New York Times Phoenix bureau chief discusses immigration coverage

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Marc Lacey, Phoenix Bureau Chief for the New York Times, spoke Monday at the Walter Cronkite School about reporting on immigration and other hot topics in Arizona and Mexico. (Kristin Fankhauser/DD)

Students hovered around New York Times Phoenix Bureau Chief Marc Lacey after he spoke for the Must See Mondays Speaker Series and offered his outlook on reporting on immigration in a discussion titled, “Covering Mexico and the U.S.-Mexico Border.”

Lacey established the Phoenix Bureau in the summer of 2010. Previously, he was the Mexico bureau chief, covering Mexico, Latin America and the Caribbean, according to his New York Times biography. Lacey is the sole writer for the Phoenix Bureau, which, he said, was created because the New York Times was constantly sending reporters to cover Arizona stories.

Lacey emphasized that not all Arizona coverage is related to immigration.

“This is a state where trends are set,” Lacey said, and the Phoenix Bureau is meant to “cover all that goes on in Arizona.”

Many students were interested to hear the perspective of the New York Times writer on prominent Arizona issues.

Johnny Garcia, a journalism junior, said he attended the event to get Lacey’s perspective on how the New York Times covers border issues.

“It’s always good to hear about immigration issues from journalists, especially one as prestigious as (Lacey),” Garcia said.

Lacey discussed the current immigration situation in Mexico and Arizona but also spoke about immigration issues around the world, such as in Somalia and the Dominican Republic.

He advised the audience “not to get so immersed in your present reality and think Arizona is all that is going on with immigration.”

Lacey described dangerous situations he has encountered as a journalist covering Mexico, including a time when he was in a city where a major gunbattle occurred. Yet, he said, these experiences were minuscule compared to the dangers Mexican journalists encounter while living there.

“There are Mexican journalists killed every day, and it’s barely noticed,” Lacey said.

Due to constant threats in Mexico, it can be grueling to find and maintain sources, Lacey said. He added that knowing who to trust is the difficult part. He occasionally uses referrals for sources from fellow journalists.

“It’s a great challenge,” he said. “The last thing you want to do is cross a line, and you don’t know where that line is.”

Lacey said not every issue he has covered concerned violence in Mexico or immigration in Arizona.

He said that he now carries a video camera with him on assignments, and he showed the audience two videos featuring Mexico and Arizona.

The first video, titled “In Mexico: A Bus of Womens’ Own,” documented an old trend in Mexico City where several women-only buses were implemented after daily sexual-harrasment complaints from women.

The second video showed how Arizona immigration bill SB 1070 has caused division in the state. Titled “A House Divided Over Immigration,” the video showed how the bill affected a family.

At the end of his speech, Lacey said the No. 1 thing students must do as journalists is learn a foreign language. It doesn’t matter which language, as long as they learn one, Lacey said.

Afterward, Lacey answered numerous questions from the audience, including what drives him to cover immigration issues.

“People need to think more broadly on the subject,” Lacey said. “We need to talk directly to people, find things that are surprising and make people read our stories.”

Another audience member asked how Lacey dealt with the volatile emotions that immigration causes on both sides.

“As journalists, our goal is not to pick sides, but to shed light,” Lacey said.

Contact the reporter at josselyn.berry@asu.edu