The Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting is the state’s only independent, nonpartisan and collaborative nonprofit newsroom dedicated to statewide, data-driven investigative reporting. AZCIR holds powerful people and institutions accountable by exposing injustice and systemic inequities through investigative journalism.
AZCIR covers state and local government, education, public health, the environment, and public policy issues that impact the lives of Arizona residents. AZCIR publishes content online at AZCIR.org, and through a distribution network of newsrooms in print and on television and radio. AZCIR releases its content under a creative commons license, meaning it’s free for other newsrooms to use with appropriate credit.
AZCIR is funded by individual donors, foundations, fee-for-service revenue from collaborative data work with partner newsrooms, through training and corporate underwriting of events. As a matter of policy, funders exercise no control over AZCIR editorial decisions, and all funders are publicly identified.
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Brandon Quester is the co-founder, executive director and editor of the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting. In a short time and with limited resources, he built AZCIR into an award-winning newsroom, becoming a regional hub for original and collaborative accountability journalism that is best known for its deep reporting on important public policy issues in Arizona and the Southwest. Prior to AZCIR, Quester’s reporting ranged from coverage of children living along the U.S.-Mexico border to U.S. soldiers serving in Kuwait and Iraq. He has worked at newspapers and online publications from Phoenix to California to Wyoming, including work in education as an adjunct journalism instructor and as the multimedia editor for the nationwide Carnegie-Knight News21 investigative reporting program. Quester was also a 2015 Kiplinger Fellow, and recently was selected as a member of the Institute for Nonprofit News Emerging Leaders Council, a group of leaders expected to advance the industry over the coming decade. Most recently he worked as the director of data and visuals for inewsource in San Diego.
Maria Polletta is an investigative reporter for AZCIR focused on covering inequities in education. Her position is made possible by a grant from the Arizona Community Foundation’s Ellis Center for Educational Excellence. Prior to joining AZCIR, she covered state government and politics for The Arizona Republic and USA Today Network, leading breaking and enterprise watchdog coverage of the Arizona Governor’s Office, Attorney General’s Office and state Supreme Court. Polletta also has covered criminal justice reform, inequality issues, economic development and city politics over the past decade, with bylines from Arizona to Mexico. She regularly appears on television and radio as an analyst and moderator. In 2020, Polletta was one of two Arizona journalists chosen to oversee the nonprofit Southwest Stories Project, a regional reporting initiative that sought to highlight the pandemic’s effects on marginalized communities in the American Southwest. Polletta has been selected for various national reporting fellowships ranging from the Poynter Institute’s Growing Up Poor to the National Press Foundation’s Spotlight on Statehouse and Local Reporting.
Natasha Yee is a Fund for Investigative Journalism Fellow for AZCIR as part of a six month investigative reporting fellowship focused on the Arizona cannabis industry. Prior to joining AZCIR, she covered cannabis, news, and the food industry for Phoenix New Times. Yee has also covered politics as a freelancer for Rolling Stone. She is a first-generation college graduate who earned a master’s degree in Journalism from ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, where she covered border issues, health, and was one of the voices of Cronkite’s podcast, CN2Go. Yee won a first place student audio award from the BEA Festival of Media Arts for a story about how increased marijuana legalization led cartels to smuggle more fentanyl through the U.S./Mexico border. She also reported on a young woman’s covert abortion after S.B. 8 was passed in Texas, banning the practice after six weeks. Yee is the daughter of Iraqi immigrants and speaks fluent Aramaic, conversational Spanish, and limited Arabic.
Hannah Bassett is a Report for America corps member covering health disparities for AZCIR. Prior to joining the newsroom, Bassett covered reproductive healthcare, criminal justice and conservatorship in California for the Peninsula Press. She also worked for several years in federal government and nonprofits writing about public health, immigration and press freedom in the United States and abroad. Bassett holds a bachelor’s degree in international relations from Tufts University and earned a master’s degree in journalism from Stanford University in June 2023.
Brendon Derr is a Roy W. Howard Fellow for AZCIR as part of a year-long investigative reporting fellowship. Derr earned his master’s degree in investigative journalism from the Cronkite School of Journalism at ASU. As a reporter for the Howard Center for Investigative Reporting, Derr worked on the award-winning project “Little Victims Everywhere.” The investigation exposed systemic problems with the federal government’s investigation and prosecution of child sexual abuse cases in Indian Country. He also reported on the prisons and jails team for The New York Times’ COVID-tracking effort, which won the newsroom a Pulitzer Prize in public service. Most recently Derr worked as a data reporter for the Houston Chronicle.
Terry Greene Sterling is a Phoenix based journalist. Her work has appeared in many newspapers and magazines, including The Washington Post, Newsweek, The Daily Beast, The Atlantic, Slate, The National Journal Magazine, Rolling Stone, The Village Voice, Salon.com, High Country News, Arizona Highways, and The Guardian. She’s the winner of 54 international, national and regional journalism awards, including three Virg Hill Journalist of the Year Awards, The Don Bolles Award for Investigative Reporting, and the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism. Greene Sterling is writer-in-residence and affiliated faculty at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. She’s the author of “Illegal, Life and Death in Arizona’s Immigration War Zone,” and is currently coauthoring a book with journalist Jude Joffe-Block. The book, under contract with the University of California Press, tells the story of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s unprecedented immigration crackdowns, the Latino-led movement that organized against him and the legal battles that culminated in the historic Trump pardon. Photo by Deanna Dent.