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Photo credit Rebecca Sasnett

Today’s #MediaMonday comes to us from Tony Davis, an investigative reporter for the Arizona Daily Star.  Tony was recently named winner of the Arizona Press Club’s Virg Hill Journalist of the Year.  He was recognized for his investigative reporting on two Tucson-area projects threatening the environment — a housing development near the San Pedro River and the Rosemont mines.

Tony, time to share:

I was born on Los Angeles and grew up in Albuquerque, N.M.

I’ve wanted to be a newspaper reporter since I was in elementary school. I don’t recall why but from the time I was old enough to appreciate the subject, I’ve always been interested in politics. My parents subscribed to two daily newspapers and numerous magazines, and regularly watched TV news and documentaries throughout my childhood, and politics was a regular dinner table topic.

After graduating from Northwestern University, I was a reporter, rewrite person, feature writer and Sunday magazine staff writer for seven years at three papers before I started work as an environmental reporter at the Tucson Citizen in fall 1981. My first real interest in the environment occurred just after I moved to Tucson in July 1976, when I read that many residents were upset at a newly imposed water rate increased that raised homeowners’ water bills by 22 percent in mid-summer, just when water use was at its annual peak. A recall election against council members who had approved the increase started soon after my arrival and all four council members who voted for the increased were forced from office, either by a recall election or because they resigned in advance of the election. This incident and its longstanding environmental and political ramifications got me interested in the rough and tumble politics of Western water – an interest that has only grown over the decades.

I have written numerous cover stories and shorter features over the years for the High Country News, a Western-oriented magazine that covers environmental issues from its Colorado offices. I’ve also had at least one article published in the New York Times, the Tucson Weekly, the Endangered Species and Wetlands Report, Technology Review, the Living Bird, Grist and the Seattle Weekly.

The biggest challenge I face is getting people in sensitive positions in government, particularly, to open up and talk publicly on the record with statements beyond preprogrammed comments better suited for press releases. It’s also often challenging to get average citizens to talk about their own lives at times because they’re getting increasingly concerned about how they will  be portrayed in the press and are fearful of retribution in the workplace or elsewhere. Also, being believed by the general reading public is also getting more challenging due to the proliferation of fake news, disinformation from various sources including some foreign governments, and the like.

What I like most about my work today is the same as it was 39 years ago when I started as an environmental reporter. The paradox of how we think about and use water in the desert intrigues me, as does the continued dilemma of how to support increasing populations in the face of declining water supplies, such as those of the Colorado River.

My four favorite stories are:

  1. A 2009 article in the Star in which an independent biologist said she deliberately planted a female jaguar at a spot in Southern Arizona to lure the male Macho B jaguar into a trap so it could be radiocollared and monitored – after state and federal officials had insisted that the jaguar capture was accidental.
  2. An eight-page supplement, published in spring 1995 in the Albuquerque Tribune, about the grazing wars in Catron County, N.M., in which ranchers were seeking to intimidate federal officials with threats of violence so they would be less likely to try to remove cattle from public lands.
  3. A 1993 cover story/essay in the Tucson Weekly looking back at how the Central Arizona Project had gotten into financial trouble, and how I had personally covered and dealt with that story as a beat reporter for the Tucson Citizen.
  4. A 2019 story in the Star in which a retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist alleged that he’d been politically pressured to reverse a controversial decision he’d made that would have required a detailed analysis of the environmental effects of a 28,000 home development in Southern Arizona on the imperiled San Pedro River near Benson.

When I’m not working I like to hike, watch birds and hear live music. Also, reading.

My favorite restaurant is El Torero, whose owners formerly ran the now closed Lerua’s.

My music taste includes local bands such as Xixa, Giant Sand, Rich Hopkins and the Luminarios and Orkesta Mendoza. Also singer/songwriter Billy Sedlymayr and country rocker Mark Insley.

You can follow on me Twitter @tonydavis987 and on Facebook.

Scott Hanson
Scott Hanson
President Scott is president of HMA Public Relations and a founding member of the Public Relations Global Network. He’s a Phoenix native, husband, father of two and a fan of all sports and a participant in some. Check out Scott's full bio

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