Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey Fought Corrupt Authority Figures With Alternative Journalism
Millions of Americans were outraged when President Donald trump issued a full presidential pardon to Joe Arpaio last year. The former Maricopa County (Arizona) sheriff had been convicted of criminal contempt of court. But Trump’s outrageous pardoning of a bad cop had special meaning for two Arizona men, Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin.
Like so many others, Larkin and Lacey were once illegally arrested by the power-mad Arpaio. For years, he was widely known for brutal, racist and unconstitutional police tactics promulgated against Latino, Hispanic and immigrant peoples living in Arizona. Read more: Jim Larkin | Angel.co and Phoenix New Times | Wikipedia
Jim Larkin and Mike Lacey are not Latino, nor are they immigrants. The two men published an alternative newspaper, the Phoenix New Times. The publication often ran articles highly critical of the gestapo-like police tactics deployed under the rule of Joe Arpaio.
But when Larkin and Lacey dared publish a story revealing information from a grand jury investigation ordered against the Phoenix New Times by a special prosecutor, Sheriff Arpaio snapped. He had the two publishers summarily arrested. This blatant violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution produced an immediate public outcry. Larkin and Lacey – who had been jailed in the dark of night – were released within 24 hours.
Then they sued.
The result was Maricopa County ordered to pay $3.75 million to Mike Lacey and Jim Larkin. The alternative journalists could have pocketed the money, but instead they established a nonprofit organization for helping the very people Sheriff Arpaio enjoyed harassing – Latino and immigrant groups.
The nonprofit they established is The Larkin and Lacey Frontera Fund. Established in 2007, the organization has given financial assistance to numerous causes over the past 10 years bringing immeasurable aid comfort the thousands of Latino people.
Michael Lacey’s journey began a long way from Arizona. The son of a construction worker, Lacey grew up in Newark, NJ. He went west to enroll at Arizona State University in the 1960s. He would drop out of college in 1970 to take up a career in alternative reporting.
Jim Larkin is a native of Phoenix who also opted out of college to pursue the risky life of an underground publisher. He teamed up with Mike Lacey to lead the Phoenix New Times in 1972. The paper had been a weekly ASU publication with a mission to counter the ultra-conservative media that dominated Arizona in the early 1970s.
Both men brought unique skills to the often unpredictable world of counter-culture journalism. Lacey handled the content side as executive editor.
Larkin kept the paper financially afloat as director of advertising. The paper was distributed free to the public. Under the skilled hands of two college dropouts, the Phoenix New Times gained a national reputation as among the best of alternative media in America. The paper would one day win a Pulitzer Prize.
For some 40 years, Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey did far more than earn a living in publishing. They gave voice to millions of disadvantaged, disenfranchise and often racially abused members of American society. Larkin and Lacey stood up for the good guys and took on the bad guys – a fight they continue to this day with their Frontera Fund.