Wick Communications

Posts Tagged ‘Arizona’

Unpublic records

In First Amendment on 4 May 2017 at 12:56 pm

Many thanks to Christianna Silva at the University of Arizona for this report on the state of public records in her state. Sadly, it won’t surprise anyone engaged in the daily struggle to pry public records from public agencies.

Here’s her lede:

PHOENIX – More than a month ago, 19 Arizona agencies were given simple public record requests seeking data on the numbers of those requests those agencies received in 2015 and 2016. Less than half responded.

Of the 19 agencies requested, nine responded, three on the same day it was sent.

Only one agency — Arizona Attorney General’s Office — provided everything requested. Officials there explained they did so because their response was required by law.

So to recap, only one of 19 public agencies in Arizona followed the law when given a very simple public records request. Most didn’t even acknowledge the request, even though it came from someone at the state’s flagship university and not some trouble-making news organization.

If ever there was cause for alarm in the populace, here it is. Again, from Christianna’s terrific piece. … Read the rest of this entry »


Satisfaction in the scoop

In journalism on 27 Apr 2017 at 4:35 pm

Green Valley News Facebook page

This week, the staff at the Green Valley News hit one — or two — out of the park. As often happens, the local newspaper was at its best when something terrible happened in the community.

In this case, it was the Sawmill fire in southern Arizona. At this writing, the fire was only 20 percent contained and had consumed 40,000 acres. It has cost taxpayers $1.6 million to fight so far. The fire is big news throughout the region. Hundreds of firefighters were involved at the scene and smoke and fire was on the mind of people from Tucson south to the border.

There are a number of ways to cover something like this and Wick newspapers in Green Valley, Sahuarita, Sierra Vista and Nogales (that I know of) did it all. Reporters went to the scene. They diligently reported on press releases from authorities who marked the progress of the fire. They took eyewitness accounts and photos from readers. And they worked longstanding sources. This is where local news organizations have the upper hand when big news breaks at home. And this is where Dan and Danielle and the entire GV News team kicked some butt.

Several sources confirmed to the Green Valley News that the fire was started by a target shooter aiming at explosive targets. (As an aside, if that doesn’t sound like a fire waiting to happen, I don’t know what does.) The sources said the target shooter was a man and that he called in the fire and turned himself into authorities. Within 24 hours, Wick’s Arizona newspapers were reporting that the suspect was an off-duty Border Patrol employee.

Official sources were saying none of that. Initially, at least, all they would say is that the fire was “human-caused.”

As a result, we had the extraordinary pleasure of being the source of information for the Arizona Daily Star in the region’s biggest city: … Read the rest of this entry »

First draft of history

In Newspapers on 30 Mar 2017 at 12:37 pm

Local historians unveiling a 100-year-old time capsule in Safford, Ariz., that included local newspapers.

Recently, we asked editors and publishers to put pen to paper and tell readers why their newspapers were important to their communities. They subsequently shared many of those efforts with each other and they are all heartfelt and wonderful. Here is one. It’s from David Bell, editor of the Eastern Arizona Courier. He rightly notes that the local newspaper is an historical document like no other. Enjoy. — Clay

In 2014, when a 100-year-old time capsule was discovered hidden behind a sign mounted to the exterior of the Graham County Courthouse, longtime residents eagerly anticipated the opening. A historian from the state library oversaw the opening, and from the capsule he removed a newspaper. Followed by another newspaper, then another, and yet another.

In 2016, two former Pima Elementary students remembered it was time to open a time capsule they and their classmates sealed 25 years ago, when they were in third grade. Inside were a video cassette, some stickers, pencils and a Bart Simpson doll. What caused the women to remember was a newspaper clipping one of them had come across, telling the story of the class’ plan to create a time capsule.

Earlier this year, a member of the GFWC Woman’s Club of Safford contacted us about her plan to donate nearly 200 formal dresses to St. Vincent de Paul, so high school girls could have an inexpensive shopping option for prom this year. The donor mentioned that this wasn’t the first time club members donated dresses. “I have the newspaper story when we did this before; would you like to see?” she asked.

Each of these stories has one thing in common — the newspaper. … Read the rest of this entry »

Making the best of it

In journalism on 20 Oct 2016 at 3:11 pm


When I told Sierra Vista Herald interim Managing Editor Liz Manring how much I liked this Oct. 7 front page, her response was: “This one? Really?”

Liz and her staff are perfectionists. A “perfect” front page would undoubtedly consist entirely of well researched staff-written stories full of context and bursting with art. This is not really that page.

“I don’t know that this is the best example of our best work,” she wrote to me in an email.

I agree, but that wasn’t the point I was making. As a news editor, every day my reach exceeds my grasp. I always want to produce a better newspaper than I do, and frankly that is one of the things that has always appealed to me about newspapering. Tomorrow is always a day away and that means I have another chance right around the corner.

What I liked about this page is that Liz and her staff made the most of what they had that day. And there was planning involved that might not be evident. … Read the rest of this entry »

Good ideas on video

In Video on 22 Sep 2016 at 4:32 pm

Green Valley News’ editor Dan Shearer and his publisher, Rebecca Bradner, were having a discussion on the use and potential expense of adding video to the news portfolio of organizations like ours and that discuss turned into an email. I asked Dan if I could share it. What follows are his thoughts.

As you can see, one decision to make early is the trade off between quality vs. quick. Costly vs. next-to-nothing. Generally speaking, I think quick and easy trumps more labor-intensive productions, and I think Dan would agree. Take it away, Dan.

— Clay

Video doesn’t have to be television quality.

We made this mistake early on at The Arizona Republic. We put reporters through 40 hours of video training. When they were done, they could put together a high-quality piece of work in about eight hours — interviews, taping, editing, headlines, voice over, everything.

What we found was that it delivered few page views (and back then, advertisers weren’t interested). Readers also didn’t have the attention spans for two- or three-minute videos to complement a story. And we didn’t have the resources. … Read the rest of this entry »

Uncovering trends at home

In Editing on 18 Aug 2016 at 4:08 pm


Sometimes, the most obvious things in our communities are the least-covered aspects. Sometimes, stuff is so ubiquitous that it feels like everyone already knows it and that makes it the opposite of news.

Sometimes, as a result, we miss the boat.

That was not the case at the Sierra Vista Herald, which recently completed a series called, “Those who Served.” It was a three-part series that ran on successive Sundays and looked at the lives of people who successfully transitioned from the military life that is synonymous with living in Sierra Vista and life as a civilian.

Stories were written by staffers Derek Jordan, Eric Petermann and Christine Steele, as well as freelancer Kay Poiro. The photos were taken by the newspaper’s Mark Levy. Together, they looked at how different generations have handled the transition, how educational courses have helped and how individuals have found their niches. … Read the rest of this entry »

Doing anniversaries right

In journalism on 23 Jun 2016 at 2:17 pm

Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 10.06.36 AM

Want to know why someone would buy the local newspaper? Take a look at the June 12 edition of the Sierra Vista Herald. Above the fold, six columns and six inches deep is a five-year-old photo of black smoke accompanied by these words:

Five years ago today, a blaze started just north of the border with Mexico. The Monument Fire, as it came to be called, burned more than 30,000 acres and left a lasting impact on Sierra Vista and the surrounding area. But amid the chaos of lost homes, fierce flames and billowing smoke, a community rallied together. Five years later, we share some of those stories.

Below are breakouts on animal evacuees, fire chiefs, businesses, families who lived through it and more. The newspaper created a hashtag, #5YRFIRE, so that readers could share their photos online. There is a QR code inside that takes readers to YouTube interviews with people who lived through the Monument Fire.

I was humbled to see such fine, thoughtful work about an event that changed the community forever. Far too many news teams would have let this slide or written a 15-inch story with a single horizontal photo remembering something that couldn’t possibly be contained that way. … Read the rest of this entry »

Showing a little local pride

In Ideas on 12 May 2016 at 3:11 pm


I have no idea who these two guys are, but they are clearly fans of The Green Valley News. They submitted this photo, apparently while visiting their seventh continent, and it will be duly noted on the newspaper’s photo gallery set up expressly for this purpose.

Both Green Valley News Editor Dan Shearer and I are sort of amazed that people take the local paper on their jaunts around the world. I would have thought the immediate gratification of Facebook would have rendered something like this quaint, but there you go.

Dan says about 200 people submitted photos in 2013, the first time the paper asked for them.

“We did a big splash on the features page, highlighting our favorite photos on the backdrop of a big globe,” he wrote in an email. “It ended — we thought.”

Except it didn’t. So far this year, 30 people have submitted photos of their travels. Dan has the good sense to let them and is continuing to document the jaunts online in a slideshow. I wonder: Could you geotag each of these and then render them on a map? Would readers like to see where their neighbors are vacationing? Would a travel agent or an insurance agent or some other local provider sponsor a product like that? … Read the rest of this entry »

Leaving the wire behind

In Associated Press on 7 Apr 2016 at 11:23 am
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Dan Shearer at the Republican Club of Green Valley. Courtesy of the club.

This week, each of our newspapers received a memo asking that they send AP release letters in advance of what will be an eventual move away from the wire service. I’m quite sure this was met with angst in some places. Though I think it’s the right move for our community products for the reasons I explained in that memo, I understand there might be trepidation.

That’s why I was glad to receive this email from Dan Shearer, editor of our Green Valley News and Sahuarita Sun. He said I could reprint it here, so I’m giving you a slightly edited version. Take it away, Dan:

Wow, (ditching AP is a) big move. Overdue, too.

We did this about three or four years ago. … Within two months, we’d dropped nearly all AP from the news side and cut the wire editor’s hours from 40 to 20. And the paper got better (even with a couple of layoffs that year). Finally, we had a focus (local, local and local).
Here’s what I’d recommend people check in on right away: … Read the rest of this entry »

A Fellow in our midst

In journalism on 31 Mar 2016 at 12:07 pm

N033116 O'Brien Fellow Christine Steele

The Bisbee Review’s own Christine Steele earned a huge honor this week when she was named a Perry and Alicia O’Brien Fellow for Public Service Journalism at the Marquette University College of Communications.

Just how big is this? The other two fellows for the 2016-17 academic year are Pulitzer Prize winners.

Steele told me she will spend much of her nine months in Milwaukee researching and writing about the issue of homelessness and the uneven services the homeless receive from private companies that have huge public contracts. She will work with Marquette journalism students who will help to research these issues and produce a spectacular piece of public service journalism with roots in Southern Arizona.

Steele’s opportunity began almost the moment she walked in the door at The Bisbee Review. …
Read the rest of this entry »