Here at Phoenix New Times, we work hard to bring readers the most important news of the day, showcase the experiences of our community, and hold those in power accountable. In service of those goals, we especially pride ourselves on our longform articles — the dripping-with-details, deeply reported features that allow us to tell stories of the Valley that wouldn't be told otherwise.
From one writer’s investigation into how a double homicide with eight witnesses remains unsolved; to the tragic stories of 15 women who say a powerful Valley artist sexually harassed and abused them; to a charming expedition into why the Phoenix pizza scene is peaking right now; New Times’ 2019 longform canon doesn’t disappoint. In no particular order, here are our staff’s 10 favorite New Times longreads of the year:
1. 'On 107-Degree Day, APS Cut Power to Stephanie Pullman's Home. She Didn't Live,' by Elizabeth Whitman
For years, Arizona Public Service has cut off power to people who can’t pay their electric bills. In the heat of a desert summer, that can have tragic consequences. In this story, Elizabeth Whitman recounts the harrowing tale of Stephanie Pullman, who died in her home after APS cut off her power on a 107-degree day. The story — one of New Times’ most read in 2019 — led the Arizona Corporation Commission to take temporary steps to protect residents from summer cutoffs, and regulators are currently in talks to determine a permanent fix.
Steven Hsieh takes readers on the journey of how a movement to limit the Phoenix light rail’s growth transformed into a movement to kill public transit in the Valley altogether — designed by a dark-money group with ties to the Koch brothers. Hsieh’s tireless, attention-grabbing reporting on the silent influence behind one of the city’s highest-profile ballot measures in years shouldn’t be missed.
3. 'More Than a Dozen Women Accuse Art Maven Bill Tonnesen of Sexual Misconduct,' by Hannah Critchfield
Rumors of sexual misconduct can linger in communities for decades, never rising to the surface. Hannah Critchfield’s damning exposé on claims of sexual harassment and abuse against Phoenix artist Bill Tonnesen is an example of what happens when these stories finally come to light. Critchfield interviews 15 women who say Tonnesen used his money and power to take advantage of them, in ways ranging from verbal abuse to physical groping and pressure to perform sex acts for money. Within months of her article, four women filed police reports accusing the art maven of sexual misconduct. Critchfield's reporting — equal parts dogged and empathetic — rocked the Phoenix art world, and the Valley as a whole.
4. 'Can Mayor Kate Gallego Fix Phoenix?' by Joseph Flaherty
There’s a moment in this piece in which Mayor Kate Gallego explains what it was like to launch her own political career when her then-husband, Ruben Gallego, was already in the Arizona House of Representatives. “I have my own record and my own leadership style,” she replies. After a pause, she adds, “But I did feel like I needed to come out of his shadow.”
Gallego has done that, proving herself 10 times over, Flaherty’s piece shows. In his intimate profile, full of moments that offer a glimpse into what it's like to be Gallego or be close to her, he captures the essence of an intelligent, thorough, and prolific individual becoming a leader in a city that badly needs one.
Alex Murillo spent his childhood in Phoenix, enlisted in the Navy, and had four kids in Arizona. But after serving a prison sentence for transporting marijuana across state lines, he was deported to Mexico, where he didn't speak the language, and hadn’t lived since he was a toddler.
That’s where Ali Swenson’s story starts. What follows is a devastating example of how the U.S. military misleads its green-card veterans with false promises of citizenship, how ICE neglects its duty to properly track and review veteran deportations, and how forced separation can wreak havoc on a family. This local story rife with national consequences caught the attention of politicians Julian Castro and Bernie Sanders, who has pledged to end veteran deportations if he is elected president.
6. 'Killed Without Consequence: How Phoenix Police Left a Double Homicide Unsolved,' by Meg O'Connor
The best longform stories leave no stone unturned, and thisfeature
by Meg O'Connor is no exception. In the months she spent reporting this story, O'Connor read thousands of pages of public records and interviewed seven witnesses. Her work shows in the piece: It's an in-depth, captivating retelling of an 11-year-old double homicide that appears to have had a wealth of evidence for police to explore, and yet remains unsolved to this day.
7. "A Master and a Rising Star: Why the Valley's Pizza Scene Is Peaking Now," by Chris Malloy
Arizona doesn’t have a signature pizza style, but it does have signature pizza-makers, and this piece introduces us to two of the most influential. First, Myke Olsen, the young accountant-turned-pizzaiolo whose pies have amassed a cult following. And second, none other than Chris Bianco, a local legend who is so meticulous about his flour that he mills his own. Like any good pizza, Chris Malloy’s story offers a smattering of unique flavors while simultaneously holding together as a whole, telling a story of how the Valley has made an Italian classic its own. Added bonus: There’s a list of Phoenix’s best pizzerias at the bottom.
8. 'Howard Buffett's Border War' and 'Border Cowboys,' a two-part series by Beau Hodai
In an exhaustively reported two-part series, Beau Hodai reveals how billionaire Warren Buffett's son, Howard Buffett, has waged his own border war in southern Arizona. The series, which is rich with detail from public documents, shows that despite Buffett's insistence that his priorities lie in humanitarianism and the "rule of law," he's using the same playbook other border vigilantes have used for decades. Beyond that, Hodai reports, Buffett uses local law enforcement to lend legitimacy to his efforts by donating tens of millions of dollars to the Cochise County Sheriff's Office.
9. '20 Years of Modified Arts: How the Gallery Changed Roosevelt Row,' by Lynn Trimble
Today, Phoenicians know Roosevelt Row as a bustling and creative arts district full of trendy galleries, expensive townhomes, and cleverly-named beers on tap. But it wasn't always this way. Lynn Trimble's piece on the 20-year anniversary of Modified Arts shows readers how Kimber Lanning used her gallery to help build the city's arts district, only to battle the gentrification that emerged there. New and seasoned Phoenix residents alike will appreciate this time capsule of a story that sheds light on some of the challenges the art world faces today.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Phoenix New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Phoenix's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
10. 'Nightmare at the Phoenix Art Museum: Docents Are Fleeing, Donors Drying Up,' by Robrt L. Pela
Amada Cruz, who became director and CEO of the Phoenix Art Museum in 2015, drew plenty of praise for her leadership and financial prowess. She assembled a savvy group of managers who helped increase the museum's endowment by $5 million. But during her tenure, complaints about her leadership style grew, resulting in 101 volunteers — 22 percent of the museum's docents — quitting in an eight-month period. Were their complaints valid? Readers of Pela's investigation disagreed, but his comprehensive piece sure got attention.
Three months after the story's publication, Cruz took a job with the Seattle Art Museum — though one of its board members told the Seattle Times that Pela's piece "gave the search committee some pause."