by Rachel McPherson
Goldwater Institute National Investigative Journalist Mark Flatten grew up during what he calls the “golden age” of modern journalism. Two events really piqued his interest in investigative reporting and started him on his career path: the Watergate scandal, and the 1976 murder of Arizona Republic investigative reporter Don Bolles, who was targeted over stories he wrote exposing criminal activity. To Mark, these events illustrated both the risk and the importance of seeking the truth as a journalist.
“This struck me as a very important profession and a very intriguing profession—a profession where your job is to find the truth and tell the truth, regardless of who you upset or who might be offended,” Mark says.
Mark began his career as a political reporter, but he knew that he wanted to do more than just cover the events of the day. He was interested in diving deeper into stories and uncovering problems that were lying beneath the surface. After working for several Arizona newspapers over the course of 25 years, his desire to report on the human cost of societal problems is exactly what brought him to the Goldwater Institute.
“I saw an opportunity to continue doing deep issue-oriented reporting with the added benefit that there are other people here who can do something about it. At the Goldwater Institute, when I do expose a problem, we have policy experts here, we have legal staff here, who can actually pick up that problem, develop solutions, and find a way to solve that problem.”
While Mark has worked on many stories throughout his career, the work he’s the most proud of involved one small Arizona elementary school district. The Congress Elementary School District sued four women who had been parents of district students after they made public records requests asking for their child’s academic history, district budgets, and other files that were clearly matters of public record. Mark wrote a story exposing the school district’s actions, and the Goldwater Institute mounted a successful legal challenge to what the district was doing.
“In terms of importance and high-profile issues, it probably isn’t the biggest story that I’ve done but that one was particularly rewarding because this was a classic case of government just really abusing the little guy. These people really had no place else to turn and I was able to help them. I was able to expose what the school district was doing to them—denying their rights not only as citizens of Arizona but as parents of their children. We were able to rectify that problem.”
Despite his background covering politics, he relishes the fact that his investigative reporting work with the Goldwater Institute stays above the political fray. “I don’t see my job as trying to sway the politics—that’s for others to figure out,” he says. “My job is to find the truth, to find the facts, and to expose problems in our society.”
You can watch the full interview with Mark above.
Rachel McPherson is a Ronald Reagan Fellow at the Goldwater Institute.