#MediaMonday – Brandon Quester
I had the opportunity to chat with Brandon Quester a few weeks back, providing some resources and background information on a story he was developing. The Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting is an independent, nonprofit media organization dedicated to statewide accountability journalism in Arizona. Their mission is to produce, foster and promote investigative journalism through original and collaborative reporting, often using data, and by training the next generation of investigative journalists.
Content is published on their website as well as through partnerships with Arizona news organizations.
Tell us how you got your start in writing? Tell us your story!
My journalism career has been quite varied, honestly. From starting off as a photojournalist after finishing a degree at ASU’s Cronkite School, I’ve since been lucky enough to work in newsrooms across the U.S., which included field work in places from Mexico and Guatemala to the Dominican Republic and Kuwait. My early career focused mostly on visual reporting, though I eventually moved into doing both visual work and traditional print reporting for newspapers. I’ve covered beats ranging from the U.S. military to food safety to elections and campaign finance. Once I realized the power of using data to inform my reporting, my career trajectory shifted to a strictly investigative bent, often focusing on systemic failures or inequities in societal institutions. I still get to make pictures from time to time, but most of my current job is managing and editing a team of investigative reporters at the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting.
Tell us how you came to start working in the Valley media scene?
I’ve worked on and off in Arizona since 2003. My jobs here ranged from intern work with Arizona Highways Magazine and the East Valley Tribune to working as an editor on the Cronkite School’s News21 project, a national investigative initiative that brings together students from across the U.S. to investigative a national issue. I’ve lived all over the West, but each time I leave Arizona it pulls me back. I’ve now lived here longer than anywhere else. I’m back again because I believe there is a great need for nonpartisan, independent investigative journalism in our state. It’s such a critical time for well-researched, deeply reported content – especially journalism that people can trust. My goal with AZCIR is to help fill gaps in this type of reporting for our state.
And how did you come to this outlet?
I founded AZCIR in 2012, on the heels of the Great Recession and a devastating contraction in media here and across the U.S. I was – and still am – deeply concerned about the ability of Arizonans to stay informed, especially as it relates to accountability reporting. AZCIR was formed as a nonprofit newsroom, so we’re not tied to profit-driven investors or media conglomerates. Our journalism is our mission, and I think that enables our staff to really focus on what matters. We don’t sell advertisements and we don’t have content quotas. Our work is entirely supported by individual donors and foundations. This makes for unique challenges but it also frees us from traditional newsroom business and journalism models. So to answer the question a bit more concisely, I came to this newsroom because I cared deeply about the future of the journalism industry as a whole. If we as an industry are to survive, we must experiment with the types of journalism we produce and the business and organizational models we use to sustain our journalism in the long term.
Tell us about the outlet and types of story pitches you want?
The Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting is Arizona’s only nonprofit newsroom dedicated to statewide investigative reporting. We cover state and local government, education, public health, the environment and public policy issues to fill a growing void of essential reporting in Arizona. We have a small but versatile team of journalists, contributing reporters and editors that deliver deep-dive reporting with precision, often using data and technology to produce journalism in new ways. Because of AZCIR’s mission-driven structure as a nonprofit, we release our content under a creative commons license, meaning it’s free for other newsrooms to republish. We also are firm believers in collaborative reporting and have worked with more than a dozen local and national newsrooms. For story pitches, we’re most interested in systemic or institutional failures that impact Arizonans, whether those be from a public agency or private company or individual. Our work is always investigative, so it’s not too often that we get pitches from public relations professionals, unless of course they’re a whistleblower 🙂
Where did you grow up?
I was born outside Cleveland, Ohio, but spent my formative years growing up in Melbourne, Australia, where I lived until I was almost 10 years old. I returned to Ohio after that and eventually attended The Ohio State University before transferring to Arizona State University in 2003. I’ve also lived in Washington, Wyoming, California and Mexico. Fun fact: I worked with the National Park Service for a season as a volunteer backcountry ranger at Olympic National Park, then again with the park as a wildland firefighter.
Favorite type of music?
I love all types of music, but lately I’ve been listening to a lot of bluegrass and folk music.
Favorite TV shows or movies?
I think The Wire is one of the best tv shows of all time. I’m also partial to good horror movies and documentaries.
Favorite local restaurants or other haunts?
It’s been so long since I’ve been to a restaurant that it’s hard to say which I’d go to first once it’s safe to do so! I love to cook at home, too, and my go-to is homemade corn tortillas with either carnitas or chicken thighs.
Least favorite food?
Probably eggplant. It just doesn’t do anything for me 🙂