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Navajo-Hopi Observer editor wins Associated Press, NAU journalism award

By Loretta Yerian

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Katherine Locke has had a busy six years.

On Feb. 13, Locke, associate editor for the Navajo-Hopi Observer, was recognized for her work in the field of journalism and for her dedication and passion in covering Native American stories.

As Northern Arizona University’s honored alumna, Locke was the alumni recipient of the Robert R. Eunson Award held in conjunction with the Associated Press. The ceremony took place at NAU’s Native American Cultural Center in Flagstaff and was attended by family, friends, colleagues, NAU faculty, alumni and students as well as members of the Associated Press.

Annette McGivney, principal lecturer for the NAU Journalism program, introduced Locke and presented the award. McGivney, who was a professor when Locke was a student, said Locke was dedicated and studious as a student, and she took journalism seriously. Locke graduated in 2006 with a degree in journalism and political science.

“I was impressed with her as a student but then to see her after she graduated take a job at the Navajo-Hopi Observer and to kind of follow her over the years has really made me very proud,” McGivney said.

McGivney said Locke, a self-proclaimed media junkie, has become a leader at the Observer and has kept the paper dedicated to its mission of covering Native American communities in northern Arizona.

“She loves the power of local journalism and how local journalism can impact communities and empower communities by knowing the truth — like truth to power with politicians and with federal programs that aren’t functioning” McGivney said. “She’s really brought that to the reservation and to reporting for the Navajo-Hopi Observer and especially to the Navajo and the Hopi reservations.”

Katherine Locke, associate editor, Navajo-Hopi Observer
Katherine Locke, associate editor for the Navajo-Hopi Observer, was recognized by Northern Arizona University and the Associated Press for her role in telling regional Native American stories. (Wendy Howell/WGCN)

Locke stated that her desire is to empower Native American communities to tell their stories. Throughout her career she has been sensitive to Native American cultures and has demonstrated through her work that these communities have the right to have their stories told from their own perspectives.

Loretta Yerian, editor of the Navajo-Hopi Observer, said Locke has shown dedication in sharing the less often shared stories of Native communities and individuals.

“Katy (Katherine) takes the time to explore the reasons why a story is important. When she writes about the culture and Native youth or artists she asks questions that give her work depth and purpose,” Yerian said. “She creates stories that people want to read — stories they can relate to. Often times there’s a call to action to support local businesses or artists or she offers a way for the readers to engage and support something that inspires a change in the community.”

Locke has covered many topics and told many stories for the Observer, these include stories on the Bennett Freeze Area, Navajo Code Talkers, Native perspectives on presidential elections, youth and artist profiles and many others.

The Eunson Awards ceremony is held annually to bring together and honor journalists who excel in their fields. Locke was named Journalist of the Year by Western News & Info for 2014-2015. Keynote speaker at the ceremony was Antonia Gonzales, author and producer of National Native News. Josh Hoffner, southwest news editor for the Associated Press and Felicia Fonseca, northern Arizona correspondent for the Associated Press, gave remarks.

About Robert R. Eunson

The Eunson Award, created in 1979, is named after Robert Eunson. In 1936, Eunson graduated from the Arizona State Teachers College of Flagstaff, now known as NAU. Eunson spent the early part of his journalism career as a war correspondent, covering both the Second World War and the Korean conflict. When he died, in 1975, Eunson was the assistant general manager and vice president for broadcast at the Associated Press.

The honor is awarded to alumni of NAU who, through their mass communication work have proven themselves outstanding in their chosen field.

Reprint courtesy: Williams-Grand Canyon News/Navajo-Hopi Observer