Phoenix New Times is an independent local newspaper and website whose small but scrappy staff of journalists have covered the Arizona stories that other media outlets ignored since 1970.
From the day we were founded, Phoenix New Times has been free to our readers. We remain dedicated to providing our reported local journalism to everyone at no charge, regardless of their financial status.
How can we do it? We've always relied on advertisers to generate the revenues that make our rent and pay our staff. Most of those advertisers were local mom 'n' pops, and their support meant we were able to give our newspapers away at no charge. We've never put up an online paywall, either.
That advertiser-supported model worked very well for a very long time, helping us endure severe economic downturns from the Reagan recession of the early 1980s to the crash that followed 9/11 and the Great Recession of 2008. We were able to bounce back from those setbacks because as local businesses recovered, they started advertising again and we all made it through.
Through it all, New Times has always embraced change. In the late 1990s, we were among the first alt-weeklies to commit to digital journalism, restructuring our workflow to publish stories web-first. That decision turned us into something we'd never been: a daily newsroom. Through the aughts, we continued to build up our online presence, publishing multiple stories each day about local news, music, arts and food. For the first time, we were competing against major local daily papers for breaking news -- and often winning.
Another change occurred in 2013, when a group of longtime employees purchased New Times' parent company from its original owners, whose success in Phoenix had led them to build the nation's largest chain of alternative weekly publications. Faced with an array of challenges posed by a bruising business environment for media organizations, the new company, Voice Media Group, set about shoring up pillar publications like New Times, rededicating itself to their success and their survival. Several out-of-state publications were sold, and a new Phoenix-based digital marketing agency was created to help generate new revenue streams. A commitment was made to distribute our journalism widely on social media platforms, engaging readers where they lived. Our progressive approach to social issues allowed us to lead the way on issues such as marijuana legalization.
One result of New Times' forward-looking approach was a growing number of readers who didn't necessarily live in the Valley of the Sun but appreciated what we were doing. Whereas in the early days of print our distribution was limited to metro Phoenix -- thanks to those eye-catching red-and-yellow newsracks! -- our stories were now available to anyone with an internet connection. Some of these readers were Phoenix expats longing to read about their hometown. But many were people whose connection to our journalism was more gut-level than it was geographic. Just like our loyal hometown supporters, they were drawn to our pointed coverage of immigration and other hot-button political issues, our freewheeling approach to writing about pop-culture, our sophisticated understanding of the city's ever-evolving restaurant scene, and our irreverence and willingness to highlight this city's most creative spirits.
Innovation stems from talent. And talent is one thing New Times has always had in abundance. From the start, New Times has hired a special breed of reporter. Our music and arts sections have long offered the city's most sophisticated perspective on Phoenix culture thanks to writers like Rbrt Pela, David Holthouse and Bob Mehr. Back in the 1980s, we were one of the first alt-weeklies to hire a full-time restaurant critic. Since then we've only strengthened our commitment to covering the food scene, and the rest of the world has noticed; food critic Patricia Escarcega, who began her career at New Times, now writes for the Los Angeles Times. Over the years our news reporters -- people like Jana Bommersbach, John Dougherty, Ray Stern and Terry Greene Sterling -- regularly took home Arizona's major journalism awards. Two of our writers have won the Livingston Award, the country's most prestigious honor for young journalists: Sarah Fenske in 2011 and John Dickerson in 2008. Today the country's most lauded publications regularly punch our writers' tickets to journalism's big leagues: In 2019, Antonia Noori Farzan left for the Washington Post and in 2020, staff writer Meg O'Connor, was hired away by the national news website The Appeal.
The State of Media Today
For several years now, media organizations large and small have been hit by a perfect storm of financial pressures. As readers shifted from print to online, advertising rates dropped steeply. Tech giants began sucking up most of the remaining local advertising dollars. More recently, huge numbers of our advertisers have either closed entirely or temporarily stopped spending in the wake of the coronavirus. That has led us to completely rethink how we operate. We remain committed to keeping our journalism free and avoiding paywalls or mandatory subscriptions. But the long-term challenges organizations like ours face in generating advertising dollars aren't going away.
Today we remain as dedicated as ever to developing Phoenix's best journalistic talent, and to figuring how to keep growing at a time of great challenges in the media business. We want to grow the right way -- by doubling down on our commitment to serving our readers, without whom we couldn't do what we do. If we can keep writing stories that are important to you, and that tell you important things about the city we all love, we think we can survive this latest crisis, too.
Some core beliefs underpin that effort. We believe that in a modern age of disinformation and a large part of society openly at war with the press, it's more important than ever for cities to have locally based reporters keeping an eye on the powers that be. We believe that fact-based reporting can help people see through the cynicism so prevalent in modern politics and inspire in them a more hopeful approach to participatory democracy. Our standard in framing and reporting stories is intellectual honesty. A crook is a crook, a liar is a liar, a hero is a hero, and these are demonstrable things.
We're the only Arizona media organization whose owners were ever arrested simply for practicing journalism. We also once got the governor indicted. But from the beginning, New Times was about more than hard news. We also believe in celebrating Phoenix culture, covering our city's music, arts, and dining scenes with the same attention to detail that we devote to our news stories. We've given you definitive stories about legendary local bands like the Meat Puppets; odes to Arizona's most iconic bars; walked you through Phoenix's 50 Most Essential Restaurants; introduced you to the joys of Mexican sushi. We believe that a special kind of culture thrives in 115-degree heat, and we want to keep helping you explore it.
What You Can Do to Help
We're calling our membership program "I Support," and we're basing it on a simple premise: Good local journalism requires interest and demand from engaged local readers, and we know we have a loyal audience that wants to support our efforts.
We want to keep covering Phoenix the way it deserves to be covered. That means remaining independent and avoiding paywalls -- but still bringing in enough money to fund our journalism.
Becoming a member is as simple as signing up for one of our email newsletters or contributing as little as $1. Looking for an absolutely ad-free online reading experience? We have that too. Just pledge a monthly or annual contribution and you can read your favorite New Times news, music, food and arts stories with no digital interruptions.
Whatever your contribution, it will help fund our commitment to producing high-quality local journalism. That makes you our first step in developing a viable, reader-funded editorial model.