagner with mentorship and training to guide and develop her coverage of the beat.
The partnership between MTFP and ICT will expand the reach of both news outlets with improved coverage of lawmakers who represent a significant population in the state. There are 12 tribes living on, and off, seven reservations in Montana. At 6.6%, Native Americans are the largest minority population in Montana. The Montana Legislature has 11 Native American members, making up 7.3% of the lawmaking body.
“Montana’s Legislature has the highest Indigenous representation among all state Legislatures and paves the paths for policies that other states follow, such as Indian Education For All,” said ICT Editor Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, Diné. “With that in mind, I’m thrilled to be partnering with Montana Free Press and to have JoVonne be part of it.”
“We’re excited about the opportunity to collaborate with ICT,” said MTFP Editor Brad Tyer. “I think our team of five reporters covering the statehouse has a lot to offer an up-and-coming political reporter, JoVonne brings a wealth of experience and insight to the table, and the Legislature’s American Indian Caucus is a critical coverage beat our readers are eager to be better informed about. We’re looking forward to welcoming JoVonne to the newsroom.”
The collaborative fellowship is funded by the Headwaters Foundation, which works side-by-side with Western Montanans to improve the health of Montana’s communities.
Brenda Solorzano, chief executive officer of the Headwaters Foundation, said, “As part of our commitment to equity and collaboration, Headwaters Foundation is proud to support community partnerships that increase Native representation and coverage of the policy decisions affecting the health and sovereignty of Native Montanans.”
ICT, formerly Indian Country Today, is owned by IndiJ Public Media, an independent nonprofit, multimedia news organization with headquarters in Phoenix, Arizona, and bureaus in Alaska and Washington, D.C. ICT covers the Indigenous world, including American Indians and Alaska Natives through a digital news site and a weekday newscast with international viewership. IndiJ Public Media is a 501(c)(3) public charity that sustains itself with funding from members, donors, foundations, and supporters worldwide.
ABOUT MONTANA FREE PRESS
Montana Free Press is an independent, 501(c)(3) nonprofit source for Montana news, information, and analysis based in Helena, Montana. MTFP’s mission is to produce in-depth public-service journalism that creates positive change and helps move society toward justice and equity. We work independently and in collaboration with other news outlets to produce meaningful news stories that have an impact on the lives and livelihoods of local communities.
A ballot initiative seeking to allow landowners to hunt elk, deer and black bears on their property hit a setback when the Environmental Quality Council voted not to support the measure.
The Montana Library Commission received more than 400 comments opposing a proposal to eliminate a longstanding educational standard for large library directors. Even so, the commission voted 5-2 to approve the change.
Since a homeless shelter was cleared out in November just outside of the Helena city limits, new camps made up of tents and tarps have popped up within the city parks, on sidewalks and in alleyways, sparking community concerns about public safety while also highlighting the growing unsheltered crisis.