Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting

More from this show

According to its web site, the “Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting is an independent, nonprofit media organization dedicated to statewide accountability journalism in Arizona.” Jim Small, formerly of the Arizona Capitol Times, has been chosen to lead AZCIR, and will talk about his new role and the center.

TED SIMONS: THE ARIZONA CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING IS AN INDEPENDENT, NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION DEDICATED TO WHAT IT DESCRIBES AS ACCOUNTABILITY JOURNALISM IN ARIZONA. THE GROUP HAS A NEW LEADER, HE IS JIM SMALL, FORMERLY OF THE ARIZONA CAPITOL TIMES. GOOD TO HAVE YOU HERE. CONGRATULATIONS ON THIS. WHAT IS THE ARIZONA CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING?

JIM SMALL: IT'S A NON PROFIT JOURNALISM ORGANIZATION, 501C3. OUR GOAL, WE ARE THE ONLY NEWSROOM IN THE STATE DEDICATED TO IN DEPTH INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING AND ACCOUNTABILITY JOURNALISM WHICH IS ESSENTIALLY STORIES THAT HOLD GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABLE, THE POWERFUL ACCOUNTABLE, FOLKS WHO HAVE BEEN GIVEN AUTHORITY IN OUR SOCIETY, THROUGH GOVERNMENT OR BUSINESS, REALLY MAKING SURE THEY ARE HELD ACCOUNTABLE TO THAT POWER THEY HAVE.

TED SIMONS: I NOTICED THE MISSION ON THE WEBSITE, REPORTING THAT SERVES THE PUBLIC INTEREST. DEFINE?

JIM SMALL: IT GETS BACK TO WATCHDOG REPORTING. IT'S SOMETHING AT THE CAPITAL TIMES, I MADE A FOCUS OVER THERE, AND THE TEAM DID A FANTASTIC JOB OF LOOKING AT STATE GOVERNMENT. THIS IS A CHANCE TO GO BEYOND THE BOUNDS, LOOK AT THE COURTS, GOVERNMENT, YOU KNOW, BUSINESS WORLD, PHILANTHROPIC WORLD, GREAT JOURNALISM AND STORIES WITH GREAT USES OF DATABASES, BEING ABLE TO COMPILE THAT DATA AND PULL STORIES OUT OF IT AND LEARN THINGS ABOUT HOW OUR SOCIETY WORKS OR HOW IT DOESN'T WORK AND WHAT STEPS NEED TO BE TAKEN TO FIX IT.

TED SIMONS: YOU ARE BASED IN DOWNTOWN PHOENIX. FOCUS WILL BE STATEWIDE, VALLEY WIDE, WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?

JIM SMALL: GENERALLY ANYTHING IN THE STATE TAKING DEEP DIVES, LONG PROJECTS, THINGS THAT BACK IN THE DAY THAT TV STATIONS AND NEWSPAPERS USED TO BE DEDICATING RESOURCES TO, PEOPLE THAT SPEND SIX MONTHS ON A PROJECT, JUST SINK THEIR TEETH INTO IT, REPORTING INSIDE AND OUT, DOING IN DEPTH SERIES. NOW WITH THE WAY THE MEDIA MARKET WORKS, FISCAL CONSTRAINTS, THIS IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO FILL THE GAP. NOT IN A WAY THAT'S COMPETITIVE WITH THE EXISTING MEDIA PUBLISHERS, BUT IN A COLLABORATIVE WAY. FUNDAMENTALLY, THAT'S THE GOAL, NOT TO SAY, WE ARE BETTER THAN THEM TO COMPETE AGAINST NEWSPAPER A OR TV STATION B. IT'S TO PUT OURSELVES OUT THERE TO WORK WITH THEM, FINDING THOSE MEDIA PARTNERS AND COLLABORATING AND POOLING RESOURCES TO WRITE THOSE STORIES AND COVER THE THINGS FALLING THROUGH THE CRACKS.

TED SIMONS: WITH THAT IN MIND, HOW WOULD THAT BE PRESENTED? IF YOU WORK WITH RADIO, DOES IT BECOME A PRINT STORY? HOW DO YOU WORK THIS?

JIM SMALL: ALL OF THE ABOVE. THE TYPICAL DISTRIBUTION, WE HAVE A WEBSITE WHERE WE PUBLISH ALL OF OUR STORIES, MULTIMEDIA, INTERACTIVE GRAPHICS ON THE WEB, AUDIO RECORDINGS, THINGS LIKE THAT, AND THOSE GET DISTRIBUTED TO EVERY OUTLET IN THE STATE, TV, NEWSPAPER, ONLINE MEDIA WITH LICENSE TO REPRINT THAT AND CREDIT US FOR IT. THERE ARE A LOT OF OPPORTUNITIES TO WORK HAND IN HAND WITH THE EXISTING MEDIA OUTLETS. AT THE CAPITAL TIMES, WE DID SEVERAL THINGS WITH THE CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING. PART OF THE WAY THAT WAS STRUCTURED, THE TIMES GOT IT FIRST AND THEN WENT TO EVERYONE ELSE. THERE IS REGIONAL AND NATIONAL WORK AS WELL.

TED SIMONS: THIS IS NOT NECESSARILY A DAILY ENTERPRISE OR WEEKLY OR MONTHLY. DO THEY GO TO THE WEBSITE EVERYDAY, EVERY WEEK? HOW DOES THAT WORK?

JIM SMALL: CERTAINLY, THEY CAN GO ON THE WEBSITE. THEY CAN GO TO SOCIAL MEDIA, FACEBOOK AND TWITTER, ACTIVE ON THERE. IT'S NOT REGIMENTED AS DAILY DEADLINES OR WEEKLY DEADLINES, BUT THAT BEING SAID, WE HAVE A STORY IN THE PIPELINES, COMING OUT THIS WEEK, A TRAGIC MURDER OF A THREE-YEAR-OLD GIRL AND A MOTIVE OF JUSTICE TO HER FAMILY, BUT NOT ENOUGH. IT'S AN INCREDIBLE STORY, RIVETING TO ME. I'M SURE IT'S ONE OF THE THINGS PEOPLE WILL BE TALKING ABOUT.

TED SIMONS: YOU'RE TAKING OVER AT THE CENTER. OBVIOUSLY, YOU HAVE A VISION, A CERTAIN DIRECTION. WHAT DID THE CENTER DO WELL? WHAT WERE THE THINGS THE CENTER CAN IMPROVE ON?

JIM SMALL: I THINK THE CENTER HAS PROVEN IT'S ABLE TO SINK ITS TEETH INTO THESE STORIES. FIND WAYS TO CRUNCH THE NUMBERS AND PULL OUT INTERESTING AND UNIQUE STORIES AND BUILD THESE DATABASES THAT HAVE VALUE FOR BOTH THE MEDIA OUTLETS AND FOR THE GENERAL PUBLIC. THERE'S A GREAT STORY ABOUT DANGEROUS CHEMICALS BEING STORED AT FACILITIES ALL THROUGH THE VALLEY. THROUGH ENTERPRISE REPORTING AND RECORD GATHERING, HIGHLIGHTING PITFALLS IN THE SYSTEM AND HOW ARIZONANS AND THOSE IN MARICOPA COUNTY COULD BE IN DANGER LIKE WEST TEXAS WHEN THE FERTILIZER PLANT EXPLODED.

TED SIMONS: THAT'S THE GOOD STUFF. WHAT CAN BE IMPROVED?

JIM SMALL: THE THING THAT CAN BE IMPROVED IS GROWTH. AS A NONPROFIT, WE ARE BEATING THE BUSHES FOR FUNDING. THAT'S SOMETHING WE HAVE MADE A LOT OF STRIDES ON. THIS IS A GROUP THAT STARTED WITH NOTHING. FOUR YEARS AGO, A COUPLE OF GUYS AND A DREAM. THEY DID FANTASTIC WORK, LAID THE GROUND WORK FOR A GROUP POISED TO TAKE OFF WITH A LOT OF OPPORTUNITIES IN FRONT OF IT.

TED SIMONS: THE IDEA OF NONPROFIT JOURNALISM, WE HAVE TALKED ABOUT THIS OVER THE YEARS. IT WOULD SEEM IT MIGHT BE A VERY IMPORTANT PART OF THE FUTURE OF JOURNALISM. NONPROFIT JOURNALISM. WHERE IS IT HEADED? WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT?

JIM SMALL: I FEEL IT IS AN INTEGRAL PART GOING FORWARD. OUR MEDIA LANDSCAPE HAS CHANGED DRAMATICALLY OVER THE LAST GENERATION, TWO GENERATIONS, FROM FAMILY OWNED AND REGIONALLY OWNED MEDIA OUTLETS TO COMPANIES BEING OWNED BY NATIONAL PUBLICLY TRADED BEHEMOTHS. I THINK THE MONEY IS SQUEEZED OUT OF IT A LOT TO A LARGE DEGREE. YOU SEE A LOT OF CUTS. AS THE ADVERTISING MARKET CHANGES AND THE STOCK MARKET IS DEMANDING MORE AND MORE OUT OF THE COMPANIES, THE RESULT IS A LOT OF CUTS IN SERVICES AND ULTIMATELY IN THE KIND OF NEWS THEY ARE ABLE TO PROVIDE. YOU HAVE SMALL INDEPENDENTLY OWNED, LOCALLY OWNED, LOCALLY OPERATED ENTITIES ABLE TO GO OUT THERE, NOT BEHOLDEN TO STOCK OWNERS, JUST ABLE TO DO IN MY MIND, PURE JOURNALISM.

TED SIMONS: CONGRATULATIONS ON THE POSITION. GOOD LUCK WITH YOUR EFFORTS. WE'LL BE WORKING WITH YOU A LITTLE OURSELVES AS WELL. IT'S GOOD TO SEE YOU. THANK YOU FOR JOINING US.

JIM SMALL: YOU BET.

An armed forces bugler playing the trumpet in front of the United States Capitol building.
airs May 26

National Memorial Day Concert 2024

Illustration of columns of a capitol building with text reading: Arizona PBS AZ Votes 2024

Arizona PBS presents candidate debates

Graphic for the AZPBS kids LEARN! Writing Contest with a child sitting in a chair writing on a table and text reading: The Ultimate Field Trip
May 26

Submit your entry for the 2024 Writing Contest

Rachel Khong
May 29

Join us for PBS Books Readers Club!

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters

STAY in touch
with azpbs.org!

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters: