However, I was taken aback to read that my own hometown newspaper, the Arizona Daily Sun, was one of nine newspapers to be awarded the first Wallace Stegner Award for exemplary environmental reporting.
It is very sad to think that the Arizona Daily Sun may be among the cream of the Western newspaper crop. Having worked for two years as an assistant editor in the newsroom of the paper, I know all too well how dimly the Sun shines upon my fellow townsfolk, and how frequently its reporting is derided by these same townsfolk. If you attend public meetings in this town, you will very often find someone mentioning a significant factual error in that day’s newspaper. It is no wonder that some people call it the Arizona Daily Scum.
The only explanation that might explain why the Sun won the Stegner Award is that at the time that the paper was evaluated, it had two competent reporters on the environmental beat, as well as a city editor with a passion for the outdoors. All three of these folks have moved on. It has been a long time since I have read an article in the Sun that delved deeply into any local environmental topic.
After I left the Arizona Daily Sun, my wife and I and a few friends started a monthly newspaper called Flagstaff Tea Party. For two years, we reported many of the stories that the Sun would not touch, mostly focusing on environmental issues.
Unfortunately, the donations that made our work possible never quite paid all the bills, and we had to stop publishing.
If there is one thing I learned from that experience, it is that we have a very real crisis in this country when it comes to newspapers and journalism. Too many important stories never get covered at all. I still subscribe to the Sun but some days I have to wonder why. Some days the newspaper is nothing more than a few skimpy scraps of newsprint holding together a ream of pre-printed advertising inserts from the big-box stores.