The Arizona Mirror is is five years old. And what a wild five years it’s been.

Five years ago today, the Arizona Mirror went live. We launched with a handful of stories, a hundred or so people who signed up early to receive our daily newsletter and a lot of ideas for how we could do a better job covering Arizona government and politics.

It’s been a whirlwind, to say the least. And it certainly feels like we’ve lived a lifetime since 2018. Since then we’ve brought our readers the news during five legislative sessions, three elections, two governors, a deadly pandemic, a violent insurrection and so much more.

I have no doubt that the Mirror came to life at exactly the right time. It’s an idea that we thought we understood even when we launched, but one that I don’t think I fully appreciated in the moment, even as the first words I wrote in the first thing ever published on our website ring maybe truer today than they did five years ago:

At no point in our nation’s history has an independent and free press been unimportant, but the necessity of the Fourth Estate has perhaps never been more starkly apparent at any point in the post-Nixon world. In this critical time brimming with fake news and alternative facts, where the truth is seemingly up for debate and in which the most powerful man in the world attacks the free press as “the enemy of the people,” journalistic pursuits are essential.

None of us at the time had any way of knowing what America was in store for. We couldn’t know that the election we were covering in the weeks after we launched would be a test run for the election denialism that would grip, and then later define, the Republican Party. 

We couldn’t imagine that the conspiratorial mindset that led rubes to scream “fraud” because Doug Ducey and Kyrsten Sinema both won in 2018 would metastasize in 2020, leading to an unnecessarily deadly pandemic — in which people rejected everything from simple medical advice to world-changing vaccines — and an outright rejection of an election by Republicans after it didn’t go the way they wanted.

We couldn’t fathom that Trump’s supporters, cheered on not just by Trump himself, but also by Republican leaders and elected officials, would mount a violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. They stormed the building, on the hunt for their enemies in Congress, who surely would have been killed had it not been for the heroic actions of many of those tasked with keeping them safe. For the first time in America’s history, there had not been a peaceful transfer of power.

Now, we’re seeing an open political war on the rights and freedoms of so many of our brothers and sisters, both in Arizona and beyond. Reproductive rights, which had been guaranteed for nearly 50 years, are under attack with a ferocity we’ve never seen. The civil rights of LGBTQ people, who first had to fight simply to have their existence recognized even before they could dream of winning the right to marry and start a family, are the prime target of bigots who can’t stand that their cultural dominance is waning.

The thing that each of those developments has in common? All have their roots in state government. Before any of those issues became national news stories, they were local news stories. 

The 2020 election denialism is a direct offshoot of the GOP lies about the 2018 elections in Arizona and Florida. The whole 2020 Stop the Steal movement sprung out of the Republican fever swamps in Arizona in the days following the election, when angry Trump supporters descended on the Maricopa County elections facility, demanding the election results be changed.

Our Republican lawmakers, like so many across the country, have spent decades whittling away at reproductive rights, creating onerous new laws that exist only to make it more difficult for doctors and patients to access that care. And anti-LGBTQ politics was born from legislatures like Arizona’s, where book bans and proposals that strip humanity away from LGBTQ people have been debated for years.

Journalism is paramount, and local journalism even more so. I’m proud of the work that the Mirror has done in the past five years, and I’m certain we’ll rise to the challenge in the next five years — and beyond. 

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