Harry Alexander: Remembering our “chief”

By Harry Alexander

Those of you who receive the Southern Arizona News-Examiner newsletter in your email already know about this. Those who don’t, I will tell about it now.

The founder of the Southern Arizona New-Examiner, Emil Franzi, passed away on June 7 at age 78. He had suffered from cancer and it unfortunately got the better of him.

He was born in Boston and grew up in Glendale, California. He came to Tucson in the 1960s, did a stint in the Air National Guard here and returned to California. He and wife Kathy were watching an episode of “High Chaparral” on television when it hit him that he was homesick for Tucson. Back he came and the rest, as they say, is history.

I met Emil back in the mid 1980s when, as a reporter for a news radio station, I was covering the local county supervisors board meeting. I sat in astonishment (and scribbled notes) as Emil went up one side of the supervisors as a whole and then down the other side during his time at the dais. I don’t recall the issue that got him heated up. He was an employee of the county at the time, too. But that didn’t matter. Franzi spoke his mind. We had a professional relationship and both of us contributed to the United Press International bureau in Tucson.

We lost touch with one another as I had moved out of Arizona in the early 1990s to cleanse myself of Arizona politics and reporting.

It didn’t work out that way.

I came back to Arizona in 2009 and worked at a local talk station where Franzi had his radio show, “Inside Track.” It was a political talk show and featured a number of local and national political figures during its three hour airing. The fourth hour of his broadcast was dedicated to Old West history. The show was called “Voices of the West.”

Producing those two shows let me in on Franzi’s politics and his thought process. He was a student of history–regardless of where in the world it happened or the time it happened. Franzi was a very learned man. He was a staunch conservative but could also adopt a liberal point of view depending on the issue. He and I agreed that Harry Truman was the last Democrat who gave a damn about the people. Franzi was an admirerer of Ronald Reagan.

Eventually, he began the Southern Arizona News-Examiner and after going thru a couple of editors, he asked me if I would help out. Not realizing what I was getting myself into, I agreed.

From that point on, it was our mission to make the Southern Arizona News-Examiner a publication that presents news and information to our readers that other publications do not. Every media outlet reports on the “big news.” Our focus was on the “big news” with twists that the MSM failed to report. In other words, we are right of center on many issues. We also held (and still do) journalistic tenets that many other news organizations seem to forget.

I think we have succeeded with that focus.

From automotive columnist Eric Peters:

I never met Emil in person but knew him as a kindred spirit, as someone who – like me – was concerned about the direction of the country and – unlike so many editors and publishers – was willing to try to do something about it, even at personal cost to himself.

Emil published articles written by people who write about things verboten to be written about the mainstream media. That is, by “journalists” who have sold out for money or celebrity or both. Who signed a Devil’s Bargain to confine their writing and their coverage to that which is acceptable to the powers-that-be. Or to cheer lead for one of the two wings of the same political apparat that brooks no real dissent.

I was deeply saddened to learn of his passing. I regret that I never had the chance to meet him in person.

He was a mensch, a good dude.

And will be missed.

Emil was a true “Yankee Doodle Dandy” as his birthday was July 4th. I remember on the “Inside Track” radio shows that aired around July 4th he would always request I play Jimmy Cagney’s rendition of “Yankee Doodle” from the the “George M. Cohan Story.” It always brought a smile to his face and a twinkle to his eye.

He was a voracious reader of all subjects and was an aficionado of classical music and opera.

Franzi was called all kinds of names by his critics and supporters–many of which cannot be printed here. Among the descriptions were “cantankerous,” “opinionated,” and “curmudegeon.” Yep, he was all of those and damn proud of it, too. And, he wasn’t afraid to tell you why he held his particular thought and why you were wrong for taking your position if it didn’t agree with his. And, he had the facts to back up his argument.

Franzi also knew where all the skeletons were buried or closeted in local, county and state politics. Trust me, he shared the locations of many of those skeletons with his good friends.

I was frequently amazed at the people Emil knew throughout his life. People like the late Murray Rothbard of the Austrian School of Economics. He’d tell stories of when he and Murray would be a bar somewhere talking economics and politics. Another friend of his was former Rep. Duncan Hunter, Senior of California. Franzi cast his presidential vote for Hunter when he ran. Yet another friend was rancher and former congressional candidate Gary Kiehne, Pima County Sheriff Mark Napier, and, current Rep. Martha McSally. The list goes on and on.

Then, there were the Western folks he knew thru his association with the Western Writers of America. Franzi was so surprised when the WWA honored him and the “Voices of the West” radio program with a Lariat Award in 2014–given to the person or organization that furthers the discussion and causes of the Old West. “Voices of the West” is the only radio program to have been honored with that award.

Sure, Franzi had won numerous Arizona Press Club awards for writing, but the 2014 WWA Lariat Award was his most cherished.

Franzi left the Tucson airways in October 2016 and devoted his entire time to the Southern Arizona News-Examiner. He told me he was tired of politics as far as the talk show format went. But, he still had the radio itch and we figured out a way to bring back “Voices of the West” on the internet. We’ve done that and will continue to air the show every Saturday a 4pm Arizona time at voicesofthewest.net with repeats throught the week.

I’m going to miss my friend, my colleague, my business partner, and my mentor. He is survived by his wife Kathy, three daughters and one granddaughter.

R.I.P Emil Franzi, you “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”

This press run has stopped and the newspaper has gone to bed.



Harry Alexander is the Managing Editor of the Southern Arizona News-Examiner. For another voice on the passing of Emil Franzi, please see an excellent write up at  Tucson Sentinel.com by Dylan Smith.



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