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OHIO junior wins $10,000 scholarship, completes Today Show internship through Native American Journalists Association

Before Ohio University student Caitlin Hunt (Lumbee) heard of the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA), she was always looking for and researching Indigenous representation in the media.

She’s found that and more in NAJA and has had incredible experiential learning opportunities because of it.

The national organization has afforded Hunt a plethora of opportunities, including becoming the first NAJA Fellow at Ohio University; being a NAJA intern for the Today Show; being selected as one of five students in the United States to be awarded a $10,000 NAJA Facebook Scholarship; and, most recently, having a multimedia piece air nationally by First Nations Experience, a national network based out of San Bernadino, California.

“I've always been proud to be Native American and I have always loved journalism, so I'm so glad that there's a professional organization that combines both of my passions,” said Hunt, a junior studying journalism. “… I love that there is a community working to provide more opportunities for Indigenous journalists and working to give more visibility to the Indigenous community.”

The Native American Journalism Fellowship Class of 2019 with mentors. (Caitlin Hunt second from the bottom on the right)
The Native American Journalism Fellowship Class of 2019 with mentors. (Caitlin Hunt second from the bottom on the right)

In April, NAJA selected 11 Indigenous student journalists from across the country for the Native American Journalism Fellowship Class of 2019.

Ohio University professor and NAJA member Dr. Victoria LaPoe (Cherokee) encouraged Hunt, her advisee, to apply for the fellowship because Hunt is a “go-getter, professional and had a lot of effective journalism skills.”

As a part of the fellowship, Hunt participated in webinars and attended the 2019 National Native Media Conference in Minnesota from Sept. 15-19, where she worked in a newsroom with a mentor.

“This year's conference was with Native American Nutrition, so we tried to cover stories pertaining to both Indigenous nutrition and Indigenous media,” Hunt explained. “This included writing stories about panels at the conference or finding Indigenous related stories in the Minneapolis community. The stories were all done under the supervision of our mentors, who are all experts in their fields. This fellowship solidified that journalism is exactly what I want to do and allowed me to bond with other Indigenous youth, which I hadn't been able to do before.”

Dr. LaPoe, who wasn’t able to attend the conference, said she is very proud of Hunt. The OHIO professor said she received messages about how hard Hunt was working, what a great job she was doing and how she was soaking up advice from her mentors.

“She just had a piece aired nationally (this past weekend) by First Nations Experience, a national network based out of San Bernadino,” Dr. LaPoe added. “This was a piece she produced at the conference. It is also now running in the front monitor of the j-school here.”

For the multimedia project, Hunt interviewed Missy Whiteman, an Indigenous artist who helped create a mural on Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis. Under the direction of her mentor Frank Blanquet, who works at First Nations Experience, Hunt cut the video, selected sound bites and utilized other journalism skills to create the package.

“To be the first NAJA fellow from Ohio University has been an incredible honor,” Hunt said. “I hope to continue to represent both the (University) and NAJA in a positive light and encourage others to apply.”

The Today Show Summer Interns with Natalie Morales, Jenna Bush Hager, and Forward _Space on National Intern Day.
The Today Show Summer Interns with Natalie Morales, Jenna Bush Hager, and Forward_Space on National Intern Day.

Through the NAJA Fellowship, Hunt was also given access to, and won, a $10,000 Facebook Journalism Project Scholarship. She was one of five recipients of the scholarship, which was awarded to student Native American journalists to help fund educational expenses, such as school materials, internships, conference attendance and more.

In addition to these opportunities, this past summer from June through August, Hunt served as a NAJA-NBC Today Show intern, where she worked with 10 other interns. Each week they rotated between various production duties, three control rooms, the green room, the plaza and the office.

Doing this, Hunt explained, allowed the interns to get an idea of what goes into producing a historic, national morning news show.

“I was able to work alongside producers and saw the story-building process unfold,” Hunt noted. “I was proud to meet and work with Ugonna Okpalaoka, a Today Show producer and fellow OHIO Bobcat. My background is primarily print journalism, so this was my first experience in broadcast, and it really opened my eyes to how fantastic this type of journalism is.”

Hunt said all of these opportunities have been incredible and she’s extremely grateful to NAJA for the connections and support; to Dr. LaPoe for supporting and advocating for her; and to the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism for helping her grow as a journalist.

“Ohio University has some incredible educators who teach challenging, helpful classes,” Hunt pointed out. “Specifically, with the E.W. Scripps School, the curriculum allows students to master foundational journalism skills, which have proven to be extremely helpful outside of class. The school also has such an array of classes that enable me to explore all of my interests.”

Dr. LaPoe believes it’s very important for NAJA to be everywhere — including Ohio University.

“I think the more authentic voices we get out in and about Indian Country the better,” Dr. LaPoe said. “The Native press is strong and it is essential with a great j-school and college that our students are aware of multiple presses and their reporting strength.”

October 1, 2019
Alaina Bartel

About the Native American Journalists Association

The Native American Journalists Association empowers more than 500 members representing tribal, nonprofit, freelance and mainstream media professionals in promoting accurate coverage of Indian Country, supporting newsroom diversity and defending challenges to free press, speech and expression.

NAJA addresses these challenges by fostering the development of new talent and mobilizing a powerful membership network towards critical and relevant issues facing Indian Country. To read stories published by NAJA, visit

About the Fellowship

NAJA’s annual student training program has become a cornerstone in the organization’s commitment to raising the next generation of storytellers.

The Native American Journalism Fellowship for college students now stands alone as this country’s single most important career pipeline created specifically for aspiring Native American journalists.

The fellowship pairs students with professional journalists who provide personalized academic and professional mentorship to each student. Students and mentors also gain hands-on training during the week-long newsroom immersion experience in coordination with NAJA’s annual national conference.