A lot of people want to do the right thing but don’t know where to start. Sometimes, people start doing something and end up doing the right thing. That’s what happened with Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin. They never intended to become symbols of philanthropy and justice.
In the early 70s, they started a small weekly newspaper called Phoenix New Times. The paper started out as a campus newsletter that Lacey and some other students created after deciding to challenge the local media’s ultra-conservative coverage of every subject they talked about.
Over the next 10 years, they focused all their efforts on growing New Times. When they wanted to do more in more places, they purchased Westword, a paper out of Denver.
That kick-started a national expansion; they eventually purchased big-name papers like LA Weekly.
Their multimillion-dollar conglomerate, Village Voice Media, is one of the most respected in the industry. It has a reputation for sophisticated investigative reporting. By 2012, VVM has over 65 million readers, most of whom were online subscribers. That same year, they sold VVM to some longtime executives.
While their lives sound peaceful and happy, for a brief moment, they weren’t. Nearly one decade ago, Lacey and Larkin went up against a crooked sheriff with an ax to grind.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio got Phoenix New Time’s attention after being caught abusing Latinos.
Upon first glance, Arpaio seemed to be over-zealous with the power that comes along with having a badge. Upon further scrutiny, New Times discovered that he’s a racist bigot that showed no regard for his fellow-man that wasn’t white. They cited several occasions where Arpaio systematically abused Latinos as well as jail inmates.
Arpaio ran several jails but left them in horrible health conditions. Some of the inmates even died because of the sub par health conditions. Arpaio didn’t face any consequences until he arrested Lacey and Larkin. He had no legal right to arrest them, so they immediately sued Maricopa County upon release.
In 2013, the county awarded the duo $3.7 million. After telling their story, they set up the Frontera Fund, an initiative that benefits the Arizonan Hispanic community. It also supports any group fighting for migrant rights.
Learn more about Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin: