What Nick Martin, New HCN Editor-in-Chief to Head Office of Indigenous Affairs, Sees Coming for Magazine Cover – High Country News – Know the West
Nick Martin joins High Country News lead our office of indigenous affairs, which was launched in 2017 to cover the Indian country and center indigenous voices for an indigenous audience. Since then, the office has published hundreds of articles by indigenous journalists, including Tristan Ahtone (Kiowa), who helped establish the office. Ahtone co-wrote HCNThe Land-Grab Universities survey, which has won numerous accolades, including a George Polk Award, and sparked conversations and land-return initiatives on college campuses across the country.
Martin, a member of the Sappony tribe of North Carolina, comes to us from The New Republic, where he covered the Indian country. He also wrote for Deadspin, Splinter, The Washington Post and others. “We were particularly impressed with Nick’s overall vision and his ideas on how to keep HCNS Indigenous affairs coverage is distinct and ahead of what other media do, ”said Jennifer Sahn, editor-in-chief of HCN.
Martin will join HCN in August.
HCN: You’re from North Carolina, with deep family roots there, and much of your career has been on the East Coast and in national stores. What made you want to turn to a publication focused on the West?
Nick Martin: As I progressed in my career and began to engage in political journalism, HCNThe native affairs office in has become a beacon for me and what native affairs journalism could be. It was not for an East Coaster to find a Western publication; he was a native journalist watching and seeing what was possible.
HCN: You have been covering Indigenous issues for The New Republic. How do you see your work evolving as you move HCN?
NM: It depends on the post itself. I’m moving from a role focused on writing to one where I will edit more. I will deal in large part with managerial and editorial strategy. I’m going to flex muscles that I haven’t been able to use as much before. I started in the local newspapers, working much closer to the field. For me, this is going to be a happy medium: not the pace of a daily newspaper, but not the removal of a national publication. The cover at HCN is extremely anchored in the place and the community. It is an exciting opportunity to step into this publishing and leadership role while staying true to what HCN it is about: covering the communities of the West.
HCN: The IA Desk has covered stories outside of what HCN generally defined as the West – Oklahoma, for example – because of their importance and how they can impact the region as a whole. What do you think the Indian country will look like as a coverage area for you and the office?
NM: I think it will be an organic process. Graham (Lee Brewer, former editor and citizen of the Cherokee Nation) is originally from Oklahoma, and it makes sense to see his coverage of the nations in that region. I’ve found that you tend to produce some of your best work when you have a personal angle. For the people on the desk and the people we bring in, Indian Country will be largely defined by their designs. We have the talent on the desk and the flexibility and ability to play with those limits, but stick with HCN.
HCN: You have written about the rural and agricultural environment of your family and of Sappony. How do you think this will influence your approach or coverage to HCN?
NM: Our Aboriginal Affairs office will be defined by the people who sit on it, as will the definition of Indian country. When I first got into political journalism, I focused on communities like the one my family and I come from. The pieces that are most memorable to me relate to topics such as the rights of farm workers in North Carolina and the gap between rural and urban teacher salaries during budget negotiations at the North Carolina General Assembly. These are things that I have taken in that have inspired me in one way or another. I’ve lived in New York for five years now – one extreme to the other – but you are a lot where you grow up.
HCN: What aspirations do you have for the AI Desk and where do you see coverage going in the future?
NM: I wanna stick with what made HCNThe Native Affairs Office has been doing very well so far. I am going to do a lot of listening and immerse myself in institutional knowledge. I’m really excited to see what we can do to build on what Tristan, Graham, Bryan (Pollard, IA Desk Assistant Editor and Citizen Cherokee Nation), Anna (Smith, IA Desk Assistant Editor) and others did. The beauty of Land-Grab Universities is that it lends itself to so many other stories, and we’ll be looking at this coverage. In addition to tackling the past, which we should be doing, we will also look forward to issues that will define the Indian country for the next 10-20 years, such as the recent history of lithium mining and the cost to them. indigenous religions. The federal government and tribal nations are turning away from fossil fuels and mining, but renewables also come at a cost. And that involves the larger subject of how the United States helps or resists the pursuit of tribal sovereignty. We need to stay ahead of the game and try not to get bogged down by constantly trying to swing towards the fences, while continuing to think big in terms of the next “Land-Grab”.
HCN: We recently completed a reader survey, and much of the positive feedback we received was related to our coverage of Indigenous Affairs. In the short time since the office began, Aboriginal Affairs has grown into something our readers greatly appreciate and expect from us. How does it feel to take that back?
NM: It’s a fascinating prospect. As a subscriber, I had access to the magazine’s archives, and have flipped through the past eight years or so. It’s a marked transition when the AI desktop pops up – all over the magazine. The coverage of Aboriginal Affairs flourished in a unique way for a magazine that is 50 years old. I think it was reinvigorated in a way that resonates with a larger audience. Before, HCNThe coverage of Indigenous Affairs was like most other publications, that is, it did not exist in a connected fashion. HCN brings a lot of people into his work with what the AI office does. Accomplishing something like “Land-Grab Universities” sets the bar high – but also reflects how the rest of the industry hasn’t covered these issues well – and now we have promising readers and journalists looking to HCN for its coverage of Indigenous Affairs. But there isn’t an overwhelming sense of pressure. We just have to keep doing what we’re doing.
HCN: Since HCN started its office of native affairs, other publications followed suit or hired editors to cover the Indian country. So in relative terms the field is a bit more crowded now than it was in 2017. How do you see this trend and will it affect how you approach the role?
NM: It is a product of HCNthe cover. This shows the difference it makes when a regional magazine like HCN with his profile and the quality of his journalism decides to create an office of Native Affairs. Other publications have been inspired to dedicate staff or office to Indigenous coverage. Since I joined The New Republic, they have seen the landscape and invested in covering indigenous issues, and part of that is shaped by HCN. This is a good thing. It is a good thing for the native journalists who do not have to sit in the spaces previously arranged for us. The land being more crowded pushes us to work harder. I want to partner with other AI offices, and I want to compete with them as well. I only see the positive.
HCN: Did you see how HCNHas the work of affected broader conversations around Indigenous Affairs coverage? And have you thought about it now that you’ll be leading the IA Desk?
NM: As a subscriber and who has written about the Indian country in recent years in a national publication, I have read things in HCN that I would have liked to do or from angles that I had not thought of. And this happens in part through discussions with colleagues on HCNwork. Even going back to my time at Splinter, I traded HCN back and forth links with editors because the cover is so inspiring. One of the most attractive things HCN that’s how hard he works on partnering with other organizations. I want to tap into the connections we already have and create new ones. I want to work with smaller organizations to get their name out there, and work with bigger organizations to get our name out there.
HCN: One last question. You’re still in New York now, but planning to move west. Any idea where you’ll end up?
NM: I am open to suggestions. The West is our oyster.