This fall, “Arizona Horizon” turns 36 – making it the longest-running local show in the state. Since 1981, “Arizona Horizon” has told the history of Arizona as it happens, from as many angles as possible. Here’s a look at what the team has been focused on lately, and what’s coming up as we begin year 36.
Being Arizona, we’ve always covered stories about the immigrant community, our border and the U.S. relationship with Mexico. But this year, with those topics at the forefront of national policy, we’ve worked to put a special emphasis on those stories.
As one example, you may recall a NAFTA-focused episode this May, co-hosted by Ted Simons and “Horizonte” host José Cárdenas. Guests included politicians, academics, and Chamber of Commerce members, but the episode also featured ranchers and a produce company that does business on both sides of the border.
“It’s a great example of how we cover the community,” said producer Allysa Adams. “We want to show the view from ground level as well as the leaders, to show how people’s lives are impacted by national and international events.”
Since the beginning of the year, dozens of Arizona legislators and most of Arizona’s Congressional delegation have appeared on “Arizona Horizon,” some multiple times.
As a new feature this year, when the state legislature is in session, leaders of the Arizona House and Senate come on the show each week to provide a legislative update for the community. According to Adams, they feel that “Arizona Horizon” is an effective forum for them to let Arizonans know what’s going on, in their own words.
Adams also noted that she has heard some politicians say they felt Simons has a liberal bias, while others say they felt he has a conservative bias – suggesting that the show succeeds at treating both sides fairly. “Which means we’re doing our job,” Adams said.
This fall, “Arizona Horizon” will take the opportunity to look back at how the Vietnam War impacted Arizona, both during the conflict and in the years that followed.
“We have a vibrant Vietnamese community here,” Adams said. “We’ll look at what happened then, and how it grew after the war.”
“Arizona Horizon” will also explore the story of the Morenci Nine, a group of men from the tight-knit mining community of Morenci, Ariz., who all went to fight in Vietnam. Only three of the nine made it home, and their community has never forgotten it.
Another upcoming project will explore the impact of the recession on Arizona – such as the benefits and challenges of the minimum wage increase or what Navajo tribal authorities are doing for the third of the Navajo population that currently lives without electricity.
But it isn’t always war and politics. “I would describe ‘Arizona Horizon’ as deeper coverage of issues important to Arizona,” said coordinating producer Mike Sauceda, “to include science, technology, business and the arts, as well as politics.”
And just as Arizona is always changing, so is how we cover it, says Adams. “But at its core, the goal is to go in depth on things that matter to Arizonans.” And we believe that will be just as true in another 36 years.
‘Arizona Horizon’ stats:
Years on air: 36 (The previous record holder, KPHO’s beloved “Wallace and Ladmo,” ran for 35 years and nine months.)
Origin story: Existing plans for a local public affairs program at KAET were accelerated by live coverage of the Sept. 1981 confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Attorney and journalist Michael Grant covered the hearings with Paul Duke (then host of “Washington Week”), and continued on as the first host of “Horizon.”
Identity: “Horizon” (1981-2011); “Arizona Horizon” (2012-present)
Hosts: Michael Grant (1981-2007), Ted Simons (2007-present)
Biggest stories: The impeachment trial of former Arizona governor Evan Mecham (an unprecedented 175 hours of live coverage). Building new stadiums throughout the Valley. The movement to recognize a Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday in Arizona. The 1991 AzScam bribery scandal. Immigration. Last year’s Senate debate between John McCain and Ann Kirkpatrick.
Most popular: Friday “Journalists’ Roundtable” programs regularly score the program’s highest ratings.