Earlier this month, the New York Times published a story, most of which could have been written by the chamber of commerce, under the headline, "Bay Area Start-Ups Find Low-Cost Outposts in Arizona."
It rubbed me the wrong way from the start, because the story is not about Show Low or Why, Kingman, or even Tucson, but metropolitan Phoenix. I will never understand why one of the most magical city names in America is banished for the amorphous and sometimes inaccurate "Arizona." Anyway, riding with that burr under my saddle, I tried to approach the article with an open mind.
Unfortunately, it had all of the weaknesses of "parachute journalism." The writer, based in the Bay Area, parachutes into a little-known burg with an angle, assembles a few anecdotes, talks to a local economic development expert, adds some data from Moody's, widens the lens a bit to make the story about a broader trend, and presto! This is not easy stuff, particularly if you're not armed with history and skepticism. The only good parachute journalist I ever personally knew was Leah Beth Ward, my colleague from the Cincinnati Enquirer and Charlotte Observer.
It's not that I don't want success for Phoenix. Far from it. I was the Arizona Republic columnist who wiped out forests and digital space writing about Michael Crow and ASU, Jeff Trent and T-Gen, and Bill Harris and Science Foundation Arizona, the efforts to elevate the economy under Gov. Janet Napolitano and Phoenix Mayors Skip Rimsza, Phil Gordon, and Greg Stanton. I rarely felt that the brightsiders had my back. It is about time to see some payoff.
The story had none of this context and lacked much more. The reporter did not even avail himself of the readily available journalism about Arizona's crippling problems. Which is too bad for those of us who want to know the real score. So Homey did some digging.