Translate page with Google

Story Publication logo January 19, 2021

How One Paper Is Covering COVID-19 in the Most Under-Connected Part of the U.S.

The Navajo Times. Photography by Jason Greene and Sakya Lucky Calsoyas.

A newsroom providing essential information in a remote area plays a critical role during the...

The Navajo Times. Photography by Jason Greene and Sakya Lucky Calsoyas.
The Navajo Times. Photography by Jason Greene and Sakya Lucky Calsoyas.

This documentary was produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center.

The Navajo Nation, which sprawls across close to 18 million acres, has been hit hard by the pandemic. Watch as we follow the work of local journalists covering the crisis.


[radio sounds]

[kettle whistling]

[car engine hum]

[crickets chirping]

[radio announcer speaking]

This is Duane Beyal with the Navajo Times,

and here's today's report for Tuesday, September 8th.

In last night's Coronavirus update,

health officials reported one new case

for a total of 9,901 on the Navajo Nation as of Monday.

The Navajo Nation's 2020 census office will partner

with the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise to cohost

three community enrollment events at casino locations.

[Tommy Arviso, Jr.] We were blessed with a gift

to be a storyteller, but you have to use it the right way.

You have to be humble,

you have to be sincere about what you're doing,

and then you have to be respectful

to people that you tell the stories to

and tell the stories of.

So you have to be careful

with the gift that you've been given.

[Donovan Quintero] The rest of the world's telling

their truths,

you know, on behalf of their people,

their communities, their cities, their countries.

I feel proud that I'm able to do that for my home.

For the Navajo Nation, for [Navajo language].

[Navajo language], meaning I'm from here.

[Navajo language] I was born here.

This is where I grew up.

[Duane Beyal] [inaudible]

That is today's report.

Thank you for listening and have a great day, everyone.

[radio announcer] KYAT.

An update on the census and what they're doing

with the casinos, have converted to census locations...

Last week, a group called Indigican

did a report on hemp. So I'm gonna write about that.

So, I'm working on the ultra marathon story,

just writing it out, should be done with it soon.

So we need to kind of produce a little bit more

than what we're used to, and hopefully

we can get through this week with no problem.

What the Navajo Times means,

it means the Navajo People. The Navajo Times

means the Navajo People.

We never forget that.

[machine running]

We are a voice for the people that need to be heard,

and should be heard, that want to be heard.

We share the happy times and the sad times.

We're part of letting people know

of what's going on in their lives.

What's happening at school and their business

and their communities.

[soothing music]

The Navajo Nation is so huge

and our readership is throughout the whole four corners

and then some.

[Donovan Quintero] Just travel alone

maybe up to eighteen hours

to be able to do one assignment. But for me,

I have to get out there

and try to cover as much ground as I can.

My grandmother used to say, you know, um,

speak the truth.

Not a police officer, not EMS, anything like that,

but I am a journalist and we do contribute to society,

hopefully in positive ways, impactful ways.

How's COVID-19 been affecting you?

[Woman] Nowhere to go, nobody to help you,

no family there for us, you know.

[Second Woman] I mean, we're just over here on the street

just trying to help out each other,

and you know, just talk...

[Tommy Arviso, Jr.] We were hit hard.

The numbers took off right away.

People got sick. A lot of people were dying.

We said well, we've gotta do our part.

We've gotta let people know. Our journalism,

it did come down to being like a matter of life and death.

People were scared,

cause I wanted to know what was being done.

I see the numbers every day, and I report on it.

But seeing those numbers and knowing those are my relatives,

and knowing that my mom, she knows everybody.

She'll say a name and I'm like,

are you kidding me? I know that person.

I just saw that person.

And they're just one of those numbers now

of the death toll that I'm reporting on.

It's something that's vital for the community to know.

They get this information only from the paper.

[soft music]

[Donovan Quintero] There are people who need water,

they need wood. They don't have transportation.

They don't have access to the cell phone.

They don't have access to the internet.

They have the Navajo Times.

[Duane Beyal] When you look at the Navajo Nation

and some of the conditions that exist out there,

a lot of people when they first see that

they say, you mean this is going on today,

in the United States of America?

[Donovan Quintero] I've been trying to talk

to a lot of people out there because

I want to try to get a message out to the leaders, yeah.

Getting more dangerous out here.

Had to lose my family, everything.

I'm a human being, you know. I have feelings, uh, yeah.

They really are suffering. They don't have electricity,

they don't have food, but they're happy.

And that's just... yeah that just inspires me,

you know, um... I grew up like that.

I was a wartime veteran. I explored the world.

I had a lot of fun out there, I've seen

a lot of horrible things too. But eventually

I started missing a lot of things about home.

Being able to look through a viewfinder

is sort of like a protection, it's a barrier.

It gives me a chance to look at the world

from the safe angle. It's a journey, and that's

where my medicine is.

I've had as many as six reporters, we're down now

to like four. They are true warriors for the people

by staying close to their jobs, by doing their jobs,

by performing to the best of their ability.

We have a duty to fulfill. A duty to the Navajo People.

As long as we have that duty, we'll continue

to come to work and perform that duty.

And one way to do that is to be informed,

to understand that, okay, these are the issues,

these are what Congress is talking about.

They're [Navajo language]. They're Navajo,

and they deserve to be told the truth.

[Tommy Arviso, Jr.] The past couple of years

was when the newspaper industry

has been going down a lot. Always looking

for young Navajos to train and to learn how to work

for the people's newspaper. Only problem is

they're hard to find. They're really hard to find.

[Arlyssa Becenti] So I have Tufa Works.

He opened his own art gallery during a pandemic.

With DOJ from Washington, Charles Gilbreath

I think his name is. He's going to be in this week.

Yeah and then, also, I just want to let

everyone know that I, um... will be leaving.

And I got a job at The Texas Observer,

so I'll be moving to Austin in January.

[Arlyssa Becenti] Our newsroom is transitioning like,

you know, Monday one of the reporters said she's leaving.

This is a Navajo Nation necessity.

Our paper is a necessity and I think

people don't really recognize it until it's gone.

So we could be looking for two new people,

which is...

Fine. If that's what we got to do, we'll do it.

A lot of people don't understand

what it takes to publish this newspaper.

The paper takes a life of its own.

You've got your own sweat and you've got your own emotions,

you've got your tears, you've got your laughter.

All those emotions. Human elements

go into putting this newspaper together.

I wanted to write something and I'm still working

on it for like having to do with some

of the things that have happened over the last few weeks

in regards to the violence that's taking place

and then kind of put a local spin on it.

Cause there's stuff that's been happening

that people aren't really aware of.

You know, I mean, you know all these things

where people are getting shot

and killed by police and stuff.

Well it happens here all the time. It happens

and people don't know, you know, there's things

going on with the police department,

there's things going on with, you know, social services

and people just disappear and die.

Nobody knows where they are.

It got to me this afternoon, so...

It's been on my mind, so...

Need to get out of here.

So I'll see you guys tomorrow, okay?

[soft music]

A big part of our philosophy here at the Navajo Times

is that we incorporate

a lot of our own traditional teachings, our customs,

our language into our journalism.

[Arlyssa Becenti] Navajo politicians, have they

come to you? Being here is home and I could never imagine

writing for any other people besides my people.

They have so much knowledge, they have so much

things that I can learn from

and they're willing to teach me.

[Tommy Arviso, Jr.] Just like they need their groceries

or their lard and stuff for their fry bread.

They gotta have the Navajo Times

so they can have their news.

We're that much a part of life.

That looks good. Good stories.

As long as I'm still capable of doing things

I'm gonna get out there and try to help any way I can.

They need a voice.

I don't want my name to be remembered

but I want the stories I've told to be remembered.

[soothing music]

COVID-19 Update: The connection between local and global issues–the Pulitzer Center's long standing mantra–has, sadly, never been more evident. We are uniquely positioned to serve the journalists, news media organizations, schools, and universities we partner with by continuing to advance our core mission: enabling great journalism and education about underreported and systemic issues that resonate now–and continue to have relevance in times ahead. We believe that this is a moment for decisive action. Learn more about the steps we are taking.


navy halftone illustration of a covid virus



navy halftone illustration of a female doctor with her arms crossed


Health Inequities

Health Inequities
teal halftone illustration of a young indigenous person


Indigenous Rights

Indigenous Rights
navy halftone illustration of a group of pharmaceutical pills


Outbreaks and Epidemics

Outbreaks and Epidemics

Support our work

Your support ensures great journalism and education on underreported and systemic global issues