In last week’s discussion thread, we asked you to define what it is about each political party that attracts or repels you.
More than 100 of you commented with thoughtful opinions.1 Thanks!
Political reporters are often bombarded by candidates, consultants, lawyers and lobbyists telling us what the people think. (We heard from a few of them who were lurking on your fascinating insights.)
But our readers are a much better focus group. So we’re gonna lean on you more.
This week, we want your thoughts and questions about political reporting.
Here are a few prompts.
What do you dislike about political reporting? And give us some examples of people or outlets doing a great job. Bonus points for those taking a novel approach to traditional journalism.
What is the least covered niche in Arizona politics? In other words, if you could dedicate one reporter to cover a single beat in Arizona, what would it be?
Finally, a major part of the Agenda’s goal is to arm people with the knowledge and resources they need to feel confident as informed citizens. We made zines about how a bill becomes law and how to access public records, for example, and we love writing explainers and cheat sheets.
So tell us:
What don’t you understand about how campaigns, government agencies and political bodies work? What topics should we cover in explainers and cheat sheets ahead of the next legislative session or election?
Hank will be hanging out on the thread from about 6 a.m. to 9 a.m.
How cool is it that our comments board isn’t full of trash like the rest of the internet?
Well this was fun! You guys are great. Lots of good ideas and thoughts here. I've got a 9 am but I'll check back later for all you late risers.
Like: Heather Cox Richardson.
I follow some great national Government news orgs on Instagram and I wish something could be more AZ centric on that platform (Mo News and SharonSaysSo)
One of many things I’d love to see is someone covering all the bills that are put forth by the minority party that never get heard. I think if people saw that they would be appalled; the bills that personally could affect them and their families simply passed over. I guess I’ve never gotten over the fact that a suicide prevention bill we put forth through our legislative district senator who happened to be a Dem was simply passed over because he was a Dem. It only got traction in year 2 because it was co-sponsored by a Republican who could empathize (R’s only act when it affects them directly). Also, I’d like for people to see how some selfish reps manipulate the laws in their favor, like Eddie Farnsworth funneling tax dollars to his religious schools back in the day. Or present day cr*p pulled by fake electors and such or voter suppression... Just a really close watch on what doesn’t get put forth, that which gets blocked by the majority party and why.
Looking forward to Dan Ariely's new book on the origins of misbelief. Why do so many of us believe self-destructive untruths. A close friend went down the Qanon rabbit hole. Many Americans believe in the superiority of authoritarianism. Zealots are determined to make everyone live according to their religious doctrine. The insanity of everyone being allowed to have deadly military grade weapons.
Ugh I got through several comments logged in under Tucson Agenda before I noticed. Lol. It’s too early.
My biggest issue with political news, is the fact that the loudest voices (not necessarily sane) are getting the most attention. I would like to see more reporting on the hard working underdogs just trying to do what’s best for their constituents. Let’s see some light shined on the positive side of government (Oxy moron?). How about some hard hitting coverage on the Arizona fake electors? Met Anthony Kerns at my health club, introduced myself as one of his democratic constituents, and haven’t seen him in there since. Let’s call them out for not doing ‘our’ job.
Votebeat’s Jen Fifield provides outstanding in-depth reporting on AZ’s voting and election issues.
What I like least about political reporting is the bias. Report the actual facts, not your spin on them. If candidates are lying or rude, then please do not give them more direct air time and if they lie or mislead, then counter with facts.
The least covered niche in Arizona politics? How about state specific laws that can affect candidates positions, like our 100 year old abortion law? We have some very weird, old laws that need updating.
The impact of rogue campaigns intrigues me. It seems that each election the number of groups which choose to ignore legislation requiring them.to register grows. Is that true or am I simply seeing more incidents because i now look for it?
More importantly, how much money is spent on candidates or issues defying the duty to report the spending?
I was stunned by the realization that in addition to about $100,000 of reported campaign funds, 2 SUSD board candidates benefited from at least twice as much spent by rogue groups who blatantly refused to identify themselves or disclose what they spent.
Spending a quarter million on a couple of school board seats seems insane unless you consider the opportunity to liquidate the District's real estate portfolio as you intentionally destroy its enrollment from within.
Needing only 1 more of the 3 Board seats up for election in 2024, the District's enemies are already spending without reporting.
It seems that they count on the inability of election officials to respond to all of the shadowy operators.
If SUSD is overcome by saboteurs planted on its board through the boldest of dirty campaigns, the template is set for repeating that process throughout the State
The objective? Launching ESA Voucher funded private schools on the campuses absconded from Districts.
No one can afford.to build a new high school campus on the meager Arizona school funding.
But why build your own when you can steal.a few board seats and take all the campuses you want?
Especially if ignoring campaign finance statutes goes unpunished.
Here is what I dislike…
I know campaigns run on money. In 2020 I donated a modest monthly amount through ACTBLUE to Mark Kelly’s campaign effective through the election. Since then I have been inundated via text and email and mobile phone to donate to EVERY democratic candidate for every level of government in every state in the entire nation! Every election cycle! It’s maddening! Next time I’ll send cash anonymously!
'Morning! We have 12 counties holding elections Nov.7th with ballots mailed October 11th. An explainer about Bond and Budget over rides could be super helpful. Not to mention Election processes as they matter in an 'off year' as well.
I look forward to reading with my morning coffee.
For me it's water. I've lived in Arizona for over 40 years now and I must say that I was shocked that there were no conservation measures that seemed to be in place when I came and still are not. At least nothing that I would consider enough to help. While we are told that in the Phoenix area, "we have planned," did those planners account for a 20+ year drought and the explosive growth/influx of more people or the industries that suck up a horrendous amount of that precious water? I am mindful that there might be some governmental movement on this issue, but is it going anywhere?
My understanding was two decades ago; state legislators traded out paid staff for performing expert impact analysis in favor of having the impacted businesses and industries want a say in writing the analysis and laws for our representatives to vote on.
As a business owner, you would think I might like that, but it has negatively impacted our state and, ironically, businesses. For instance, our inability to regulate and demand specific levels of speed and service from our internet providers is a severe problem in Tucson.
I’d love to see reporting on the impact.
Three things I don't like about political reporting are 1) often legislative campaigns/issues are treated as a sports game-who is up and who is down-one week to the next and often based on sketchy polls. 2) that all political opinions are treated as equal even though a politician may utter a known blatant lie, it's reported on the same level as a politician that has done the research. 3)Along the same lines...giving a 'balanced' view of sometimes 'unbalanced' political opinions-equal eyes/ink/pixels. As an example politician X says "well of course we all know moon landing was a hoax" and the reporter says "well let's talk to a scientist about that moon landing".
Least covered are county supervisor decisions. Usual done-as here in Cochise-when something exceptionally stupid or controversial happens. Those 15 counties have a ton of influence in peoples lives and a reporter that regularly highlights supe decisions on issues would better inform residents of what is happening in the State. (
Besides the abortion law, not just off hand. But let me ask around.
What don’t you understand about how campaigns, government agencies and political bodies work?
The more I know about politics, the less I understand it. I'm mostly appalled by how people vote against there own self interests without understanding the issues. I would like to see more hyper local news coverage. We seem to have lost that with the changes in journalism. Anyway, keep up the good work.
I really enjoy Meg O'Connor's reporting, but I'm biased because she covers repro and policing, which are two topics I follow constantly.
I would love to see more reporting on rural and tribal communities.
Agenda readers are get the inside baseball of politics, but I think a lot of people could benefit from a primer on how the legislative process works, including defining committees, how and why bills stall, etc.
Thanks, Hank, I'm very interested in the responses to these prompts, too! Especially as I'm trying to figure out next steps as ex-Twitter continues to move closer to self-destruction. (Substack?)
I like the response about campaign finance reporting - a lot of my investigative reports in the 2010s were on the rise of dark money in Arizona, but I've spent less time on it as the legal news/democracy beat has taken over my free time project. There is still so much to do on campaign finance - especially with the Stop Dark Money rules moving towards implementation.
I also would like to see us all do a better job of following up on stories - you guys have done a great job on that (but it might get harder sans Rachel). Ideally, it's almost like incremental reporting.
Thanks again for all that you're doing and will do!
Because of the demand of deadlines and editors, political reporters tend to focus on the minutiae of momentary political trivia and that gives events exaggerated importance. We need reporting that steps back and adds a bit of distance to these small events, perhaps even ignoring them.
I really dislike when the writers show their own political party through their writing. It’s obvious for many, but it needs to remain impartial no matter how touchy the subject is.
How about highlighting community activists who are working hard to effect positive change? Personal stories that might inspire the rest of us in our collective fight for justice, free & fair elections, environmental protections, etc.
One thing that Caitlin used to do was a monthly reporting on officers who lost their certifications from AZPOST.
I’m a huge LE supporter but it’s important that those people who lose their certifications are known to the community.
They are buried in AZPOST notes and you can’t get the details without a FOIA.
Ditto: Heather Cox Richardson
What is missing? One source that would cover “news” from the viewpoint of all stakeholders. In our current climate, especially in education, kids are being exposed to fewer “lenses”. Multiple perspective create better discussion and solutions.
Did you know that staff have been committing violence against kids in their care at Canyon State Academy in Queen Creek. That's the largest group home in the state for kids in foster care. Did you know that foster parents and group homes in Arizona don't get surprise visits. Visits and inspections are pre-scheduled. Foster care is definitely a beat that deserves more coverage, but its very nature makes it difficult to report on because of confidentiality laws. People involved in the system also don't come out publicly often because of retaliation by case workers. Also because the broken foster care system itself inflicts so much trauma on the children and foster families that by the time they leave the system, they are too traumatized (by the system!) to stay involved or talk much about it. However, there are advocacy groups that are advocating for sunlight laws that would allow reporters in the courtrooms as long as they don't reporting identifying information. I don't know that this beat would be a good fit for your organization, but there is a desperate need for someone somewhere to take up this beat.
A topic that I would appreciate greater coverage is the kerfuncle involving Arizona pbs, Arizona State University and the Hobbs Lake debategate.
I am a follower of Ted Simons and Arizona Horizon particularly the journalists round table. It's clear there's more than meets the eye behind the debate gate as Michael Crowe continues to exercise an oversized level of political and economic influence in the Phoenix metropolitan area.
It's just this type of event that raises skepticism in the mind of those of us in the independent category in attempting to evaluate our sources of information. Clearly Ted Simons is uncomfortable with what happened but has been instructed not to allow his audience and insight into crows heavy hand. The week after the cancellation at the journalist round table how we made an effort to open that line of discussion and was quickly reminded by Ted but the story was closed.
I don’t live in Arizona and I never have. I paid for a subscription because I an concerned about rhetoric in places where unscrupulous politicians try to bombard voters who don’t have time to research everything they are told. They lie so often that voters figure it must be true. And so I try to support news organizations that I feel are fair, to ensure they can continue doing good work. I am extremely disappointed that news channels can lie and hide behind “opinion piece.” But my recent frustration is that news channels (all of them) appear to pick what voters should be concerned about. Tuberville not even living in the state he represents and holding up military promotions just isn’t covered enough. But they sure talk about Biden’s age every day. Is it a concern? Sure. (I was concerned about Obama’s lack of experience as well.) But noone I knew, even Trump supporters, was screaming it was a top concern until the news channels focused on it non stop. Now it’s all the talk. This is how Trump became president - the news “made” him. The news is now the tail that wags the dog. How do we change that?
Hi Hank, I LOVE that your reporting isnt full of trash! It makes it easier to make decisions with accurate and informative information.
Hi Hank, The least covered niche of politics are down ballot races lilke rhe Maricopa County Superintendent of Schools Office. There is so much happening there like the current Superintendent who has $5-6 million dollars of unaccounted for expenditures, and he has not taken a shred of responsibility for any of it. That is our taxpayer funding that is missing.
It came to my attention when I first moved to AZ IN 2007. It seemed that the ruse was “we are cutting the budget for staff and saving the taxpayers money.”
Issues, not personalities, please. And when personalities, more about what they are doing that is for the common good and less about petty infighting and grievances.
Occasionally, investigative reporting into bad behavior, especially if it’s coordinated. Those roots can go deep and can be oxygen depleting, so move off front page?
Reduce the cacophony and headline bombast?
Wow. What a fabulous chain of comments. I just read through every one of them and liked so many! To all of you who wrote those smart, insightful things - thank you! SO refreshing to read such diverse comments - with intelligent opinions - on a wide variety of topics that are important. I learned a lot just from reading these comments.
Thank you also Hank for your column and opening up this up for reader ideas.
I do not like all the speculation about what might happen in the future. Please be "reporters" and cover in depth what is going on now.
More coverage in Pinal County. It seems to be poorly run.
I would love to see more coverage about how out of state money affects our local elections in the ramp up to 2024, both in direct candidate contributions and indirect influence of our local media market. Your piece this week on the spike in advertising rates was a great example of this.
When I was younger and living in reliably-Red AZ, I wondered what it would be like to live in a swing state that could alter an election outcome; now that AZ is a swing state, I'd love to track how it affects our political conversations.
I would give anything to have an Arizona version of the FP National weekly commentary by Nellie Bowles - non-partisan, thoroughly humorous, and unrelentingly honest: https://open.substack.com/pub/bariweiss/p/nellie-bowles-tgif-ennui-the-people?r=1pv2jp&utm_medium=ios&utm_campaign=post
The stories of Arizona Hot Strike Summer and the mobilization of workers and their unions deserves informed coverage, Hank. The “labor beat” gets little attention in context and scope—workers are the largest voting demographic in the country, and their bargaining is not just at the workplace, but is truly bargaining for the common good. From brutal housing costs and truly unaffordable medical care (including abortion healthcare), to high quality public education and the struggle for lifesaving heat protections at work, workers are challenging the primacy of greedy corporations to control our politics and our entire economy. Arizona Agenda is right on top of the the deliberately hidden stories of power politics, and the worst of the capitalists greatly fear the organizing of labor political campaigns and influence in the legislatures and Congress.
So incredibly late here, but would really liked to see an in-depth study of the Goldwater Instutiut and how it’s influenced Republican politics and policy especially in education.
It seems as though most political reporters focus on the same stories. Day after day. Especially nationally. And it’s all about law suits. Law suits move slowly so just report when something new happens.
I would like to see more specifics on actual voting records of elected officials. And if any of the laws they voted on were passed, implemented and how that affected people in Arizona. We just put them all in a “political party box” and leave it at that.
I would like to know more about how their campaigns are funded. And who is funding them and why.
I think a reporter should be assigned to Water in Arizona. We all have our heads in the sand and pretend it’s not going to affect us. Know who is making water decisions - cities, county, state, feds - and how that affects us specifically is important.
Thank you for all of your hard work.
Oh yeah - thank you for the explainer sheets. I would like to see a few on government agencies that affect us in Arizona. Like - exactly why does the Az Corporation Commission exist, what are their duties, how do they decide issues?
And County Supervisors. Pretty sure we all know they have election related duties (still, I believe a breakdown of those would be helpful) but what else do they do? And how does it affect us.
I don't think there is enough coverage of school board politics which have become a major focus of groups like Moms for Liberty. I don't understand the information and money links between the Arizona legislature and various policy/advocacy groups like the chamber of commerce, ALEC, Koch brothers, Sierra Club, Save Our Schools etc. etc. Depending on the legislator they may just be a pipeline for so called model legislation being written by these groups. Do the legislators also solicit or receive donations from these groups--seems likely but how to figure that out? Also what has been the impact on the recently passed initiative on dark money. Who will write the regulations about that?
Hi, I am a candidate for this office. What questions do you have? I'm happy to answer what I can for you.
Yep. My real concern is the lack of regulation on the companies that have monopolies and especially those that get to use public property. Internet companies are a great example. If we could get the legislatures to regulate them, Cox would get to right the rules.
I follow Secukar Arizona for their reports in school Board meetings, which have become straight-up insane.
This was a great idea and made for fascinating reading. It certainly solidified for me the lack of 'old fashioned' reports who had the time to have a 'beat'...a specific city or department in a city ..and really follow what went on there. Another issue is: how is all the federal money that has come into our state really been spent to include the procurement process (which is where so much corruption 'can' take place.) Periodically I've read about $$ hat Ducey handed out and now Hobbs hands out but...are there specific guidelines re such and reports that have to be submitted to the feds after the money is awarded and then when it's all spent? And there also seems to be a lot of $ 'still there' and floating around!! I find that very confusing. Years ago I managed a federal grant program for the state of AZ and I know that we had to file regular reports on which entities got the money, how it was spent, how many benefited etc. Doesn't that still apply?
More in depth reporting on finance at all levels how it is spent. Like the SFB, cities counties, school districts , and especially the state by Governor and legislature.
What the attorney general is doing, same for the state auditor
Hank, things I hate about political reporting;
+baited questions, trying to steer you into ditch
+always trying to make conservatives look extreme,
+always making university professors with no experience look not extreme, or constitutionally centered.
+any pabum the Walter Cronkite school puts out
Things I like about political reporting;
*Horizon explained and cheat sheet graphics
* many capital times stories not written by Howie
*Hanks effort to not be like Azcentral, heading to Bk.
*Elliot Pollocks efforts to give percent of the total when explaining economics.
Hey Hank, here's a series which needs investigating: what happened to the $30M (per State Senator) and $15M (per State Representative) which Ducey handed out last minute when the Feds were going to claw back covid money? For example, in Yavapai County, $15M was going to go to the non-profit rodeo grounds which is notoriously poorly managed. They pay the City of Prescott $1 a year in rent. No one told the city about until it was announced publicly. The fundraiser is a former mayor of Prescott who may be getting a big commission. But we needn't worry, the State Treasurer won't disburse any funds until the lawsuit is over...
Regarding what I like least about political reporting is the use of emotive language. I don't like being manipulated. Reuters and AP have become my go-to sources.