One of the easiest industries to break into is the media business. Everyone, these days, has their own podcast show or weekly or monthly news blog. Some people even publish actual papers and newsletters. Back in the day, it wasn’t so easy to become an established news outlet.
It’s easier today because can talk about whatever they want to, but back in the 70s and 80s, outlets actually had to report real news. Obviously, there were some exceptions like Arizona. At that time, Arizona was very single-minded and conservative. Establishing a non-conservative newspaper in Arizona in the 70s was not an easy thing.
Yet, that’s exactly what Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin were able to do. Michael Lacey moved to Arizona in the late 60s. He hoped to attend Arizona State University and make something of himself. He did end up making something of himself, but he dropped out of school a few years after arriving.
He noticed how ultra-conservative the views of the local media’s coverage of everything. In particular, he didn’t like how they covered campus antiwar protest. He got together with some other like-minded students and founded Phoenix New Times, a weekly alternative newspaper.
In 1972, Jim Larkin joined the paper. Larkin, like Lacey, dropped out of school to pursue a career. When he joined New Times, he headed up the advertising department. Even though the only reason their paper existed in the first place was to challenge the ultra-conservative viewpoints of local media outlets, Phoenix New Times became nationally popular.
Over the next decade, New Times became one of the nation’s most popular alternative newspapers. In 1983, Lacey and Larkin began to form Village Voice Media Holdings. It started with the purchase of Westword. When it was all said and done, Village Voice Media consisted of 17 like-minded newspapers from all over the country. Read more: Jim Larkin | Angel.co
Being involved in news coverage of social and political issues, Lacey and Larkin witnessed a lot of tragedy. They’re some of the most philanthropic executives in the country. Their philanthropy leans more toward taking action rather than donating money.
Any money they do get goes toward their Frontera Fund. After their run-in with a corrupt sheriff, they created the Frontera Fund to support migrant and civil rights groups along the Mexican border. The fund also supports civic participation groups.
Learn more about Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey: