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From the editor

Sentinel's reporting praised by Fund for Investigative Journalism

More by Dylan Smith

The Fund for Investigative Journalism, a national nonprofit that has supported reporting by TucsonSentinel.com, recently praised our local independent news organization as a "testament to good journalism."

In an edition of FIJ's email newsletter, sent to journalists and industry experts, FIJ said that the reporting by the Sentinel's team is the kind the group "will always be proud to sponsor."

FIJ has supported several reporting projects by TucsonSentinel.com with relatively modest but still essential grants. A recent months-long investigation by senior reporter Paul Ingram into the spiraling costs of immigration bonds was backed in part by a $4,000 competitive grant from FIJ.

That investigative report, "'Insane' immigration bonds: Spiraling costs, Trump policies strain migrant families,"  found:

Even as the immigration court system becomes more and more backlogged — rising to more than 1 million cases in September — and detention facilities managed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have hit record levels, holding more than 50,000 people nationwide, immigration officials are seeking much higher bonds for immigrants, or refusing them altogether.

In a recent Arizona case, a woman was told she would be detained unless she paid a bond of more than $40,000. A little more than a decade ago, the median cost of an immigration bond was just $50. Coupled with the spiraling costs, hundreds of millions of dollars that should have been returned to those who filed bonds and who complied with their legal responsibilities have instead been held back by federal authorities.

FIJ headlined the Sentinel's "commitment to journalism" in their newsletter:

Nonprofit News Where For-Profit Has Failed: One FIJ Grantee's Commitment to Journalism

It's been just over 10 years since the reporters, photographers and editors of Arizona's longest lasting publication, the Tucson Citizen, sent their last edition to print. The Gannett-owned newspaper was shut down, rather, "it was left to die," as one reporter put it in that final Saturday edition. The story of the Citizen is one newsrooms around the country know all too well.

But for one of those reporters, Dylan Smith, the end of the Citizen marked the beginning of his own publication – the nonprofit Tucson Sentinel – which he started the second he was no longer receiving checks from Gannett. To Smith and his staff of four reporters, which has received several grants from FIJ since its inception, reporting in Tucson has always been more than a job.

"We report on this town because we love this place," he said. " We want to see it be the best it can be."

That's not to say it isn't hard work. He said the main difficulty is and always has been funding, but that organizations like FIJ provide important opportunities for longer-form investigations. The Sentinel's most recent report, funded by FIJ, uncovered how immigration officials in Arizona are seeking much higher bonds for immigrants or refusing them altogether due to new Trump administration policies.

This type of reporting and the local, daily news Smith and his team produce stand as a testament to good journalism – the kind FIJ will always be proud to sponsor.

Support from the Fund for Investigative Journalism and other national foundations plays a vital role in making it possible for the reporters of TucsonSentinel.com to explore stories that just aren't being told anywhere else, by anyone else.

But the mainstay of our support is contributions from our community — readers in Tucson and throughout Southern Arizona who recognize just how important it is that we have a truly independent source of authentically local journalism. That investment is what has sustained us for 10 years, and will allow us to grow to tell even more untold stories, to dig even more deeply, and to help Tucson be a smarter, more informed place to live.

TucsonSentinel.com's award-winning, in-depth reporting provides details and context — donate now and help us bring Tucson even more fearless independent journalism.

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