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Inside the Sentinel

Capturing images of our Tucson community — with your help

Tucson Sentinel's nonprofit newsroom is powered by readers like you

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

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I sold a camera recently. It was an outdated Nikon digital camera, well-worn and dusty. It'd been sitting in a drawer for a while after it was replaced by a camera with a larger sensor. 

It was battered by sand as one of U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Blackhawk helicopter's dusted off following an annual demonstration of the dangers of crossing Arizona's deserts. It was nearly frozen when it captured pictures of migrants sleeping by the train yard in Caborca, Sonora. That camera took in images from a half-dozen All Souls Processions.

That venerable camera was nearly destroyed when I tripped on a sewer grate in Nogales, Sonora, and almost smashed it on Calle Internacional during an expansive, crowded march as the family of Jose Antonio protested the death of the 16-year-old shot by a Border Patrol agent's gun. 

It was covered once with ash from a wildfire, and then spent a morning in the air-conditioning of a hall at the Tucson Convention Center venue as our governor spoke.

A father bought it for his daughter as a present so she could learn photography, and I hope that camera serves her well. 

Photographs help tell stories. Stories about people. 

That camera, a box of electronics and glass, winked at the world 50,000 or so times, its shutter capturing a hundred other moments, big and small. Moments of glory, moments of reflection; moments when the sun hit the right angle, and moments that were messy and complex.

It's already seen a lot, because that older camera spent a lot of time in our community, not only in Tucson, but across our borderlands from Yuma, Ariz. to Antelope Wells, N.M. It rambled up to Phoenix and was covered in pepper-spray, and a little boy looked at its suspiciously from a pew inside the Misión San Diego de Pitiquito in Sonora. 

That camera spent time on the ground. It became dusty and well-worn because it was used to capture images of our community and deliver them to you. 

As Dylan Smith, our editor and publisher puts it, "ever since TucsonSentinel.com began publishing full-time in early 2010, we've worked hard to bring you news you can trust." 

"And we'd venture to guess that you've come to rely on our reporting because no one covers Tucson and Pima politics and border/immigration news with the same persistence and integrity as we do."

Doing that takes money — to pay for our professional reporters and editors, to feed gas and tires to a Jeep for treks into the desert, to keep our website running and to make sure we have laptops and cameras to do our work.

Your gift matched 2-1!

As we approach the end of 2021, we're in the midst of our annual NewsMatch campaign — which can TRIPLE your gift to support the Sentinel, through the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve.

NewsMatch is a grassroots effort to support nonprofit news across the United States. As organizers note, "since 2016, the campaign has helped raise over $150 million to jumpstart emerging newsrooms and support independent media outlets that produce fact-based, nonpartisan news and information."  

With support from the Democracy Fund, the Knight Foundation and other national foundations, last year's NewsMatch campaign was the most successful ever, raising a record-breaking $47 million for nonprofit newsrooms across the country. That includes a share for TucsonSentinel.com, although we certainly don't have millions of dollars.

In fact, the vast majority of our funding comes from individual local donors in Tucson — readers like you who understand the importance of truly independent local journalism for our community.

Through Dec. 31, thanks to NewsMatch, including a special matching grant from the Loud Hound Partner Fund, and the generous support of the local leaders of our Community Challenge Fund, your tax-deductible donations to our nonprofit newsroom can be MATCHED 2-1.

And, as part of this effort, monthly subscriptions also count. So, sign up to give us $10 per month starting in December, and your support will be tripled for the entire year. This means a contribution of $20 monthly can become $720 worth of reporting over the course of 2022.

Larger donations can leverage even more underwriting for our work.

Each year, we work to grow, so we seek out more stories, and do more reporting that you just won't find anyplace else.

In 2021, we brought aboard our new IDEA reporter, covering stories touching on Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity and Access, with support from the national Report for America program, and readers in Tucson.

With your help, were added the wonderful Bennito L. Kelty to our masthead.

In fact, Bennito's work and the support from our community has been so full of impact that Report for America has selected the Sentinel from among hundreds of newsrooms that applied, to fund a second reporter in our newsroom, this time for our new Cultural Expression and Community Values beat. 

"Report for America is excited to continue to work with the Tucson Sentinel on a genuinely innovative beat to explore the ties that bind their community, providing deep dives into the traditions and cross-cultural events that shape their rich culture," said Teri Hayt, Report for America's deputy director of corps excellence and a former managing editor at the Arizona Daily Star. "RFA is committed to helping newsrooms find the stories that resonate and inform their communities."

The organization tapped the Sentinel as just one of two newsrooms in Arizona to get a new RFA corps member for 2022. And they'll continue to partly support our IDEA reporting, as well.

Our new Cultural Expression and Community Values beat will be bilingual and intersectional, going far beyond a traditional "arts" beat to explore the ties that bind us and the dreams that push us, with hard news and contextual journalism on the deep traditions and creative cross-cultural innovations in local art, performance, music, writing, architecture and public design, theatre, faith and religion, community groups, food and folkways.

This happened because of you dear reader, and your support for our work to renew and rejuvenate nonpartisan, fact-based news in our community. 

Each donation nudges the needle, expanding our little band, our little bunch of madmen and women. The Tucson Sentinel — as I say regularly enough to almost be a cliché — punches above its weight. 

So, want to help keep us in cameras and tacos, and help build a mantle on which we can hang a few more journalism awards? Throw your weight behind our nonprofit, independent outfit.

Thanks very much — we're grateful to everyone who donates, reads and comments, sends us great news tips, and spreads the word that the Sentinel is listening, and casting a light on this town.

Join the Watchdog Club today!

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TucsonSentinel.com publishes analysis and commentary from a variety of community members, experts, and interest groups as a catalyst for a healthy civic conversation; we welcome your comments. As an organization, we don't endorse candidates or back specific legislation. All opinions are those of the individual authors.