Our election reporting mission: Getting meaningful questions answered for you

Tired of political reporting that pretends to be too savvy, that talks about nothing but polls and fundraising and treats government policies like middle-school cafeteria gossip? We do things differently at the Tucson Sentinel.

We were founded 15 years ago on the idea that local journalism should be responsive to the needs of our local community. News for readers in Southern Arizona should give them context to help each of us arrive at informed choices — in which policies we determine will create a better place to live, in which candidates we fill in the bubble for when casting our votes.

That’s why we’ve been clear and steadfast in what our principles are as we approach our reporting. And that’s why we’re making a clear stand this year, in committing to continue to bring Tucson and Southern Arizona the fearless, deeply-reported and necessary accountability reporting this town needs and deserves.

We’re watchdogs, not lapdogs. And we’re reporters, not stenographers. Our job is to listen to ordinary folks in this community, learn their concerns and determine their difficulties, and then ask politicians and government officials how they’re making things right.

Some politicians think it’s our duty to simply convey their talking points. They’ve got the rest of the Internet to use for that. Real people with real lives drive our coverage at the Sentinel.

Here in the desert, we all understand the importance of water. As a mission-driven nonprofit news organization, the Tucson Sentinel doesn’t carry water for any politician or political party. That disappoints those folks sometimes, but our readers have come to rely on us to dig into the desert dirt no matter what bone we’re chasing.

Our 2024 election reporting mission

Tucson Sentinel’s reporting on the 2024 elections will serve our community by increasing understanding of politician’s stances, reveal attempts to mislead, and explain the details of how Arizona’s elections are run.

We will continue our commitment to covering “the stakes, not the odds” by focusing on how government impacts real people in our community, and not emphasizing horse-race “who’s leading” reporting about polls and fundraising.

With our watchdog reporting, the Sentinel will cover local candidates and help readers understand how county and city politicians are responsible for policies that directly affect our readers, without losing sight of state and national races and laying out local context and complexity for readers outside of Southern Arizona.

Our election reporting will play a major role in fulfilling our broader mission of informing our community about the community challenges and unique issues of our Borderlands.

Because the Sentinel was founded to do things differently, we’ve always avoided the “ivory tower” of so much legacy journalism — talking about people, rather than listening to them.

It’s easy for people to become checked out from politics, and even dismissive of the importance of taking part, when what passes for journalism on MSCNNBOX just focuses on the games being played. But the political process should be about you, not somebody yelling in front of a big colored map in a Situation Room.

We shine a light on this town because we love it. We want you involved because we care about everyone in our community having the opportunity to help make this place even better.

In what Prof. Jay Rosen of New York University has described as a “not the odds, but the stakes” approach to political reporting, the Sentinel has always eschewed the breathless Beltway pundit “who’s winning the race this week?!?” style of dramatizing what amounts to political trivia. We’re into doing the hard work of figuring out how politicians are proposing to deal with real-world problems.

As Rosen puts it, covering “not who has the chances of winning, but the consequences for American democracy.”

As a local newsroom, the Sentinel does original journalism about the place we live and love: Tucson, Pima County, the Borderlands of Southern Arizona.

Plenty of Arizona issues reverberate on the national stage — we’re
having yet another in an unprecedented series of U.S. Senate elections,
along with hot congressional races. Rather than “parachute journalism”
from reporters who spend an afternoon in Tucson to grab some quotes to
flesh out their predetermined narratives, the reporters of the Sentinel
live here, and know the territory.

Water, drought, the border and immigration — our team has been reporting on these pivotal topics for years.

We’re not rushing to post the latest hot take on whatever gaffe by the current or former president has set the social media platform that now has an X for a logo alight with memes. We want to know what is going on here — and that’s why we want to hear from you, while we continue to press politicians for answers that weren’t carefully crafted by consultants who will be paid just fine no matter who wins or loses at the ballot box.

“Elections have consequences,” as the old saw goes. And for families in this community, those consequences can be most directly felt based on who wins races that will never be discussed by a panel on cable TV news.

What will Donald Trump do if he is elected again? What will Joe Biden
do if he’s re-elected? Who will be Arizona’s next U.S. senator? Those
things matter to us here in Tucson. But it also matters who is elected to the state Legislature, and to a large number of county offices — and it matters a lot.

Who will run our schools? Who decides our state budget priorities? Will abortion be outlawed in Arizona? Will the federal government continue to cover the costs as migrants pass through Tucson? How will our water supply be managed? Will jobs at Davis-Monthan dry up? Will we have government officials who are transparent, or those who try to cover things up?

Got questions? We work to get answers.

That’s why we like the idea of the “citizens agenda” in political reporting. Political consultants don’t get to pick which stories are important. Reporters listening to real people determine the broad topics that need looking at, and the specific questions that will help bring the details to light.

At the Sentinel, we’re nonpartisan. We don’t endorse candidates or take sides on ballot measures. We don’t have corporate overlords thousands of miles away dictating our coverage. We’re transparent about who funds us — people in this community, just like you.

We live here and we’re affected by the outcomes of elections just like you, as well.

And that’s why we’re listening to you, while we’re figuring out the next questions we have for those on the campaign trail. Got concerns about something that you believe is being overlooked? We’re all ears: drop a note to [email protected], or ask a Sentinel journalist when you see us at a community event, a school soccer match, working on a story at a coffee shop, or at the store picking up some late-night snacks. (We’ll knock the junk out of political reporting, but please don’t critique our choice in chips, though.) Throughout the summer and fall, we’ll be convening community discussions, and speaking with service groups about the importance of engaged readers in the process of reporting. We hope to see you join us.

A smarter Tucson is a better Tucson

We admit that we have a bias: toward the truth, and in favor of Southern Arizona.
We’ll call ’em as we see ’em, and show you our work as we dig into what
is true, what is false, and what the future of our city and region can
and should look like.

For our community to thrive, for our government to be transparent, to
hold our elected officials and bureaucrats accountable, to celebrate
the things we love about this place, we need sunlight streaming down,
exposing the wrongs, and spotlighting what is right.

That comes from solid independent local journalism, and you can support more of it by becoming a member of the Tucson Sentinel’s Watchdog Club today!


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Your support is what allows us to drive change for the better through stories that challenge, inform, and inspire.

TucsonSentinel.com has been at the forefront of a nationwide movement
to rebuild local news from the ground up, even as print newspapers
wither under the control of rapacious hedge funds and conglomerated
media chains.

We’re working to return local news to its roots:
experienced local reporters working for local editors and a local
publisher — all invested in the well-being of their community, not just
seeking to ship short-term profits far away.

Our mission and these clear values help us keep
our focus on the issues and challenges that will define Tucson and Southern Arizona for
decades. And with your support, we’ll keep digging, and keep telling stories that just aren’t being told anywhere else.

Thanks for your readership, your desire to be more informed about our community, and your support for journalism that truly reflects this place we all love and care for so deeply.

Dylan Smith, Editor & Publisher

Maria Coxon-Smith,