Fronteras: The Changing America Desk is an unprecedented, multimedia collaboration among seven public radio stations. It is led by KJZZ in Phoenix, Arizona and KPBS in San Diego, California, and funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) as part of its Local Journalism Center initiative. From Central Texas to Southern California, and from Las Vegas to the Mexican border, Fronteras covers an area of about 9 million residents and reaches an audience of about 1 million listeners. There are multi-lingual reporters based in San Antonio, Texas; Las Cruces, New Mexico; Las Vegas, Nevada; and in Flagstaff and Tucson, Arizona. In addition, we have three reporters in Phoenix, and two reporters and a social media editor in San Diego. Our leadership includes a Managing Editor in Phoenix and a Senior Editor in San Diego.

Fronteras stories deal with the complex and controversial southwestern border with Mexico, including security, immigration, drugs and weapons smuggling. We also seek to show that the border is far more than a smuggling corridor. Our mandate is to broadcast and publish stories from throughout the Southwest that go beyond breaking news and the sensational to find the people and stories that are real, relevant and alive.

In the spring of 2011, we produced a groundbreaking series on the Drug War At Home, with 13 multimedia stories looking at spillover violence, cultural impact and the mechanics of moving drugs north. Some recent stories have shown a collaboration in the development of an anti-venom vaccine and the struggles facing Mexican border schools with the enrollment of English speakers. We also explore the changing demographics of the Southwest, including the new immigrants who make up our populations and shape our cultures in a series on the 2010 census. In all of our communities, we are exploring the controversies surrounding redistricting and how new immigrants are represented on the local and national political stage. We're also looking at generational changes in the region and the impacts on our communities in a series of stories called Retirement Redefined.

Fronteras is committed to exploring parts of the country and the world off the radar screens of most media. Our reporters regularly travel to northern Mexico, deep into rural Native American reservations, and as far away as Guatemala. These efforts have helped inform listeners across the region how their communities are changing.

Besides reaching a diverse audience through radio, television and the Internet, our stories regularly appear in other media, including Marketplace, NPR, PBS Newshour and the BBC. These efforts over the past year show that Fronteras: The Changing America Desk is well on its way to reaching the goal of setting the news agenda for the Southwest.

Yarnell Lessons Slow To Emerge

Mar 31, 2014
Laurel Morales

For this story I assumed there were lessons to be learned from the Yarnell Hill Fire. But when I called Stephen Pyne, a fire historian at Arizona State University, he said, “for all of the sort of graphic and horrible qualities of the fire that made it so compelling to the general public, I don’t think it taught the fire community anything.”

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Photo by Laurel Morales

Federal officials are cutting off water to some California farms stuck in the worst drought on record. At the same time Arizona farmers are irrigating their fields with the diminishing Colorado River. They’re using the water to grow most of the country’s winter vegetables, and even shipping some crops to China. In the final part of the series Pipe Dreams, a look at the controversy of indirectly exporting water overseas.

Laurel Morales

Most people are squeamish about the notion of consuming recycled wastewater. But experts say we might have to get used to the idea, given our current drought and the growing population in the Southwest. How does that water get clean enough to drink?

Photo by Laurel Morales

California is coping with the worst drought in recorded history. California’s governor has asked state residents to cut back water use by 20 percent. The rest of the Southwest is also experiencing extreme to severe drought. In the first part of a water series we’re calling Pipe Dreams, Laurel Morales of our Changing America Desk went to Las Vegas to talk to a woman who has redefined water management in the west — outgoing water czar Pat Mulroy.