OCCUPIED TUCSON CITIZEN
Prying documents from the cold dead hands of a faceless bureaucracy takes time—not less than six months—research skills, money, and, not to be discounted, aggression. If you don’t believe that effort is worth something, you need to listen to Arizona based reporter Beau Hodai, publisher of DBAPress.com and a journalist passionate for accuracy in times when rumors are routinely reported as facts.
Bill Moyers, Democracy Now, and Howard (Stern) 100 News have used DBA Press as a source. A short version of Hodai’s exposé of government surveillance of a 2011 Occupy Phoenix rally is included in the current Project Censored annual publication under Fearless Speech in Fateful Times. DBA Press has produced investigative work in partnership with the Center for Media and Democracy, and Hodai has published articles in Source Watch, In These Times, The Progressive, Prison Legal News, and Extra!, among others.
In existence since January of 2011, DBA Press is primarily a solo enterprise, but occasionally journalists other than Hodai participate in digging and dishing the dirt on the bastardly activities of private and public citizens, a term, courtesy of the Supreme Court, that includes corporations.
Hodai’s practice of making all documents acquired in research available in the site’s archives, hence the DBA acronym for Dirty Bastards Archives, is now becoming more common with other news sites. Subscribers can check the facts themselves. They are also free to source the materials for their own research purposes.
Hodai attended the University of Arizona journalism school but left in his third year for full time newspaper work. He has been a journalist the eight years since, working first on several newspapers, freelancing for magazines and other news outlets, and now also runs his press.
Some subjects of Hodai’s detailed investigations have been the workings of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the influence of private prisons on state policies, and most recently involve a suit against the Tucson Police Department (TPD) for information on “Stingray”, a phone surveillance operation involving cell phone data collection by TPD in Tucson.
Besides outstanding muckraking, what makes DBA Press stand in relief amid the roil of the internet is Hodai’s business model and his attitude toward online publishing.
“If you, the reader, appreciate and find value in this work, you should support it by subscribing—otherwise the work will cease to exist.
“As it stands at this moment, I will not be providing any free content, as this work requires both large amounts of time and moderate amounts of money and, believe me, DBA Press is not bringing in enough revenue to sustain this work.
“While some feel that reporters should go begging to either wealthy individuals or foundations for their pay—so that the general public may have their work for free—I refuse to do this. A plutocratic press is not desirable. It is incredibly difficult to make a living in independent investigative journalism these days—and I am incredibly sick of hearing complaints about my meager effort to actually get people to pay me for my work.”
So, tell us how you really feel, Beau.
If he sounds testy on the topic, remember, he is a man who forms his opinions based on facts.
He says he has been criticized for putting a pay wall in front of public documents on his site—$35 for a year subscription and $4.99 for a day pass—but he explains that the documents were not free to him. He has the cost of many hours of research, legwork, phone calls, applications, and then collating, hosting, and presenting the documents, writing the articles, and don’t discount the aggression. “What people don’t seem to get is that it’s my time I’m asking them to pay for,” he says.
“Investigative journalism reports take months, sometimes years, to complete. This type of reporting is not new, but it has become rare. Nobody is financing this kind of work. Outlets don’t have the resources.”
Hodai’s reports have drawn attack from some furtive sources.
Quid pro Status Quo: ALEC & State-Sanctioned Corruption in Ohio, a 2012 collaboration between Hodai and The Center for Democracy’s PR Watch, traced illegal lobbyist gifts accepted by Ohio lawmakers. “I had written an exposé on how Ohio law makers in ALEC were breaking criminal laws with the ALEC scholarship fund activity,” says Hodai. “AOL, Time Warner, ALEC and a bunch of lawmakers. A week after that article came out, somebody hired a private detective agency based in Phoenix to do a background check on me.
“And then, low and behold, they came out with this really terrible article about me. I don’t say it was terrible because it was hurtful, I say terrible because I could have done a better job and I wouldn’t even need to hire a private detective. It sucked. That’s what really got me. It’s all a matter of public record. Any journalist should know how to find this stuff as a matter of course. These shitheads calling themselves journalists didn’t even do their own research. It was an ad hominem attack. They didn’t go after my veracity because they couldn’t. My reporting is solid.
“If you look at the people who drive that organization, they’re former GOP research staff and (The Project for the) New American Century (PNAC) fuckers like William Kristol. Anyway, the involvement of such high caliber people on a smear piece upon myself, I took to be a great honor.”
Asked what drives him, Hodai gets pensive. “I don’t know, really.” He pauses. Then, “If you see something that’s not going right, it’s your duty to do something about it. I’m trying to educate. I don’t see any alternative.”
On Hodai’s desk rests a research handbook he is writing, currently stalled for lack of funding. He is working on some new models for investigative reporting to be paid directly by the public they benefit.
Online at occupiedtucsoncitizen.org is an extended interview with Hodai about American journalism in digital times.
Here is a link to Hodai’s article on the 2011 surveillance of Occupy Phoenix.
This link is to an Occupy Radio podcast with Hodai in which he gives research tips. “The idea” he says, “was to give people a way to do some work themselves.”
Here is the link to Hodai’s work on ALEC and Ohio.
Story copyright 2014 Norah Booth