The last word in the many chapters regarding the office of Sheriff Joe Arpaio have clearly not been written. Cue the ASU Journalism School.

The last word in the many chapters regarding the office of Sheriff Joe Arpaio have clearly not been written. Cue the ASU Journalism School.

Phoenix New Times co-founder Michael Lacey (photo: Patrick Breen/Ariz. Republic)

Phoenix New Times co-founder Michael Lacey (photo: Patrick Breen/Ariz. Republic)

For those friends around the country who gaze in amazement at the State of Arizona (not always for wonderful reasons), an announcement yesterday must have had them lighting up the twitterverse.

The story out of ASU’s journalism school is that a new endowed professorship, entirely focused on border issues, will be funded with a $2 million gift drawn from a legal settlement awarded following a lawsuit over policing practices at the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, led by Joe Arpaio.

The donors are none other than Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin, longtime journalists and publishers who were arrested by the office as they worked on stories related to it.

I leave you to muse on alternate lyrics for “I fought the law …

I don’t know if the lobbying has begun for an excellent borders prof, but I certainly hope they consider journalist Terry Greene Sterling. You can read more about her and her work here.

The ASU press release opens:

“Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin, longtime owners of the national chain of Village Voice alternative weeklies, will use proceeds from a lawsuit against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to establish a Chair in Borderlands Issues at the WalterCronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.”

Terry Greene Sterling

Terry Greene Sterling

“The $2 million gift will support an endowed chair who will lead a new program at the Cronkite School in which students will cover immigration and border issues in the U.S. and Mexico in both Spanish and English. The Lacey-Larkin Chair will be the only endowed chair in the country focused exclusively on Latino and borderlands coverage.”

“The Chair will direct advanced student journalists in a professional immersion program in which they will report, write and produce cutting-edge stories that will be distributed in English and Spanish to professional media outlets and will be prominently featured on the Cronkite News website and Arizona PBS newscasts. Additionally, the Lacey-Larkin Chair will comment on and write about border and immigration reporting nationally, promoting public scrutiny and serving as a national voice on coverage of issues affecting the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population.”

Illegal, by Terry Greene Sterling

Illegal, by Terry Greene Sterling

“The new Chair will be the cornerstone of a Cronkite specialization that will include three full-time professors. The Lacey-Larkin Chair and a second, university-funded, professor to be added next year will join Cronkite Professor Rick Rodriguez, former editor of the Sacramento Bee and the first Latino president of the American Society of News Editors, as Southwest Borderlands Professors.”

“Lacey and Larkin are drawing on proceeds from a $3.75 million settlement from Maricopa County in a widely publicized case that tested First Amendment rights as well as Arpaio’s policing practices. They said their gift to ASU grew out of their outrage at the way Mexican immigrants, in particular, have been treated by the sheriff’s office.”

Want more? (Sure, you do.) Read the Arizona Republic article here.

Happy Change of Venue Friday. Have you ever wondered what it takes to publish a book? An organization guessed that people wondered about that, so they decided to shed some light on the subject.

The group is the Valley of the Sun chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, a great group of folks. Their idea was to gather a few published authors, invite folks, and hold the event in a place with great food and drink. So they hosted “From Journalist to Author: Turning Your Beat Into a Book.” Well done!

That is how I came to be at Monti’s La Casa Vieja in Tempe last Friday, October 7. That is a place with a lot of history, and they can mix an excellent martini. Most important, the panel was excellent.

The speakers were Jana Bommersbach, Shanna Hogan and Terry Greene Sterling. Each of them generously shared their thoughts on the highs and lows of book publishing.

One of the first changes you might note about that industry is represented above—every one of these accomplished women has her own website. That and the amount of marketing individual authors are expected to do are striking changes from the past.

This ain’t your grandmother’s publishing industry.

Click through to read more about these writers. Jana is an amazing author (from whom I once took a hilarious and insightful writing class) of the books Bones in the Desert: The True Story of a Mother’s Death and a Daughter’s Search and The Trunk Murderess: Winnie Ruth Judd. Shanna is the true-crime author of Dancing With Death: The True Story of a Glamorous Showgirl, Her Wealthy Husband and a Horrifying Murder.

And just to prove that it’s not all blood and guts, Terry spoke about her book Illegal: Life and Death in Arizona’s Immigration War Zone.

Their insights about the industry, agents and pitches were helpful. As a writer, though, I really appreciated their comments on that ink-stained craft of writing itself. For instance, Terry told us that “The essence of writing is understanding the human soul.” True that.

Shanna described her brave plunge from “fitting her writing in” to making it her main work. Attendees appreciated her honest assessment of those risks.

And then there’s Jana, who I’m sure would be able to make me laugh even as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse swept into town (“… and the horse you rode in on,” she’d likely mutter to the overly dramatic riders). She offered those gathered some suggestions that we all could use, whether we write book length or something smaller.

“Don’t overwrite the story,” she offered. “But you sure have to write the heck out of it.”

When you conceive of a book, she said, “Write a one-page treatment of it: If I can’t snare the reader in 500 words, I certainly can’t snare him in 15,000.”

Finally: “If you have the first sentence of your book and the last sentence of your book, you’re halfway home.”

Below you’ll find a few of my dreadful cell-phone pictures of the event. But you should go to the authors’ websites for better art and copy.

(And for an odd but related blast this weekend, head to—appropriately—The Trunk Space in downtown Phoenix, where the film “Murderess” will be screened. It is filmmaker Scott Coblio’s retelling of the Winnie Ruth Judd story—with puppets. It’s shown at 7:30 pm Sunday; click here or more information.)

Thanks to the authors and to the Phoenix chapter for such a great event. Have a terrific weekend.

L to R: Terry Greene Sterling, Shanna Hogan and Jana Bommersbach, Oct. 7, 2011

L to R: Shanna Hogan and Jana Bommersbach, Oct. 7, 2011

A constellation of immigration stories in the past few days suggests the depth of Arizona’s immigration debate. But it also points us to a possible solution.

First off, this Sunday morning saw a unique spatial approach to the immigration argument. It featured hundreds of people standing in the parking lot of the Heard Museum and forming a human postcard to send to Washington.

Their message? “S.O.S. Congress.” The words conveyed the notion that Arizona is more than just SB1070, and that Arizona—or any individual state—is not the best constitutional laboratory in which to cook up an immigration regime. No, the organizers insisted, the federal government is charged with immigration matters, so get to work.

 

(Gazing at the news photo, it took me a minute to realize that the organizers had placed three people as the periods in the acronym “S.O.S.” That is an attention to detail—and grammar—that has been woefully lacking in our immigration debate. Well played!)

It was organized by Kimber Lanning, downtown businesswoman and Local First Arizona founder and front person. Her position is that a good result will not flow from boycotts, but from comprehensive immigration reform.

Attorney General Terry Goddard at Sunday's event

Standing in the early-morning heat at the Heard were families with kids, the young, the old, some pets, and even some politicos, including Attorney General Terry Goddard, former City Councilman Greg Stanton, and legislative candidate Ken Clark.

Read a news story here.

And here are some photos from the Sunday event. (Thank you to Kathy Nakagawa, Frances McMahon Ward and Madison Ward for the great photos. The overhead shot is by Tom Tingle at the Arizona Republic.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

(This past Friday evening was yet another panel discussion on SB1070. This one was held at the Phoenix law firm Fennemore Craig, and it was sponsored by the Arizona Latino Media Association. I got the notice about it Friday afternoon, so I’m very sorry I couldn’t attend. Panelists were legislator John Kavanagh, lawyers Antonio Bustamante and Nancy-Jo Merritt, and the terrific writer Terry Greene Sterling. Read her blog here.)

But I promised a possible solution, didn’t I?

That came to me yesterday while I read yet another story about Governor Jan Brewer’s recent statement about the topic. She continues to allege that the majority of immigrants coming across the southern border are not coming for work. No, she says; they are ferrying drugs and fueling that criminal economy.

“And they’re doing drop houses, and they’re extorting people and they’re terrorizing the families. … The majority of the illegal trespassers that are coming (into) the state of Arizona are under the direction and control of organized drug cartels.”

The majority, eh? Even John McCain had to demurely dissent on that one. But it got me to thinking, especially when I read this morning’s story about the state’s crumbling health care infrastructure.

That story led with the tale of a woman who faced a terrible dilemma as state benefits end.

“[Deborah] Ferry is one of more than 12,000 adults with mental illnesses who do not qualify for Medicaid and will lose access to brand-name drugs, case managers, therapists, hospital care and transportation to their appointments when the cuts take effect Thursday.”

“When this all falls down, it’s going to be total chaos,” said Donna Hayes, who has received mental-health services in Arizona since 1979. “There are going to be more suicides, more hospital stays, more people living on the streets.”

I bet you’ve already figured out my brainstorm. Here are the steps to the modest proposal:

  1. Arizona has many immigrants coming across our borders every year.
  2. Whether they come from Mexico or Canada, they all have access to more inexpensive drugs than we do in the United States.
  3. If you were to believe the governor, many of those migrants are already accomplished at transporting drugs.
  4. Masses of Arizona residents are about to encounter a bleak future as our Legislature opts to end many medical benefits.

What does this add up to? Well, it’s a veritable Marshall Plan that can deliver inexpensive medication to Arizona residents.

Win–win, as they say in politics. And you heard it here first.