“That first show, I had hair and I look like I been stung by 80 bees because I’m swole up so bad, but I was excited.”—Mvskoke Vision Host Jason Salsman
Long time television host announces departure
OKMULGEE, Oklahoma — If you are Creek, odds are you have heard the name Mvskoke Vision or Native News Today.
Hardcore day-one followers/fans may even remember it’s original moniker, Muscogee Nation News Monthly.
A name the creator and host, Jason Salsman, now finds visibly humorous.
“I know, it’s an awful name but that’s what it was when we started,” Jason laughingly remembered.
It has been over 13 years since the first episode aired on Cox Communications Public Access, and along with the name many things have changed over the years, but the one constant has been Jason… until April, that is.
Jason recently announced he would be accepting a marketing position with the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Tourism and Recreation department and stepping down as content producer and host of the long running show at the end of March.
“I just felt it was time to do something different. I would hate to die and say, ‘I never took a chance or did anything different. I stayed comfortable.’ To me, that would be the saddest thing ever,” he said.
The Early, Early Years
Jason grew up in the city of Eufaula. And like most people over a certain age, he grew up watching a screen that didn’t fit into his pocket or have a keyboard attached and his programming choices were limited to just a few channels.
It was in these early years and his time spent in front of the television that Jason said he began to recognize the different styles of broadcasting, which he credits for laying the foundation for his own style later in life.
“I’d been watching [television] from such a young age that, without realizing it, I began formulating my own style of broadcasting just from listening to people,” Jason said.
It was in his sophomore year of high school that Jason finally got the opportunity to showcase his hidden talent.
At the suggestion of a teacher, Jason approached a local sportscaster and offered his help with any future broadcasts. He was immediately invited to the next basketball game, which marked his first step into the media profession.
“I was a sophomore in high school and I got a chance to do basketball games on the radio with a guy that was the lead DJ in the town. I didn’t play basketball so that was a sport that I could broadcast, and that’s where the bug got me,” Jason said.
That experience extended into summer when he was assigned to the same radio station as a part of the MCN Summer Youth Program.
Jason acknowledged the profound effect that summer job played on the direction of his life.
“That summer I spent the whole time running the board and doing commercials for companies and I was like 16 years old.” He continued, “I began thinking, ‘Maybe, I can really do this as a career.’”
If his youth was the beginning of Jason ‘the broadcaster’, then his time at the University of Oklahoma’s Gaylord School of Journalism could easily be considered the beginning of the television show.
As part of OU’s broadcasting program, Jason was introduced to the many facets of video and television production.
Despite getting proficient, even excelling in various roles of production Jason said he found himself constantly being recruited by other students as ‘on-air talent’ for their projects.
“I became the go-to guy for a lot of people,” he said.
It was in his final days at OU, during a lecture over the media industry, that Jason identified a disparity and need which would eventually lead him to his Nation.
“We were talking about minorities in media and how Native Americans made up less than one percent in mainstream media,” he remembered.
That statistic, it turns out, was the seed that would eventually blossom into Muscogee Nation News Monthly and later evolve into Mvskoke Vision.
“I was really hit by that statistic. I remember thinking, ‘Indian people don’t get to see themselves at all when they watch TV.’” He continued, “There’s got to be some type of outlet for these people to see their stories, their kinfolk, people like themselves on TV and be like, ‘That is our show.’”
IN THE BEGINNING
Fresh out of college, with a degree and no real plan to speak of, Jason charged forward into the workforce fully expectant to change the landscape of the media industry.
He began seeking employment with larger, more established media outlets but none felt quite right to him.
“I interviewed at Channel 6, but I just didn’t want to do that… It wasn’t me… It didn’t feel like there was any soul in it at all. It was just the rat getting the pellet,” Jason recalled.
After months of applications and interviews, he eventually found his way to the MCN Communications department (currently Mvskoke Media) as a Communications Specialist.
Upon starting his new position with the Nation as a writer, Jason made a request for a piece of equipment that would change the direction and future of MCN Communications: a video camera.
“I began going out to events filming and getting interviews and you could tell it was new to everyone,” Jason remembered.
He described the early days of the show as exhausting and, oftentimes, discouraging.
“Those early days were tough. We would package the stories, take them up to Cox [Communication] and they were charging us a lot to use their studio,” he said.
Despite the many hurdles, the very first episode of Muscogee Nation News Monthly aired in early 2006.
“That first show, I had hair and I look like I been stung by 80 bees because I’m swole up so bad, but I was excited,” Jason quipped.
Unfortunately, all the pieces did not magically come together with the first show “in the can.”
Jason said the apprehension of tribal members, lack of support from the “official Nation” and production costs made him regularly question his vision.
He said he found encouragement through random people that would stop him in public just to voice their appreciation for the show.
It was these sporadic encounters he said kept him pressing forward.
The expense and inconvenience of using an outside studio led to the fledgling show doing more remote tapings in and around the Okmulgee area.
“I thought, ‘We could just shoot it here, in fact we can shoot at different parts of the Nation to highlight the different things going on,’” Jason remembered.
Another game changer happened with the purchase of a new piece of equipment: a Tricaster, which provided the means for a “digital set” allowing for the show to be totally produced in-house.
Growing in popularity the show began receiving requests to move the broadcast to a larger more visible outlet, which led to the show’s migration to the CW station and it’s renaming to Native News Today.
“[The show] got real grassroots, that’s how we went from Cox Cable to being on the CW.” He continued, “People went from asking, ‘What’s that Indian Show?’ to ‘That’s OUR show.’”
Jason is the first to admit the early episodes are not polished, award-winning programs, but their significance and import is not lost on him.
“[People] were still seeing something they couldn’t see on any other channel, like someone making ball sticks or making wild onions… things that were specifically Creek and Indian,” he said.
Jason described his decision to accept the position at TR as bittersweet.
“It is hard to leave, but I see it as equally exciting because I see opportunity for [coworkers] to step into roles that they were meant to have and explore their creativity. And now, I get to be on the other side and I get to be a fan,” he said.
Throughout the past 13 years, Jason has amassed a number of awards and accolades for his many accomplishments with the show. Recognition, Jason said is lost on him due to the exhaustive workload that is inherent in television production.
“Someone might say, ‘Congratulations on the 600th episode,’ and all I am thinking in my head is, ‘We got to do 601 on Monday.’” Jason said.
Regardless of the workload and stress that came with producing the television show, Jason said he never lost sight of who he was actually working for: the citizens.
“I just want to say, ‘Thank you,’ to all the fans. This show survived and thrived because of them. And I carried each one of them in my heart each week and it was like, ‘This is for y’all,” Jason said with a shake in his voice.
A NEW START
Despite the many worrisome ‘what-if’ questions that come in the wake of any major life change, Jason said he has chosen not to entertain those thoughts of unease.
Instead he is optimistically charging forward in true ‘Sals’ fashion, excited about the next chapter of his life.
“When those thoughts come, you just got to be confident and strong enough to be like, ‘Hey, that’s just white noise in my head. Just do it,” he said.
A lesson surely gleaned from the successes of the past 13 years.1 comment