In 50 years, what will people remember about journalism in Tucson?
Luckily, a new website by students from Prof. Linda Lumsden's History of American Journalism class will help provide some answers.
“Sonoran Desert Journalists: 2017 Oral Histories with 15 Tucson-Based Journalists” includes audio interviews, biographical information and links to works from the journalists, who share anecdotes about their careers and the industry.
“I was blown away when I listened to the interviews,” said Lumsden, an associate professor at the UA School of Journalism. “Anyone listening 50 years from now will get great insights on what journalism was like in the Borderlands in the decades sandwiching the 20th and 21st centuries.”
The 15 journalists, who also give advice to students in the interviews, are:
- Alfredo Araiza, photographer for the Arizona Daily Star and 1980 UA alum;
- Douglas Biggers, founder of Tucson Weekly and Edible Baja;
- Cathalena Burch, music and entertainment writer for the Star and UA adjunct instructor;
- Christopher Conover, reporter for Arizona Public Media and UA adjunct instructor;
- Tony Davis, environmental writer for the Star;
- Carmen Duarte, reporter for the Star who wrote the memoir, “Mama’s Santos,” and 1980 alum;
- Joe Ferguson, reporter for the Star, 2006 alum and UA adjunct instructor;
- Ryan Finley, sports editor for the Star and 2002 alum;
- David Fitzsimmons, longtime cartoonist for the Star and UA alum;
- Sarah Garrecht-Gassen, editorial page director, 1995 alum and UA adjunct instructor;
- Stephanie Innes, reporter for the Star and former UA adjunct instructor;
- Irene McKisson, #ThisIsTucson team leader for the Star, 2003 alum and UA adjunct instructor;
- Todd Miller, environmental author (“Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Homeland Security”);
- Margaret Regan, author of “The Death of Josseline: Immigration Stories from the Arizona Borderlands”;
- Zac Ziegler, reporter for Arizona Public Media.
“Finley talks about covering 9/11 for the Wildcat when he was editor,” Lumsden said. “Conover tells a great story about visiting a Navajo hermit who lived in a cave on the reservation. Davis talks about revealing how the state accidentally killed ‘Macho B,’ Arizona's only jaguar. Regan discusses ethical questions that arise when covering undocumented migrants. Biggers talks about his goals for the Weekly back in 1984.
“They all talk about their love of journalism, the changes they've seen in the profession, their concerns for the future of journalism. … They’ll get a feel for the debate over erecting the proposed wall — which may be a reality by then — or how worried reporters were about the environment, especially water. Conover and Finley offer great anecdotes about covering the Gabby Giffords shooting in 2011.”
Students doing the interviews included Nick Cada (Araiza), Reina Morrison (Biggers), Victor Herrera II (Burch), Ashley House (Conover), Chris Stidley (Davis), Gabrielle Mix (Duarte), Christian Torres (Ferguson), Fernando Galvan (Finley), Marie Teemant (Fitzsimmons), CJ D’Innocente (Gassen), Joshua Steele (Stephanie Innes), Nathan Delfs (Irene McKisson), Elsayed Issa (Miller), Zeina C. Peterson (Regan) and Ashley Mikelonis (Ziegler).
“The students jumped into the project,” Lumsden said. “As a class, we discussed possible questions as well as the difference between a journalism interview (often on the fly, seeking one or two quotes, sometimes on a breaking story in which many answers remain unknown, sometimes with a hostile subject) and an oral history (in depth and lengthy, often more about the past than present; almost always with a willing subject).
“They chose their subject and arranged the interview at the subject’s home or office or at a cafe, where they sat down with them for an hour, took their photograph and got links to some of their work for the website. They also had them sign waivers giving us permission to make the interviews public.”
John de Dios, a J-school alum, helped with the technical aspects of getting the interviews online and organizing the site.
“It was a first attempt at oral history for the students, but I was impressed with how savvy all the students were with recording interviews,” Lumsden said. “Most used their phones, which worked perfectly. The interviews are really rich in content.”