As I reported exclusively last week, KJZZ will soon be ending its weekly local Here and Now with Steve Goldstein. With it goes the only locally produced public affairs radio program in the nation's sixth most populous city. With this move the incredibly narrow media spectrum in Phoenix becomes even more narrow. It's a terrible loss to discourse, journalism and democracy.
Goldstein had me on over the years, even after I was shown the door by the Republic for having the temerity to warn of the housing depression that now lays heavy on the land. He was unfailingly gracious, a class act. But more than that, his program was wide-ranging and fair to a fault, a forum for the Krackpots as well as for the sane elements in the state. He's a talented, intelligent broadcaster who could be a star in any major market. My sources say he'll stay on as a news announcer. One said plans call for "nine-minute daily segments," whatever that means. It can't replace an hour of thoughtful information, give-and-take and smart conversation about Arizona's most pressing issues.
My warning signals went up. Here was a program that couldn't fail to irritate the Real Estate Industrial Complex and the Kookocracy. But one source says its demise is more prosaic: internal politics.
What's left is one big newspaper, which is capable of doing fine work but day-in and day-out is the generic Gannett "information" mill (see David Carr's takedown here). Where the op-ed page once had voices such as myself, Ricardo Pimentel and Ruben Navarette, there's now the "Goldwater" Institute's Bob Robb. The Viewpoints section, once rich with journalistic commentary and in-depth analysis, seems to be home to the facile articles of assorted special pleaders from "the community" (free, of course). New Times is also capable, and has been the one media outlet to go after the odious Badged Ego. But its focus is mostly on entertainment. The East Valley Tribune is a shell, and make no mistake — size does matter. I suppose Horizon chugs inoffensively along at KAET. That's pretty much it except for a vast right-wing propaganda machine on talk radio. It's like West Texas plopped down in a major metropolitan area (without the oil).
If ever there was a city and state that needed a reality check with serious, sophisticated reporting, discussion and commentary, it's Phoenix and Arizona. Yet how often is there reality about the economy, social crisis, ongoing depression, crazy and racist governance, water scarcity, overall sustainability, etc.? Hardly at all. When is the vaunted growth machine called to account for its damage? Never. Thoughtful People are still talking about the Sun Corridor, Superstition Vistas and now some new vast west-side development. Huh? Hugely important topics are uncovered and rarely if ever discussed: The power of the Mormon Church, Palo Verde, the Corporation Commission, the dirty dealing involving water and land use, cascading scandals.
It is work, sad to say, left to outsiders. Andrew Ross, a professor at NYU, has written an important new book, Bird on Fire: Lessons from the World's Least Sustainable City. (Disclosure: I worked some with Ross and am quoted in the book.) It raises the uncomfortable issues that nobody wants to talk about in town, least of all those who are Leaders. I'm sure the "Goldwater" Institute, if not even Morrison, is cooking up some hash of pseudo-scholarly lies to make people comfortable with Phoenix's disastrous situation and dangerous trajectory. Also, former 'Zonie Tom Zoellner is the author of A Safeway in Arizona: What the Gabrielle Giffords Shooting Tells Us About the Grand Canyon State and Life in America, due in December. From the gallies I've seen, it, too, will be essential reading.
Meanwhile "Everything's fine!"