February 26, 2013
Michael Kiefer on Tweeting as Journalism


In yesterday’s post, I wrote that I think some of the best narrative journalism is being done on Twitter, and as an example I cited Michael Kiefer's coverage of the Jodi Arias murder trial in Phoenix, AZ.

After reading what I wrote, Kiefer responded with some comments that I thought interesting:

I think it works if you approach each Tweet like haiku. I use the Tweets as notes also. So I get to tell the story more than one way, and you can use it like a comedian builds a routine, watching to see which lines get the biggest reaction. Many follow Tweets so they can ask questions. so there is a real-time interactive side of it you don’t get in other media.

And we are conducting this conversation about it via Twitter.

If you want to read Kiefer in a longer format, I recommend his nonfiction book, Chasing the Panda, and his novels Speaking English and The Lion Hunter.

February 25, 2013
Twitter Encourages Good Writing

I’ve heard and read much commentary about the impending demise of good writing (which has been predicted for as long as words have been written down), now supposedly because of Twitter and text messaging. The poet Gary Snyder has said that texting is “abhorrent.”

I not only disagree, I think the opposite is true. I think writing in a limited space is a perfect practice for anyone who wants to write clearly, essentially, and without flab or self-indulgence. Some of the best-written, most powerful narrative journalism is being Tweeted rather than published in old media. For a fine example, see the live-Tweeting from a murder trial by Michael Kiefer, novelist and crime reporter for The Arizona Republic.

September 23, 2012
Is Village Voice Media in Financial Trouble? I Think So.

The Arizona Republic reports that Village Voice Media is being sold by its owners, Mike Lacey and Jim Larkin. Michael Kiefer, who wrote the piece, is, like me, an alumnus of Phoenix New Times, one of V.V.M.’s newspapers. (I was the front-of-the-book columnist 1997-1998. I quit when the then-editor, who is no longer in the business, spiked a column I wrote criticizing Janet Napolitano.)

Lacey claims that the company is still profitable, but I don’t believe it. I’ve suspected that it’s been struggling for a while, as I’ve watched Phoenix New Times become a frail skeleton of the newspaper it once was, laying off staff, cutting news reporting and focusing on fluffy (cheaper) articles written by amateurs. My suspicions were confirmed a few weeks ago when the paper laid off Paul Rubin, who had been there for 27 years, had won multiple awards, and was the only real reporter left there. The reason given for laying him off was the size of his salary.

September 18, 2012
There Is No Immigration Problem - But Judge Approves SB 1070, Neo-Jim Crow Law

Michael Kiefer reports: A U.S. District Court judge today officially lifted an injunction against a section of Arizona’s immigration law referred to as the “show me your papers clause.”

So Arizona’s Jim Crow law is now in force. And was created by playing on the hate and fear of a misinformed public.

For the last two years, when I’ve told people that I will not be showing any cops any papers, and that I think SB 1070 is evil, they’ve usually asked me, “Well, what do you think should be done about the immigration problem?”

Here’s my answer:


Because there is no immigration problem.

I often get a shocked response when I say that. So I ask them to tell me about the immigration problem.

They can’t.

Because it doesn’t exist.

Jobs being taken from Americans? A myth
Undocumented workers receiving benefits without paying taxes? Another myth. The fact is that undocumented immigrants are bolstering social security with billions. Another fact: the frightened exodus of undocumented people from Arizona in the wake of SB 1070 has hurt local business in the second poorest state in the nation. Meanwhile, Barack Obama allowed more deportations than Bush did.

The only problem related to immigration that is that so many deluded people think there is a problem - and such craven opportunists as Obama and Arizona Governor Jan Brewer are willing to exploit and pander to the ignorant and angry mob.

Why? Because locking people up is profitable.

August 6, 2012
Exclusive: Notes from Daniel Wayne Cook, Who Will Be Killed on Wednesday

Unless the U.S. Supreme Court issues a stay of execution (unlikely, I think, though his lawyers have presented a strong case), Daniel Wayne Cook will be killed in Florence, AZ, on Wednesday.

Michael Kiefer has a meticulously-reported article about the case in the Arizona Republic. Reading it, I was struck by the similarities between what was done to Cook as a child and what he did to his victims.

I obtained some notes made by Cook himself, evidence from various trials and transcripts that highlight some of the miscarriages of justice in his case. This document has never been published before. Here is what he wrote, unedited: 

Read More

May 24, 2012
Judge Tells Media to Do Its Job When Witnessing Executions

In The Arizona Republic, Michael Kiefer reports:

Last week, a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge questioned why the media had not demanded to witness how Arizona Corrections officials prepare death-row prisoners for execution, and on Tuesday, a media association rose to the challenge.
The First Amendment Coalition of Arizona Inc. filed a motion in federal court to intervene in a federal lawsuit filed by several Arizona death-row prisoners challenging the state’s lethal-injection procedures.
U.S. District Court Judge Neil Wake denied the coalition the right to intervene, which would have made them plaintiffs in the case. But he did allow the journalists to have “amicus” status, meaning they can file briefs related to the case and still argue the right to witness how executioners insert IV catheters that deliver the lethal drugs.

I’m glad to see this, because, in the U.S., the term “witness an execution” is misleading. As I’ve reported, witnesses don’t get to see what’s being done; they just see a person dying, with a sheet covering all but the head. They don’t see the person being strapped down. They don’t see the catheters being inserted. They don’t see the person’s arm being dissected if the executioners can’t find a vein. (This is called “cutting down.” I have never been able to ascertain what the procedure is if a stay of execution is issued after the person’s arm has been shredded.)

It tells us something about the incompetence and apathy of U.S. media that a judge has to urge them to demand access to what’s going on.

November 24, 2010
Phoenix Journalists: The Good, The Bad And The Irrelevant

In response to this post, someone asked me what local journalists I respect.

Here in Phoenix, although we have a mostly-dysfunctional media, there are some excellent journalists struggling against the corporate suppression of news.

Even though the Arizona Republic is known among local journalists as The Repulsive, it still has such fine reporters as Dennis Wagner and Robert Anglen, and columnist Laurie Roberts, and novelist and crime reporter Michael Kiefer. Sadly, it no longer has Charles Kelly, Jon Talton, Mark Shaffer or David Leibowitz, but it has retained the dull and predictable E.J. Montini (does he ever leave his office to do any reporting?) and its resident Latino Uncle Tom, Richard Ruelas (who for an embarrassing few years was the paper’s metro columnist along with Montini - a double act of impressive ineptitude).

Terry Greene Sterling, who writes for various publications, is a meticulous and relentless reporter, and so is John Dougherty, who recently ran for the U.S. Senate.

My alma mater, Phoenix New Times, no longer has Dougherty or Sterling or M.V. Moorhead on staff, but Stephen Lemons does outstanding coverage of Arpaio and the local nativists, and Robrt Pela’s cultural reporting and commentary is insightful and elegant. (Pela is not on staff there, but does a lot of freelance for the paper.)

T.V. reporter Joe Dana does strong work, even in the face of vicious personal slurs from Arpaio’s henchman David Hendershott. (I rarely watch T.V., so there may be other reporters worthy of mention that I don’t know about.)

The Arizona Guardian is one of the better news sources here, perhaps the best, though the level of talent among its reporters varies widely.

Farther afield, in Tucson, lives Charles Bowden, a truly great reporter and one of the greatest living writers in English.

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