Arizona not-for-profit seeks to revamp local journalism

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Arizona Luminaria is a new journalism project that focuses on in-depth pieces of local news that affect Arizona communities ranging from large cities to rural areas and indigenous communities. Jose Cardenas, host the Arizona PBS show “Horizonte,” spoke with Arizona Luminaria’s co-founders Dianna Náñez and Irene Mckisson.

At the heart of the organization is a focus on local journalism that “listens, adapts and unites,” according to the organization’s website. More than anything, this means letting the community drive decisions

“All of that decision making, like what kinds of stories you’ll see, is being driven by our readers. We went out and talked to people and have been listening to them,” McKisson said. “What we’re asking is: what are you so passionate about that you’d hold a sign for it? That’s driving how we’re deciding what those stories will be.”

She said that the most commonly listed topics so far are the environment, equity, infrastructure and accessibility, and education funding.

According to Náñez it can be difficult to do this sort of journalism while turning a profit, and there has been a 30-50% reduction in the number of journalists reporting on local issues nationwide. Faced with this reality, “We made an active decision to be not-for-profit,” she said.

“We made that decision because we felt that if we could be not-for-profit we could partner with the community, we could put people first, and we could also say we wouldn’t be making those types of cuts, we would always be making investments in our communities, and we work with our communities to do that. So many decisions about local journalism in the ‘corporate world’ are made from a corporate standpoint,” Náñez said.

Náñez, herself a narrative writer and storytelling coach whose story of Indigenous and borderlands communities was part of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize-winning Arizona Republic team coverage, said she hopes that Luminaria’s stories can unite communities despite political polarization.

“The heart of what I feel unites and what we feel unites is when people can care about the issues that we’re writing about the same as if that were themselves, their mother, their family.” Náñez said. “In this moment of the pandemic, as polarizing as it has become, we have seen people on absolute opposite ends be united because they need to help each-other survive.”

Arizona Luminaria has not yet officially launched, but has already begun producing stories on local issues.

Dianna Náñez/Executive Editor, Arizona Luminaria & Irene McKisson/Principal Executive, Arizona Luminaria:

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