Local journalism faces a crisis—here's how you can help strengthen reporting in our community

Way back in the day, when the late and much-missed local journalist Jeff Smith used to pen a column for the Tucson Weekly, he wrote something that has stuck with me all these years in the biz: Newspapers are supposed to print the truth and raise hell.

These days, local newspapers are struggling to fulfill that basic mission—and that’s not because reporters aren’t working hard enough to cover vital stories for our community. They are doing their best under far less than ideal circumstances.

The problem lies with the endless cuts by out-of-town corporate ownership that couldn’t give a rat’s ass about Tucson as long as advertising dollars continue to fatten up their bank accounts. Hell, these days, our “local” papers are getting assembled by people who are so far removed from our community that they can’t even spell “Tucson” correctly in headlines.

This crisis in local journalism isn’t unique to Tucson. Newspapers are shutting down all across the country; thousands of them have simply folded. Or they’re getting snatched up by giant hedge funds or small-time operators who see an opportunity to increase the bottom line by gutting the local staff. Thousands and thousands more reporters and editors have been pushed out across the United States. Hundreds of them aren’t working anymore right here in Baja Arizona. After all, why have reporters who are going to make advertisers unhappy?

It was the closing of our afternoon daily that led Tucson Sentinel Editor and Publisher Dylan Smith to launch the Tucson Sentinel 15 years ago—and in that time, the Sentinel has served Tucson as a real alternative news source. 

The Sentinel has broken big stories such as former Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckleberry’s secret retirement. Just last week, Sentinel reporter Paul Ingram was down on the border, reporting on a group of migrants seeking asylum who were trapped in the borderlands as a cold winter storm left them soaked, shivering and at risk of death while the U.S. Border Patrol ignored calls from local activists to take them into custody and safety. The Sentinel has done the best reporting on the Pima County Sheriff’s Department recent arrest of a journalist who was covering an anti-war protest (spoiler warning: the ridiculous charges were dropped last week) and, earlier this year, revealed that the PCSD failed to inform a family that their son had died in Pima County Jail. 

I could go on about the important stories and scandals that the Sentinel has brought to light, but you get the idea.

A decade and a half is long enough to prove the Sentinel’s sustainability and reliability (and necessity), but we can’t do it without your help. 

Our scrappy independent nonprofit depends on the support of our community to continue to do this work and build a stronger, more robust newsroom. And right now, your contribution is tripled thanks to the NewsMatch program and some generous local backers of our Community Challenge Fund. That means your donation of $100 becomes $300 that we can put to use in bringing you more vital news about our community. Sign up to donate $25/month, and we can turn that into nearly a thousand bucks of professional local reporting over the course of a year.

I joined the Sentinel team earlier this year as the Government & Political Impact reporter, thanks to a grant from Report for America, a nonprofit trying to build up newsrooms across the country. While I’d admired the work the Sentinel was doing from the outside, it’s only over the last few months that I’ve learned just how hard every member of this staff works day in and day out. Besides the more visible work of Dylan, Paul, Cultural Expression and Community Values reporter Bianca Morales and columnist Blake Morlock, there’s a lot of background work required to keep an online operation humming that’s handled by Maria Coxon-Smith and Gene Moreland. This gang gets to work early in the morning and continues well past sundown.

It’s an honor to work alongside this crew—and we have a lot of work ahead of us in 2024, especially with a whole bunch of local elections that will decide the future of the Pima County Board of Supervisors, local school districts, the Arizona Legislature, congressional seats, a U.S. Senate seat, abortion rights and so much more.

The backing from RFA only covers part of my salary — it’s local donors and small business sponsors who contribute the bulk of the Sentinel’s budget. We couldn’t do this work — watchdogging the government, tell the stories of what makes Tucson the special place we love — without readers like you who understand just how vital truly local journalism is for Southern Arizona.

And remember: we don’t have a paywall. Nobody has to pay to read the Sentinel’s news. It’s free for everyone; we’re a nonprofit and we believe access to information is a service to our community. But while we’re free to read, it’s not free to report original local news. The Sentinel’s staff are nationally recognized professionals — award-winning industry leaders who work really hard for not a lot of money.

So please consider lending a hand to support this work by joining our Watchdog Club. It will mean more than you may realize, both to the Sentinel and to the community that needs good, solid journalism.

And hey, did I mention your contribution will tripled if you make it before the end of the year?

Support authentically local news for Tucson!

Give to real local journalism that matters — your donation TRIPLED before Dec. 31! Support the watchdog reporters of the
nonprofit independent newsroom at TucsonSentinel.com.

The Tucson Sentinel’s award-winning, in-depth reporting provides details and context — and your investment in authentically local news could be TRIPLED because of generous matching donations.

Help us bring Tucson even more fearless independent journalism.

Because of the wonderful support from the leaders of the Sentinel’s Community Challenge Fund, and matching grant from NewsMatch, all donations through Dec. 31 can be matched 2-1!

 

Subscribe and stretch your donation over time:

Or give a secure one-time gift with PayPal or your credit card:

Right here, you can become a member of our WATCHDOG CLUB group of supporters — with a variety of donation options — and you’ll get:

  • Special members-only email updates
  • Invitations to member coffees and happy hours with Sentinel journalists
  • Advance notice and special tickets for Tucson Sentinel events
  • Invitations to special VIP donor events
  • Tucson Sentinel’s mission-driven nonprofit reporting available for everyone to read
  • The knowledge that you’re helping the Sentinel report the most accurate news about meaningful events in Southern Arizona

When you donate anytime in November & December, your gift to support local nonprofit news is eligible to be
matched
, dollar-for-dollar, by NewsMatch, a
national effort to help underwrite news organizations like the
Sentinel. PLUS, your gift will be backed by contributions from generous local donors to the Sentinel’s Community Matching Fund!

With this 2-1 match, every dollar you give means another $2 to support local watchdog news. And the $3 from your donation can have the impact of $6, because of Report for America’s support for our local journalists who are members of that program.

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