Borderlands Journalism Grant

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In 2007, Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin, the co-founders of the Phoenix New Times, were arrested for allegedly revealing grand jury secrets. They sued Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio for the arrest and were awarded $3.75 million. Now, they have used $2 million of that money to support a new program at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication that will train students to report on border and immigration issues. Lacey will discuss the endowment for the Chair in Borderlands Issues.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to Arizona Horizon. I'm Ted Simons. Back in 2007, Michael lacey and Jim Larkin, the owners of the Phoenix New Times were arrested in the middle of the night by Maricopa county sheriff's for violating the secrecy of a Grand Jury. Turned out the Grand Jury never, actually, convened, which led to them filing a lawsuit against Joe Arpaio. That suit was settled by the county for $3.75 million. Today, they announced that they are donating $2 million from that settlement to ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. The money will pay for a new program, in which students will cover stories about immigration and border issues. I will talk to Michael Lacey about the border lands issues first. In a second, I should say, but first, the announcement was made at a Press Conference earlier today.

Chris Callahan: Today, we are taking a giant I know leap forward in that area, with the announcement of the Mike Lacey, Jim Larkin chair and border lands issue. This is a $2 million gift, an endowed chair, which means that these issues and the teaching of the coverage of border lands and immigration issues and issues surrounding the Latino community will continue here at ASU in perpetuity.

Kristin Gilger: The chair will lead a reporting program at Cronkite in which students will report and write on border and immigration issues in both Spanish and English for Cronkite news, for Arizona PBS, and for other professional news outlets. And we'll speak out nationally on media coverage of such issues.

Jim Larkin: There is really not any school that stepped up the way that Arizona State has in terms of the Hispanic studies, and understanding where it's at, you would think the University of Texas at Austin might have a program, but nothing compares to asu, and I am glad that I can partner with them in this endeavor. I think it's wholly worthwhile.

Ted Simons: Here now to talk about the endowed chair at ASU's Cronkite school is Michael Lacey, co-founder of the Phoenix new times. Good to see you.

Michael Lacey: Good to be seen.

Ted Simons: Thanks for being here. Why are you doing this? Why are you making this investment?

Michael Lacey: We had a sum of money that we had to decide what do with. We were given the mope as a result of being arrested by the sheriff, and we were arrested for what we were writing, and were writing for a community newspaper. We have a governor in this state that has decided that Mexican-American kids should not have driver's licenses. We have an attorney general that has tried to put an end to Hispanic studies in Tucson. And we have a law man that is under a Federal Court conjunction for racially profiling Mexicans and Mexican-Americans. We wanted to get the money working to improve the organizations working on behalf of migrants and Mexican Americans, and we wanted to fund the chair here at ASU so that there would be reporters going out into the community to tell the stories of this segment of our population.

Ted Simons: Do you think that the coverage of immigration and border issues up to now has been lacking?

Michael Lacey: Yes. I think that it's been lacking across the board. In this last election cycle, you saw a parade of television ads all aimed at attacking the Mexican-American community in the Mexican community. Toughening up the border, treating the people that live in Mexico, treating them as if they were terrorists rather than neighbors. One congressional candidate, actually, had the Isis flag in a black robed figure being paraded on the ad, the TV ad, as she talked about needing to close the border, needing to strengthen the border response. It has just been a remarkably hostile environment.

Ted Simons: I noticed a quote from you was we intend to encourage the better nature of students at the Cronkite School with this. Explain that, please.

Michael Lacey: We are optimistic that there are some students at ASU with good souls. We have not researched this yet, but we believe that to be the case. And we want young people, as they enter this career, to have a background in the community at large. Not simply on the Anglo-American community here, ok. But, upon a very significant portion of the population.

Ted Simons: The fact that this is going to be bilingual in nature, how important is that to you?

Michael Lacey: I think that it's very important. I went out and interviewed a couple of women this last week who are part of a movement here to get identification from the city of Phoenix, ok. These people don't have identification, ok. It makes life very difficult. The women that I interviewed didn't speak English. We live in a bilingual world, and hopefully, there will be positions for bilingual students.

Ted Simons: I know that you have the Fronterra fund. As far as this cause, when did you decide an endowed chair would be a good idea?

Michael Lacey: Well, if you have a beer with Kristin Gilger or Dean Callahan, it becomes clear. This would be a wise use of the funds, and so, we have been working on this for several months now, and we have also been in the process of interviewing and giving financial support to a dozen different migrant rights groups around the state or Mexican American supporter groups here in Phoenix.

Ted Simons: That's the Fronterra fund.

Michael Lacey: Correct

Ted Simons: As far as what you want to see from this endeavor, what do you want the students to learn? What do you want to be the overriding emphasis here?

Michael Lacey: I think as the students get to know the community within which they live, in a more nuanced way, it will be, as the stories appear, it will be more difficult for the Government, more difficult for politicians, more difficult for the demagogues to scapegoat the Hispanic community, which is part of what's been going on.

Ted Simons: You mentioned that, and Joe Arpaio, this is where the money is coming from, from this lawsuit and the county. He enjoys, and he still enjoys popularity. He has enjoyed such support over the years, and he certainly has not been lacking for media attention. How do you explain that?

Michael Lacey: Well, we're not the first organization to understand that the populous at large can be rattle roused. He has appealed to the baser instincts and to the paranoia about people who don't know Mexicans, don't know Mexican Americans, and don't understand the terrific role that they have played in the history of this city and the history of the state. The other thing that I would mention is that the sheriff's popularity has decreased with each election. Were we to find a candidate that had anywhere near the money that he has, at his disposal, I don't think that he would be the sheriff for another year.

Ted Simons: As far as the chair is concerned, it will also serve as a national voice on Latino issues. What exactly, again, are you looking for there?

Michael Lacey: Well, there is -- we are the state with the border with Mexico. This is a port of entry for many Hispanics. I think that the stories can be told in such a way that they have national implications and the Mexican American community is not confined to Arizona any longer. I was just back on the east coast, and you know, eating at a great Mexican restaurant, and no matter what restaurant you go into, you are going to find the staff is often largely Hispanic. Ok. So, the -- I don't understand the sort of fear that is cultivated by elected officials about the Hispanic community.

Ted Simons: Do you think that fear is exclusive to Arizona? Or do you see --

Michael Lacey: No, no, I don't. I think that it's exclusive to Arizona, and I think it's sold as a cheap commodity throughout the country.

Ted Simons: If you were this endowed professor at ASU, and you were standing in front of a group of students, what would you tell them? What would you teach them, show them?

Michael Lacey: Well, the -- there are rich political stories out there for students to be doing. There are human interest stories, ok. There is -- it's everything that you see on the television news or that you see in a daily newspaper about the power structure, ok, could also be explained from a Hispanic perspective. And should be explained from a Hispanic perspective. Why is the Governor trying to deny driver's licenses? There is no public transportation to speak of in Phoenix. If you are going to get from point A to B, if you are going to go to your job, you need to drive a car. Do you want that kid licensed and with insurance? Or do you want the kid just taking a chance? These are issues that transcend race.

Ted Simons: Last question, there had been efforts in the past to, a variety of efforts, not quite this, I don't know, large and bold, but there had been efforts to chronicle the Mexico, Latino community in a variety of ways. What do you -- how can this be different? What do you want to see different from other attempts?

Michael Lacey: Well, this one, this will be well financed. Ok. And that's important. Two, there is a commitment. The journalism department here at ASU is -- they are not just doing this for the money. They are excited about the opportunity. They understand that. And there is a significant component of Hispanic students within the journalism department. From our perspective, everything just sort of came together really well.

Ted Simons: All right. Mike, good to see you.

Michael Lacey: Good to see you.

Michael Lacey:Co-Founder, Phoenix New Times;

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