What is the Arizona Agenda?
We’re a political insider newsletter for political outsiders.
While our main target is state politics and government, we go anywhere we smell bullshit — from local school boards to the halls of Congress.
Our goal is simple: Help Arizonans better understand the state’s political scene and how the government works so they can make informed decisions and hold their leaders to account. We focus on the effects of political decisions and the people behind them.
The Arizona Agenda fills in the gaps of traditional political reporting. We offer the background context, the gossip and peeks behind the scenes that help you understand the big picture of what’s happening in Arizona.
Government must work for the people. All of our journalism comes back to that concept.
We’re equal-opportunity harassers, not partisan warriors. But we don’t believe that both sides of an argument always carry equal weight, and we don’t pretend to give lies and nonsense (cough, election audit, cough) a fair hearing in the name of bothsidesism.
Some of this newsletter includes in-depth pieces cutting through the smoke and mirrors politicians use to confuse you. Some of it is watchdog stories about how the government is failing or screwing its citizens. But mostly, we just provide facts and point fingers — and hopefully inspire more people to get involved.
Just like our political leaders work for us, we as journalists work for you, our readers, subscribers and community. We run a publication that serves your interests — not clicks, some corporate overlord, wealthy donors or a political party.
Who’s writing this thing?
Rachel Leingang and Hank Stephenson are Arizona journalists whose work has, collectively, appeared in most of the state’s largest publications.
Hank is known for showing up and making a scene. You might remember him from the time the Arizona House of Representatives created a rule that would have banned him from the House floor because they were mad about his coverage of the House speaker.
Rachel likes to ask simple, concise questions that cut to the heart of an issue, then write about the big picture those questions expose. This GIF is from one time when she asked Arizona’s governor one of those kinds of questions. It wasn’t an isolated incident!
We both write stories that are thoughtful, probing and full of the consequences of people’s actions. We love to find nuggets in public records and file tons of requests to do so. We love a good comeuppance. And we especially love stories that take weird turns.
Here are our formal credentials:
Rachel has covered government, politics and higher education in Arizona since 2015, first at the Arizona Capitol Times, then The Arizona Republic, where she most recently wrote government accountability stories with an eye for those impacted and a focus on problem-solving. She has a master’s degree from Arizona State University, which is how she ended up here in 2012.
Hank has written about Arizona for national outlets like The New York Times, Politico Magazine and Columbia Journalism Review. But he’s a community reporter at heart. He was most recently editor and meme-maker at Yellow Sheet Report, a political tipsheet and gossip rag. He has covered Arizona politics and government since 2008.
We’ve been recognized as among the state’s best journalists thanks to our award-winning reporting.
What people are saying about us
They like us. They really like us. (Except for one Twitter rando who made fun of Rachel’s eyebrow … safe to say that guy isn’t a fan.)
“Arizona Agenda, @hankdeanlight and @rachelleingang's excellent new newsletter, has become my obligatory first read every morning.” - Fernanda Santos, contributing columnist Washington Post and former New York Times Phoenix bureau chief
“These two journalists are doing something new and unique (NEEDED!).” - Daniel Scarpinato, former chief of staff to Gov. Doug Ducey
“I don’t live in Arizona, I’ve only been to Arizona to change planes at the Barry Goldwater terminal, but I’m seriously considering subscribing to the Arizona Agenda on the strength of this story.” - Lindsay Beyerstein, investigative reporter and documentary filmmaker
“If you’re like me, you enjoy reading coverage of AZ politics from all angles & that’s why I just subscribed to Arizona Agenda.” - Arizona state Rep. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge
“Excited to see the launch of http://ArizonaAgenda.substack.com from my friend @rachelleingang and her colleague who are focused on taking a hard look at Arizona politics and improving the quality of Arizona political coverage.” -Steven Beschloss, professor and author america.substack.com
“Circling the drain on #ArizonaAgenda fanboydom. Punchy, irreverent, funny, informative. But don't let the jokes fool you: these two are serious reporters, who also happen to know when things deserve to be taken seriously - or impishly lambasted.” - Murphy Woodhouse, reporter KJZZ Hermosillo bureau
“The Arizona Agenda matches my mood perfectly regarding this state's messed-up politics and I am 100% here for it.” - Melinda Merkel Iyer, cofounder of Save Our Schools and Civic Engagement Beyond Voting
“The journalists at the new Arizona Agenda promised, ‘Our newsletter won’t be boring,’ and boy, they weren’t kidding. Really great insights, captured with clarity and passion.” - Edward Perez, election expert and global director of technology and open standards at OSET Institute
Your subscription pays the bills
We quit our jobs in corporate journalism to take a chance at something completely different with this newsletter. We got some money to finance our meager lifestyles for one year as part of the inaugural dozen winners of the Substack Local program. But our viability relies on paid subscribers.
The fact is, corporate-owned outlets are never going to invest your subscription into growing their newsrooms. They’re only interested in growing shareholder profits. We have no shareholders, and we aren’t interested in getting rich. We’ll take your money and pump it directly back into serving you.
Your subscription directly supports our ability to remain independent local journalists. Without your funding, we won’t be able to continue.
So it’s a newsletter about Arizona politics?
It’s a newsletter and so much more.
Subscribers receive the Daily Agenda, a daily email Monday through Thursday rounding up the day’s government and political news along with our own scoops, some gossip or a wild tidbit. Here are a few examples of what those Daily Agendas are like.
In addition to making sure you have all the headlines in one convenient place, we send our own reported stories on Friday mornings. Those pieces include anything that catches our eye and helps you understand Arizona government and politics better — like in-depth features, scoops about big news or politicians, dives into how things work, interviews with newsmakers and more. On Friday afternoons, we send out behind-the-scenes podcasts about our original stories to our paid subscribers.
We’ve made zines about public records and how a bill becomes a law (formally and informally). We give you resources that help you improve your life or work with the government more successfully. We occasionally turn the newsletter over to people whose ideas and expertise we want to share with you. And we go to bat for you!
We try to keep our paywall as minimal as possible, but that’s all dependent on people deciding to pay because they believe in what we’re doing. It costs $10 per month or $100 per year to become a paid believer in local journalism owned by local journalists. And if you really like us, you can be a founding member for $250 and get six additional paid subscriptions.
We serve as a hub where political power brokers and regular folks can come together to discuss ideas and argue about politics — like before blogs sucked and the Twitter death scroll consumed our lives.
And we love to hear from you. A journalist is only as good as their sources and the most valuable thing you can provide us is information. (But you should also pay to subscribe.) Drop us a tip about petty corruption at your local planning and zoning commission or the White House. We’ll do our damndest to run it down.
If you don’t have a tip, send us an introduction, words of encouragement or hate mail. And while you’re at it, tell us what service we can provide in order to earn your financial support. We work for you.