KJZZ in Phoenix will close its Mexico City bureau at the end of June, citing financial challenges.
Like many stations in public media, KJZZ saw “huge drops in underwriting dollars” over the last fiscal year, said GM Jon Hoban. Some of that money is coming back in the new year, but not enough.
“In order to not be in a deficit spending situation … we needed to make some cuts,” Hoban said.
The decision will also allow KJZZ to focus more closely on state coverage, he added. Mexico City is nearly 1,500 miles from Phoenix, and it “was going to be a struggle to try to find daily news, if you will, like the latest updates, and connect it back here,” Hoban said.
“I think we made a lot of good connections with a variety of partners there,” Hoban said. “But we didn’t have quite the feedback from the expat community as we’d hoped,” he said, especially around funding.
“We were hoping that the expat community would say ‘We think this is a great idea’ and we’d see some revenue coming out of that bureau at some point,’” Hoban said.
Rodrigo Cervantes, the station’s Mexico City bureau chief and the only employee at the bureau, is leaving the station. Hoban said Cervantes declined the offer of a different role in Phoenix.
Cervantes confirmed that he did receive an offer, “but it wasn’t a respectable offer, in my opinion,” he said. “And the station did not seem interested in discussing other options or other creative options.”
“I am very thankful for the opportunity that KJZZ gave me and the work that we did here,” he said. “And I just hope there’s a legacy of interest in media, but also in the audience, on the importance that Mexico has for the United States.”
Cervantes “has been masterful in helping us develop that bureau,” Hoban said, and has done “a really good job in terms of managing our partners and really trying to do everything he can to bring Mexico City to our listeners.” Earlier this year, Cervantes won a regional Murrow award for Excellence in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for a story he wrote.
KJZZ opened the Mexico City bureau in 2016, creating a unique international presence for a public radio station.
The bureau is part of The Fronteras Desk, formerly a CPB-funded journalism collaboration that KJZZ now operates on its own. The desk will continue with its bureau in Hermosillo, Mexico, Hoban said.