The Harkavy Scholarship for Investigative Reporting was established at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 2020 to honor the memory of Valley reporter Ward Harkavy, “the gruff and lovable Lou Grant of the alt-weekly world” who died of COVID-19 in May 2020.
The Harkavy Scholarship will be presented annually to a journalism student who is “willing to stand up for social justice, speak truth to power — and always turn in clean copy.” The inaugural recipient is Genesis Alvarado, a senior at the Cronkite School.
After earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kansas in 1970, Harkavy held successive positions as editor and reporter at the Journal-World in Lawrence, Kansas; The Arizona Republic; Phoenix New Times; Westword in Denver; the Long Island Voice; and The Village Voice in New York City, where he worked from 2000 to 2011.
During his 40-year journalism career, Harkavy displayed a fierce intellect and an abiding sense of right and wrong. He deplored social injustice and believed that a journalist’s job was to hold powerful people accountable. Along with his usual suspects — corrupt politicians, evangelists, racists — he took on conservatives and liberals alike, calling out any hypocrisy. His in-depth exposé on Hawley Atkinson, a controversial former Maricopa County supervisor, won the Arizona Press Club’s first-place award for news analysis in 1985.
Harkavy was known for his outstanding news judgment and accurate reporting. He was a dedicated teacher, taking young journalists under his wing to mentor and champion them. His friends recalled how easily he generated camaraderie with his principles, kindness and quick wit.
Harkavy’s friend Cynthia Cotts spearheaded the fundraising for the scholarship, inviting people from his network to contribute. Thus far, more than $15,000 has been raised from 84 donors, including Terry Greene Sterling, writer-in-residence and faculty affiliate at the Cronkite School. Greene Sterling and Harkavy were staffers at Phoenix New Times in the late 1980s.
“At the time, alt-weekly journalism was enjoying unprecedented popularity and power as news consumers developed a love of long form narratives,” Greene Sterling recalled. “Ward edited my 1989 investigative series exposing how the self-protective Diocese of Phoenix hid its pedophile priests, thus enabling some to continue preying on children. It was a gut-wrenchingly painful series to report, write and edit, but I’ll never forget how Ward and I talked each other through it. He was an untiringly precise and fearless journalist as well as an unforgettable friend.”
John Leach, former managing editor of The Arizona Republic, touted his colleague as the kind of editor who improved every story – “turning the mediocre into good work and good work into excellent work” – and who challenged and nurtured reporters.
“Ward would love seeing an investigative reporting scholarship in his name,” Leach said. “His message to the students would be simple: Aim high, do great work, hold the powerful accountable, raise hell.”