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Empowering the Public

Searchlight New Mexico is a non-partisan, nonprofit news organization dedicated to investigative reporting and innovative data journalism. In a landscape of shrinking media resources, our mission is to focus high-impact investigative journalism on topics of local, regional and national interest in order to allow the public to see into the remote recess of government and institutional intrigue and to expose abuses of power by government, business and other institutions. We believe great reporting empowers people to demand honest, effective public policy and to seek appropriate remedies.

Changing the Landscape

New Mexico has a long history of corruption and poor governance, problems that have dampened economic investment and stunted socioeconomic progress.  Poverty rates and childhood hunger are among the highest in the nation, while economic growth and educational achievement are among the lowest. A vigorous press helps expose how political contributions, lobbying and the exercise of raw power overcome good public policy at the expense of the health, education and economic prosperity of individuals, families and businesses. Yet investigative journalism is under threat. The same economic forces that have cut into newsrooms across the country have made investigative journalism a luxury many news organizations can no longer afford. Searchlight New Mexico is designed to change that by deploying seasoned investigative reporters and data journalists and partnering with existing news organizations to produce ground-breaking, multimedia reports easily translatable for print, broadcast and online publication.

Freeing the Data

Wresting data from local, state and federal agencies has become increasingly difficult. Few news organizations have the resources to mount the battles and lawsuits often needed to get public records that government
agencies, by law, should make readily available. A central part of Searchlight’s mission is to fight for that data and create a permanent archive protected from the whims of political office holders and policymakers. Searchlight’s Your Data portal contains vast amounts of government data and tools to make it easy for anyone to explore how their state and local tax dollars are spent. It gives the public, journalists from other news organizations, academics, public interest groups and even government officials easy access to data for reporting and research.

Our partners
Searchlight New Mexico has content-sharing partnerships with media organizations across the state and region. Those media include:

The Albuquerque Journal The Santa Fe New Mexican
The Taos News The Gallup Independent
The Rio Rancho Observer The News-Bulletin (Valencia County)
The Hobbs News-Sun The Roswell Daily Record
The Rio Grande Sun The De Baca County News
The Las Vegas Optic The Eastern New Mexico News
The Las Cruces Sun-News The Famington Daily Times
The Carlsbad Current-Argus The Alamogordo Daily News
The Silver City Sun-News The Deming Headlight
The Ruidoso News El Defensor Chieftain (Socorro County)
The Los Alamos Daily Post New Mexico News Port
New Mexico Politics.Net New Mexico Political Report
New Mexico In Depth High Country News
KOAT-TV KNME-TV
Radio Café KRWG-TV/FM
KSFR — Santa Fe Public Radio The Weekly Issue / El Semanario

Learn more

For more information about Searchlight New Mexico, please contact Executive Director Rob Dean, searchlight@searchlightnm.com.


Our board

Ray Rivera, board chair, is deputy managing editor for investigations and enterprise at the Seattle Times and co-founder of Searchlight New Mexico. He is the former Editor of the Santa Fe New Mexican and has worked as a staff writer at The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Seattle Times and the Salt Lake Tribune. His investigative stories have included a nine-part series debunking the federal government’s investigation into Capt. James Yee, an Army Muslim chaplain at Guantanamo Bay falsely accused of espionage; the extensive use of death squads by Al Qaeda and Haqqani Network insurgents along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border; and the illegal funneling of taxpayer money to bogus non profits associated with New York city and state lawmakers. He lives in the Seattle area with his wife and three children.

Sandra Blakeslee, board vice chair, has been writing about science and medicine for The New York Times for over 45 years. Now semi-retired, she still contributes to Science Times as hard-to-resist stories come along. The author of nine books, she is currently finishing the tenth, about the role of the human microbiome in aging. She’s a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, a journalism fellow at the Santa Fe Institute, a Templeton Fellowship awardee, and co-founder of the Santa Fe Science Writing Workshop. She lives in Santa Fe.

Scott Armstrong is an investigative journalist and executive director of the Information Trust, a former staff writer for The Washington Post and co-author with Bob Woodward of The Brethren, a narrative account of the Supreme Court. As a senior investigator for the Senate Watergate Committee, his interview of Alexander Butterfield revealed the Nixon taping system. Armstrong’s reporting on the Iran/contra affair with Bill Moyers on PBS Frontline’s "Crimes and Misdemeanors" won on an Emmy and a DuPont Silver Baton. Armstrong founded the National Security Archive, a non-profit institute providing comprehensive government documentation to the public. A Yale graduate, he lives in Santa Fe with his wife, Barbara Guss, and has 5 children, 11 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren.

June Lorenzo is an attorney for the Pueblo of Laguna advising the pueblo's governor and council on a wide spectrum of legal issues. Lorenzo began her legal career at the Navajo Nation Department of Justice, and then moved on to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, analyzing legislation to determine the impact on Indian tribes. At the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, she litigated, investigated and monitored compliance with the Voting Rights Act. With the Indian Law Resource Center, Lorenzo focused on the international application of human rights law to indigenous peoples.

Screen Shot 2017-01-18 at 6.19.14 PMArturo Sandoval is founder and executive director of the 25-year-old Center of Southwest Culture, Inc.  The Center is a non-profit organization that helps develop healthy Indigenous and Latino communities through economic development initiatives and educational and cultural work. CSC works primarily in the Southwestern US and northern México and has raised more than $18 million for communities to use in building capacity and long-term sustainability.  Sandoval has been active for five decades in community-based economic development, cultural, environmental and civil rights efforts in New Mexico and across the US. He has helped start more than 100 civil rights, health, culture, education and economic development organizations.

Photo-DYDaniel Yohalem has been an attorney for over 42 years, the last 29 of which have been in New Mexico.  He received his B.A. in 1970 from Yale University and J.D. with honors in 1973 from Columbia University Law School.  He is currently in private practice, focusing on first amendment, civil rights, open government, employment, and class action cases for plaintiffs, particularly in the areas of equal pay for women, whistleblower, discrimination, and retaliation claims.  Among other honors, he has been awarded the William S. Dixon First Amendment Freedom Award (2006) as Lawyer of the Year by the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, of which he is a past president and long-time board member; and the Cooperating Attorney of the Year (2002) by the ACLU of New Mexico. He is a founding board member of the Santa Fe Neighborhood Law Center and New Mexico Ethics Watch and serves on the Board of the Santa Fe Community Homeless Shelter.

Philip S. Cook is a journalist and editor who from 1987 to 1990 was director of the Media Studies Project at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. He was a reporter for the Hartford Courant and the New York Herald Tribune and later served as a Newsweek correspondent in Washington and Rome. He was a founding editor of the Wilson Quarterly and managing editor of Issues in Science and Technology, a journal published by the National Academy of Sciences. In addition to his career as a journalist, Cook served on the staff of the Peace Corps, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the Office of Technology Assessment.

Les Daly has written for the Montreal Herald, the Los Angeles Herald Express,The Atlantic, The New York Times, Smithsonian magazine and El PalacioMagazine. In between, Daly also had a career as a senior officer of the Northrop Corp. and an official in the U.S. Energy Department.

Carmella Padilla is a journalist, author, and editor who has published extensively, including in the Wall Street JournalDallas Morning News, Latina, and American Craft. A native Santa Fean, much of her work has focused on New Mexico Hispano art, history and culture, including such  books as El Rancho de las Golondrinas: Living History in New Mexico’s La Ciénega Valley; Low ‘n Slow: Lowriding in New Mexico; and The Chile Chronicles: Tales of a New Mexico Harvest. She recently co-edited A Red Like No Other: How Cochineal Colored the World, winner of the 2017 Alfred H. Barr Jr. Award for distinguished scholarship in art history, and Borderless: The Art of Luis Tapia, exploring the art and life of a noted New Mexican Chicano sculptor. She has volunteered with several northern New Mexico nonprofit arts and community organizations and is a recipient of the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, the Santa Fe Mayor’s Arts Award and the New Mexico Community Foundation’s Luminaria Award.

Phill Casaus is the editor of The Santa Fe New Mexican. Earlier, he was editor of The Albuquerque Tribune and a senior editor at The Rocky Mountain News. He continues The New Mexican’s tradition of watchdog reporting. Under his leadership, the Tribune won several national awards, including first place in the National Journalism Awards for “The State of Our Children,” a 20-part series focused on New Mexico. Before joining The New Mexican in 2017, he served as executive director of the Albuquerque Public Schools Education Foundation, raising millions of dollars for fine arts, literacy and STEM programs.


Our staff

Executive Director

Rob Dean was editor of The Santa Fe New Mexican from 1992 to 2013. Before that he was metro editor at The News Tribune in Tacoma, Wash., where he also taught journalism at Pacific Lutheran University. The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government has honored him for lifetime achievement. The Ukraine Media Partnership, a program encouraging an independent press in the old Soviet Bloc, named him a fellow in 2006, assigning him to a newspaper in southeastern Ukraine. Dean edited the book Santa Fe, Its 400th Year: Exploring the Past, Defining the Future. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Montana and master’s degree in history from Norwich University. Contact him at searchlight@searchlightnm.com.

Executive Editor

Sara Solovitch’s investigative and long-form stories have
appeared in Esquire, Wired, Politico, the Washington Post and other publications. She has been a staff reporter at the Philadelphia Inquirer, where she covered education and wrote about everything from emerging family issues to the invasion of the killer bees. She wrote a weekly column on kids’ health for the San Jose Mercury News for six years and worked as a medical writer at Stanford University’s Children’s Hospital. She has traveled widely through New Mexico and Alaska while reporting for The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on access to health care in under-served areas. Her book, Playing Scared: A History and Memoir of Stage Fright, was published by Bloomsbury in 2015. Contact her at sara@searchlightnm.com.

Contributing Editor

William deBuys’s nine books include The Last Unicorn: A Search for One of Earth’s Rarest Creatures (listed by the Christian Science Monitor as one of the ten best non-fiction books of 2015), A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American West (2011), The Walk (2008), Salt Dreams (1999, which inspired the 2017 movie, The Colorado), and River of Traps (a 1991 Pulitzer finalist). In 2015 his first book, Enchantment and Exploitation (1985), was reissued in a revised and expanded 30th-anniversary edition. He was a 2008-2009 Guggenheim Fellow. His conservation work has included land acquisition, river protection, and grass banking. From 2001 to 2005, he chaired the Valles Caldera Trust, which then administered the 89,000-acre Valles Caldera National Preserve in the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico. He serves on the advisory board of the Liz Claiborne Art Ortenberg Foundation and lives and writes on a small farm in northern New Mexico that he has tended since the 1970s.

Staff Writers

Amy Linn has written about social issues and child well-being throughout her career, starting at the Miami Herald and including work for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Bloomberg News. She was the recipient of a 2015 Alicia Patterson Journalism Fellowship to write about teenagers on death row; the resulting stories appeared in the New York Times, Salon and other publications. Her entree to investigative reporting came at the Herald, where she was part of an investigative team that uncovered widespread police brutality in Miami's poorest neighborhoods; her subsequent investigations for the San Francisco Examiner documented how white officers beat, shot and sicced police dogs on black citizens. Linn has been an editor at Outside Magazine and Wired as well as a freelancer for magazines, both digital and traditional. Prior to joining Searchlight she was the editor of the Criminal Justice Project, an investigative reporting unit that covers New Mexico's troubled justice system. Contact her at amylinn@searchlightnm.com.

Lauren Villagran has covered the financial and energy markets in New York, the drug war in Mexico and immigration and border security in New Mexico. Formerly the Albuquerque Journal's border correspondent, she has also reported for the Associated Press, Dallas Morning News and Christian Science Monitor, among other national media. She is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and is based in southern New Mexico for Searchlight NM.  Contact her at lauren@searchlightnm.com. 

Ed Williams has reported on poverty, public health and the environment in the U.S. and Latin America for digital, print and radio media outlets since 2005. He comes to Searchlight New Mexico by way of KUNM Public Radio in Albuquerque, where he worked as a reporter covering public health. Ed’s work has appeared in the Austin American-Statesman, NPR, Columbia Journalism Review, and others. He earned a Master’s in Journalism from the University of Texas at Austin in 2010. Contact him at
ed@searchlightnm.com.

Data Editor

John R. Roby is data editor for Searchlight New Mexico. Previously an award-winning investigative reporter with the USA Today Network in Upstate New York, he has also worked for the Baltimore Sun and CNN.com. During a detour out of journalism, Roby earned a doctoral degree in anthropology and taught at four universities, including New Mexico State. He and his wife have two children. Contact him at johnroby@searchlightnm.com. 

Photography

Don J. Usner was born in Embudo, N.M., and has written and provided photos for several books, including The Natural History of Big Sur; Sabino’s Map: Life in Chimayó’s Old Plaza; Benigna’s Chimayó: Cuentos from the Old Plaza; Valles Caldera: A Vision for New Mexico’s National Preserve (winner of a Southwest Book Award); and Chasing Dichos through Chimayó (finalist for a 2015 New Mexico - Arizona Book Award). Don contributed a chapter and photographs to The Plazas of New Mexico (also a winner of Southwest Book Award), and writes for periodicals as well. His photographs were featured in the photography journal Lenswork and in an online blog of the New Yorker).


Our funding

Searchlight New Mexico is funded by donations and grants. We list all of our donors on our website to ensure transparency and accountability. To make a donation or learn more about giving, click here.

Foundation donors

Individual donors

Armelle Casau Arturo Sandoval
Barbara Barrett Barbara Ferry Barbara Guss
Bronwyn Denton-Davis Bryant Furlow Carl Mahler
Carmella Padilla Carol Courcy Cassandra Carr
Chris Mechels Connie Ode Damien Willis
Daniel & Jane Yohalem Daniel Libit David M. and Sherry T. Miller
Deborah Iverson Dee Ann McIntyre Denise Fort
Diane Buchanan Diane Denish Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation and Training
Elaine Stone Elizabeth West Ellen Thrower
Elmer Jackson Eudice and Les Daly Fleischaker Women’s Legacy Fund
Gail Owens Glenn and Jayne Levant Glenn Dickter
Inez Russell Gomez J.E. Gallegos Jack Miner
James Atwood Jan Brooks Janis & San Williams
Jason Whong Jeff and Anne Bingaman Jeff Wilson
Jill Douthett Jim and Bobbi Baca Joan Baker
Karen Lawrence Kendal and Ken Gladish Kim Shanahan
Kyla Thompson Larry and Lauraine Rose Leslie Lakind
Leslie Nathanson Juris Linda Dean Linda Lockett
Lynn McKelvey Maggie Hart Stebbins Marjolaine Greentree
Martha Martell Mary and Timothy Mitchell Mary Azcuenaga
Maureen Tobin Michael Marcotte Michael Melody/Bonnie Binkert
Minerva Baumann Morgan Smith Nan Keegan
Nan Schwanfelder Nancy Cook Nancy Dahl
Nancy Wirth New Mexico Community Foundation’s 221 Fund Norm Gaume
Pat and Bob Curtis Patricia and James Morris Patricia L. Hartman
Patricia Rosenberg Patrick May Penny and Carl Baldwin
Peter and Helen Chapin Peter Ossorio Peter Shotwell
Peter St. Cyr Philip Cook Ray Rivera
Rebecca Shankland Richard Scheinin Rick Andrew
Robert Trapp Ron Fenn Sallie Bingham
Sandra Blakeslee Sara Franks Scott Armstrong
Sonya Berg Stanley Robb Stephen Gaber
Steve Robinson Sue Cross Susan Hutchinson
Susan Mary Boe Suzanne Schmidt and Dan Jones Sylvia Ramos
T. Spencer Wright Tamara Bates Terry Schleder
Tom Appelquist and Charles Newman Tom Miles Toni and Rob Dean
Virginia deBuys William deBuys William Riker


What they're saying about us

Here is a selection of articles and editorials about Searchlight New Mexico's work, as well as links to appearances by our journalists in other media.

Crossing borders

Searchlight reporters Lauren Villagran and Ed Williams appeared on 860 Radio Noticias in Ciudad Juárez in August 2018 to talk about our upcoming series of in-depth reports on how families are split by the U.S.-Mexico border. We're partnering with the Spanish-language MEGA Radio network, which broadcasts to hundreds of thousands of listeners in the Paso del Norte region, including Juárez, El Paso and communities in southern New Mexico.

Leveraging the mobile engagement technology of GroundSource and other digital platforms, Villagran and Williams will nurture a community dialogue that will help us uncover stories that matter to border communities in ways no other local or national media outlet has done.

You can watch clips of their livestreamed discussion here and here and here.

UPDATE

In September 2018, Villagran and Williams appeared again on 860 Radio Noticias with host Ricardo Meza to discuss accusations of sexual assault by CPB agents.

In a previous appearance on the program, a listener from Juarez called in to the show to share a story about her daughter being sexually harassed by U.S. border agents as she crossed the bridge to El Paso to go to school. Villagran and Williams found several other similar instances that had been documented in legal cases, and are currently developing this story in collaboration with 860 Radio Noticias listeners.

Watch a clip from their appearance here.

New(s) applications

Sara Catania of GroundSource discusses Searchlight's use of innovative digital technology in a larger piece about novel ways newsrooms are building bridges to and between sources. Reporter Ed Williams talks about using GroundSource to investigate New Mexico's foster care system.

"The number of kids in foster care is at an all time high right now. How can we remove that isolation and give the kids a way to find and talk to each other and have a safe communal space online?" Williams said. "GroundSource is a great way to create initial conversations and identify these young people.”

You can read the full article here.

Building partnerships

Searchlight New Mexico's Susan Boe is quoted in a Columbia Journalism Review article by David Westphal about how digital-native nonprofit newsrooms are increasingly entering into financial and editorial partnerships with legacy, for-profit media companies.

“If we can help the sustainability of local newspapers, well, that’s our hope,” [Boe said].  The idea of supporting the local newspaper was a core principle when Searchlight New Mexico was co-founded by Ray Rivera, then editor of the Santa Fe New Mexican.

You can read the full article here.

A focus on childhood trauma

Radio Cafe on the Santa Fe New Mexican's Mary-Charlotte Domandi  hosted Susan Boe, Sara Solovitch and Amy Linn of Searchlight New Mexico for an in-depth conversation about the effects of childhood trauma on our state's children. Listen to the program here.

Newspapers partner on Raising New Mexico launch

More than a dozen newspapers and independent websites ran some or all of the first release in Raising New Mexico, our yearlong series examining the well-being of our state's children. They included the Albuquerque Journal, the Santa Fe New Mexican, the Las Cruces Sun-News, the Farmington Daily Times and the Deming Headlight.

Tools to empower the public

The Santa Fe New Mexican praised Searchlight New Mexico's Your Data portal in a Nov. 20 lead editorial, noting our efforts to "make public information better available to the public — for free."

Today, many news organizations lack the resources to sue over access to public records; with the work of Searchlight, those records will be gathered and made available through a permanent digital record. This is important. No matter who is governor or mayor, these archives will be available to the people who want or need the information.

You can read the full editorial here.

Nonprofit investigative news

The Columbia Journalism Review, in a Dec. 8 feature article, singled out Searchlight New Mexico as one of a new group of financially strong local- and state-level independent investigative reporting sites.

Several aspects of investigative nonprofits’ early success are hopeful indicators about this sector’s future. One is that they’ve been able to thrive in small states like Iowa, New Hampshire, and Maine, as well as in large states. Three of the 10 largest investigative operations are in Oklahoma and New Mexico.

You can read the full article here.

Our staff and the media

Reporter Lauren Villagran discussed Searchlight New Mexico's upcoming series on the well-being of New Mexico's children during an interview on KRWG-TV’s In Focus. Watch the video here.

Data editor John R. Roby spoke about Searchlight New Mexico's Your Data portal with the Rio Grande Foundation's Paul Gessing on the foundation's Dec. 2 Tipping Point radio program. You can listen to the full interview here.