New Editing Team for Phoenix New Times

December 10, 2002

New Times Newspapers today announced the hiring of two new editors and the promotion of a third at its flagship paper in Phoenix.

The paper’s new editor-in-chief is Rick Barrs, formerly the lead editor at New Times Los Angeles. In addition to managing an award-winning group of writers and editors at NTLA, Barrs wrote the nationally recognized column “The Finger,” a provocative mix of stylish prose and old-fashioned muckraking known for breaking news and busting heads. As “The Finger,” Barrs exposed the Staples Center scandal, in which the Los Angeles Times agreed to share advertising revenue with the owners of the sports and entertainment complex. The Times was familiar territory to Barrs; he spent nine years at the venerable daily before coming to New Times, and was a member of a city-desk team that won twin Pulitzer Prizes for the Times’ coverage of the 1992 riots and the 1994 earthquake.

Moving up to the managing editor position will be Patti Epler, formerly the paper’s associate editor. Epler has been an editor for New Times for five years, and has also won awards for her feature writing since arriving from the Tacoma News Tribune in 1997. During her seven years at the News Tribune, Epler was a political writer and special-projects reporter, and won two first-place Best of the West awards for her reporting on youth violence and violent crime. From 1984 to 1990, she was a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News, where she received an Investigative Reporters and Editors award for her reporting on the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and was part of a team honored with a Pulitzer for a special series on alcoholism among Alaska natives.

Rounding out the management team in Phoenix will be Tony Ortega, who returns to Phoenix from Los Angeles to take over the associate editor’s slot from Epler. Ortega joined the Phoenix paper as a staff writer in 1995. Only a year later, he was named the Arizona Press Club’s “Journalist of the Year” for a body of work that included groundbreaking investigative reporting on the mistreatment of prisoners by controversial Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Three years ago, Ortega transferred to New Times L.A., where he became known for his reporting on the Church of Scientology. In 2001, Ortega was a finalist for the Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Writing Award; he also received a national Unity Award for his reporting on a Los Angeles health clinic that was bleeding patients’ checkbooks.

For more information, contact Andy Van De Voorde, Executive Associate Editor at