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Fronteras Reporter Wins National Award

Michel Marizco
Michel Marizco

Marizco honored for reporting on Mexican ghost towns left by the cartels

Fronteras: The Changing America Desk has won its first national award for reporting. The National Headliner Awards are among the oldest awards of journalistic merit in the United States.

The story by KJZZ Senior Field Correspondent Michel Marizco, “The Drug War And Cartels Lead To An Exodus In Northern Mexico,” was broadcast in June 2011 and can be found online at

KJZZ's Marizco traveled to the Mexican state of Sonora to report on the towns that are emptying out due to drug-related violence. The town of Tubutama, in particular, has been affected by a narco-trafficker known as “El Gilo.” Marizco spent time with the remaining residents of Tubutama, a 300-year-old mission town, and even found himself face-to-face with El Gilo.


“Any time a local drug lord shows up and talks to you on a piece, you know it’s going to be a great story,” said Fronteras Senior Editor Alisa Barba, who edited the story and shares in the award.

Marizco has a habit of showing up at the right place and the right time, Barba said. “He really got to the essence of the fear and the violence in the hills of Sonora.”

The Tucson-based reporter said he wanted to do a story about the places affected by the drug war that aren’t making headlines.

“This town had always interested me because a year prior El Gilo had successfully killed cartel members. He left 21 people dead and destroyed their vehicles in an ambush,” Marizco said. Photos of those shot-up vehicles are part of the online version of the story.

“Nobody else is telling these stories,” Barba said. “This is our territory with Fronteras.”

Check out the multimedia story that won a National Headliner Award.

The story was awarded second place in the Feature and Human Interest Story category for broadcast radio networks and syndicates.

Founded in 1934 by the Press Club of Atlantic City, the National Headliner Awards program is one of the oldest and largest annual contests recognizing journalistic merit in the communications industry.

The Fronteras Desk is a multimedia collaboration among seven public radio stations. It is led by KJZZ in Phoenix and KPBS in San Diego, and funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting as part of its Local Journalism Center initiative. Multi-lingual reporters are based in Phoenix, San Diego, Las Vegas, San Antonio, Tucson, Flagstaff, Ariz., and Las Cruces, N.M.