Chances are, unless you’re a local lobbyist or politician, you’re probably not a subscriber to the Arizona Guardian. But for the folks who started the Capitol news website back in January, that’s OK with them. You’re not their target audience, and they don’t expect you to pony up between $30 and $150 a month to get access to their site.
Their audience is a select group of insiders at the state Capitol who need access to the highest-quality political intelligence to help them do their job better. It’s a group whose population very likely totals in the hundreds to low-thousands, and let’s face it, all or most people reading this aren’t included in that count. I’m not either.
But even so, the work the Guardian is doing still matters to us, even if we can’t afford access to it. In an economy where media across the nation is hobbled, this six-month-old website has found a way to make money while keeping an eye on some of the most powerful officials in the state. It’s a nearly impossible task, but one that its founders take very seriously.
I spent several weeks this spring with the people who run the Guardian, most of whom I used to work with at the East Valley Tribune newspaper. I was able to take the most detailed look yet at some of the personalities behind the company, and what they hope it becomes.
You can find my 3,500-word story based on that reporting, titled “The New Guard,” in the July issue of Phoenix magazine, which is on newsstands now. It examines how a Pulitzer Prize win for two of the journalists and living life on a shoestring budget has added up to a modest paycheck for the people involved. Whether the website will go on to support them indefinitely still remains to be seen, but it’s clear now that the Guardian is making it work a day at a time.
Over the next several weeks, I also plan to post a couple supplements, for lack of a better term, to the story here on Heat City. One will include more from Alan Mutter, the media analyst who called the Guardian’s business model “a very logical thing to do.” Check back soon for those posts. In the meantime, pick up a copy of the magazine or read the story on its website.