The cold bit hard, tearing into my flesh and penetrating my bones. I wore my only suit, courtesy of Goodwill, as I sat on the second floor of the Arizona Capitol Times building. I wanted to look good. Big mistake. I should have worn some fur and wrapped myself in a blanket.
It was November 2006. My wife and I arrived just a few months before from the Philippines, where it’s hot and humid and the ocean is balmy all year long. I was shivering when I stepped into the newspaper’s lobby. Ginger Lamb, the publisher at the time, greeted me warmly and introduced me to Karen Fullenwider, who managed the newsroom, and Phil Riske, who edited the Yellow Sheet Report.
I had shown up for an interview I thought I would never have. After all, what does a kid from a foreign land know about covering American politics and public policy? And why would an American newspaper trust a stranger to tell the American public what’s going on inside the halls of political power?
I was an experienced journalist by the time my wife and I immigrated to the United States. I cut my journalism teeth on the streets of Manila, chased crime stories as a police beat reporter and later covered national security for the country’s biggest English daily. I pursued stories about corruption in government, military adventurism, terrorism, and two wars in the Philippines – a communist rebellion and a secessionist movement. I wrote about the al-Qaeda network in Southeast Asia and its cells in the Philippines, and about terrorist activities, notably bombings of public places and kidnappings of foreign nationals. I specialized in investigative work, uncovering corruption in government institutions.
Despite my experience, I was sure I left my dreams behind when I hopped on a plane bound for America more than a decade ago. I was certain I’d never work as a reporter again. And braced myself for a life so different than the high-octane journalism adventure I had imagined. But I love my wife, and I couldn’t bear the thought of letting her go through America’s cold winter alone. I didn’t want to wake up at 80 wishing I had followed my heart. A few years later my wife and I took our oath to become American citizens.
As luck would have it, the Arizona Capitol Times was looking for a Senate reporter. I finished the spelling test that cold November morning, and when Fullenwider and Riske asked me to edit an intern’s story, I told them it was so problematic it would be better if I just rewrote it.
So, I rewrote the intern’s story, and in January, I started the next chapter of my journalism adventure.
That was 15 years ago. And what an adventure it has been!
On October 22, I will be leaving my position as publisher and editor of the Arizona Capitol Times, the paper that took a chance on me – for which I am forever grateful. I am heartbroken to leave so many friends and colleagues and sources and loyal readers, but also excited for the future. I will let you know soon about my next adventure.
For now, I just want to say thank you for everything. Thank you for welcoming me into our community. Thank you for allowing me to tell you stories about how our political system works, how public policy is crafted, and how the meshing of politics and religion shapes our conversations.
I am leaving at a time when our readership and overall business are growing. Our content is as timely and as relevant as ever, and I am fully confident those trends will continue after I’ve left.
I will truly miss working for the Arizona Capitol Times. It’s been a real honor leading our small but mighty newsroom, which, I truly believe, produces the best journalism in our state.
Luige del Puerto is Publisher & Editor of the Arizona Capitol Times.