From an editorial standpoint, we ran an editorial on Sunday arguing that the most important thing at this point was for people come together. And that wasn’t a criticism of political debate, and we certainly didn’t imply that the political debate played any role in this. With our editorial pages we’ve tried to take a very cautionary tone in terms of asking people not to assume or read into anything until we know more. On the news side we’ve tried to capture what the debate is, what’s being said; reflecting reality, which is what we do on the news side.

A lot of the discussion has focused on Arizona as a kind of microcosm of a lot of what is supposedly wrong with the tone of debate. Do you think the portrayal of the state in the national media has been fair?

Yes and no. I think it’s always fair for anyone to step back and look at everything that’s transpired in Arizona and try to represent that to their readers. Where sometimes they get a little distorted is where they engage stereotypes. I’ve read things about “the wild west.” Yes, we’re in the western part of the United States, but no, there aren’t cowboys and Indians. That’s when I think readers who may not ever come to Arizona can get distorted perception of the state. As I said, we’re the fifth largest city—we’re not as wild west as it may seem.

Still, there are cultural differences between this part of the country and other parts of the country. And I’ve lived in different regions. I think the challenge is to try and understand and then to represent those cultural differences in a fair and accurate way. Unfortunately, when a reporter who may not have that experience comes into a situation they may not have that perspective.

How do the issues you need to report on as a state or local paper differ from the focus of a national outlet? Do you have a responsibility to cover certain stories they may not?

I haven’t followed everything that everyone’s done, and I don’t want to sleight the work that’s being done. But a couple of things were important to us. Beyond telling the story of Gabrielle Giffords and Jared Loughner, we put a lot of time and energy into helping people know and understand those other individuals who were injured or killed. Those were local people, those were Arizona residents. To us, all of those victims are equally important because they are residents of our state. And while they may not have had as high a profile as others, it’s been important for us to get as much information as we can to help paint a picture of who they were and what their lives were like. That’s probably the most notable difference.

We also had a story over the weekend on the city of Tucson, and what it does to a city when your community gets turned upside down. Those are the things that are important to us and our readers that may not play out on a national level.

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Joel Meares is a former CJR assistant editor.