The Secret Life of Sidney Phillips

Sierra Club lobbyist doubles as Tucson paper's legislative correspondent

For at least a year, a freelance writer known as Sidney Phillips has been covering the Arizona State Legislature for Tucson Weekly.

Sidney Phillips' stories, which sometimes share a byline with Tucson Weekly senior editor Jim Nintzel, frequently ridicule conservative lawmakers, including those who promote laws that groups such as the Sierra Club view as antienvironmental.

Sidney Phillips has knowledge of such issues.
Sidney Phillips is actually Sierra Club lobbyist Raena Honan.
"It's certainly not a secret," says Honan, who says she uses the Sidney Phillips nomde plume because it is "appropriate" to keep her freelance writing for Tucson Weekly--which she does as a private citizen--separate from her public lobbying for theSierra Club.

She says the reporting she does for the Tucson paper is "analysis" and information on bills. The newspaper is "getting public informaion," she says.

But the fact remains that Honan, a professional lobbyist, uses a fake byline to cover the very Legislature she lobbies.

Which raises the question: Are Tucson Weekly editors deceiving their readers by concealing Honan's identity--and her bias?

New Times put this question to Dan Huff, managing editor of the Tucson newspaper.

"Why don't you go fuck yourself?" Huff responded before hanging up.
Huff, Nintzel and publisher Douglas Biggers would not confirm that Honan is Sidney Phillips, even though Honan herself does not keep it a secret.

"I only know the writer as Sidney Phillips," says Biggers. "In fact, I've never met Sidney in person. But my attitude on it is that the stories that we write in our news section are so obviously coming from a point of view, I'm not as concerned about who the writer is as maybe New Times might be, or the Arizona Republic."

Biggers says he could not comment further until he talks with "Sidney Phillips and Raena Honan."

The Tucson newspaper--with free circulation of 40,000--calls itself "the alternative to bland daily journalism in the Sonoran desert."

The Phillips-Nintzel articles frequently target conservative Republican legislator Rusty Bowers, whose bills have been opposed by the Sierra Club and other environmentalists.

Rob Smith, the Southwest director of the Sierra Club, says the Sierra Club has nothing to do with Honan's freelance work for the Tucson newspaper. "When she writes for the Sierra Club," he says, "she does it under her own name."

Honan's work with Tucson Weekly is "not an issue or a secret," he says. "No one's bothered to think about it much."

Honan, herself a Republican, unsuccessfully ran for the Legislature in 1994. During that race, the Arizona Republic editorial board commended Honan as one of the candidates who displayed an "ability to think beyond party lines."

She says she has had previous experience as a radio journalist and once edited a small newspaper.

Honan says she chose the pen name "Sidney Phillips" because, like "women writers throughout the ages, I enjoy using a man's name.

 
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