Alastair Bitsóí joins Tribune’s southern Utah reporting team

As a Diné, Bitsóí brings Indigenous perspective to the newsroom, expands coverage beyond the Wasatch Front

Alastair Lee Bitsóí.

The most-read story on sltrib.com in June was a piece about side canyons that have emerged in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area as Lake Powell recedes. Stunning images from longtime staffer Rick Egan paired beautifully with Brian Maffly’s rich reporting.

Last month, we also sent reporters and photographers to Washington County and to Moab to cover the rising cost of housing.

I hope you noticed my choice of words — we “sent reporters and photographers.” Most of us work in the Salt Lake Valley. I am grateful for Salt Lake Tribune journalists with the expertise and willingness to engage on issues people care about and that they’re open to a bit of travel.

Many of our journalists have built deep, lasting relationships that stretch across the state. And every day, I see members of the newsroom push to be better in our coverage of — and in service to — communities in every corner of Utah.

But even at our best, there’s something different about a reporter who is authentically connected to his or her community, as a stakeholder and also a journalist. It’s a trait we share with readers: We care deeply about where we live. And we should.

As The Tribune enters its second year as a nonprofit news organization, we’re finding our organizational footing. We’re here today because of your support. The nonprofit model gives us the wherewithal to focus where we previously haven’t had the resources to do so.

We’ve added a handful of new and diverse journalists in recent months, and the plan is to continue to ramp up as the year goes on.

I’m writing now to introduce you to Alastair Bitsóí, who will team up with Zak Podmore to report from southern Utah. Zak’s on the east side of the state, and Alastair will be located on the rapidly growing west side. Their reporting will anchor statewide efforts that extend to every corner of our newsroom.

When he joins the team later this month, Alastair will cover water availability, the cost of housing, business trends, access to health care and breaking news as it rises.

Alastair will also report on how we use our open lands, including the many gems in the southern part of our state, and our Indigenous tribes.

He received his master’s in public health from New York University’s School of Global Public Health, and his most recent experience has centered on COVID-19 prevention efforts for the Navajo Nation.

He previously worked as reporter for the Navajo Times.

As a Diné (Navajo) who has also worked as an advocate to expand Bears Ears National Monument on behalf of Utah’s five Indigenous tribes, he is invested in how we ensure the viability of our lands for future generations.

During the interview process, we talked about how he plans to approach building trust as he returns to journalism after advocating for Bears Ears.

Alastair brings a deep and personal historical perspective, understanding of his and his family’s native land, relationships and views that the majority of Utahns do not have and that The Tribune previously could not offer. He can tell stories that need to be told in a way that few people can.

The Tribune for years has focused principally on the Salt Lake Valley, and we’re thrilled we have an opportunity to invest in context-rich reporting from another part of the state, with the deep sourcing and relationships Alastair brings.

We understand we must listen first, as we have been absent from certain southern Utah communities for some time. That we must deeply understand and responsibly report.

This could mean covering how alfalfa farmers and cattle ranchers are making do with less water. It could be reporting on how our state and national parks are navigating the pressures of record tourism, or how conservative leaders are finding ways to successfully manage growth in cities and towns throughout southern Utah.

We are on our own trust-building journey with communities and readers who rightfully feel that we’ve been overly focused on Salt Lake City itself. Together, we’ll uncover and seek to understand the stories that matter most — in every part of Utah.

If you’ve got story suggestions or would like to connect with him, Alastair can be reached at abitsoi@sltrib.com.

I’m eager for all of us to benefit from Alastair’s reporting. Which is possible because of you. Thanks, as always, for your support.