Thursday, November 15, 2007
In Defense of the Voice of the Times
Thursday morning, the Anchorage Daily News ran an editorial with a column of pictures of five Alaska Senate members who have taken large campaign donations from the now-defunct oil industry service company, Veco. To the right of the pictures, the editorial ran the numbers - amounts taken in, and amounts returned or donated elsewhere once Veco's criminality was revealed. Many people have criticized the ADN for not asking more questions, deeper questions, earlier. Many wondered why the ADN, years ago, renewed their editorial page partnership agreement with Veco to keep the Voice of the Times page alongside the proud masthead of the Daily News, after Veco's questionable political tactics were becoming more obvious, more public. I was one of them. When the Daily News kissed Veco "goodbye" last spring at the time of a double witching - the public announcement of the Allen/Smith pleas alongside the end of the ADN/VOT contract - a lot of my friends said "Way beyond about time.'" Yeah, it was.
I have long wondered how people like Paul Jenkins show up for work. Back in the late '90s, as I was writing dueling op-eds with Vic Kohring in the Valley Frontiersman about funding for the arts and school vouchers, after reading one of Vic's Voice of the Times op-eds, I broke out laughing. I saw an image I couldn't let loose.
I imagined a little schoolgirl, sixth or seventh grade, doing research on an Alaska project from outside the state. So, she calls some newspapers in Alaska. One of them is listed as The Anchorage Times. By the time she calls the Times, she has called several other papers. She knows that you have to go through layers of people to get to an editor.
When she calls the Times, she asks for the editor. Paul responds "Speaking."
"Uh, are you really an editor, sir?"
"Of course I am. How may I help you?"
Jenkins goes on to answer the little girl's questions courteously, professionally. But the little girl, troubled about some sort of cognitive dissonance, as she concludes her questions, asks "Uh, are you a real paper, Mister?"
"Of course we are, you little twirp!"
Cut to the present. Paul doesn't get that kind of imaginary call anymore. Not many real ones, either. The Voice of the Times has become niche journalism with a vengeance. I list it here as a humor site. They tried to get a bit of revenge today as the almost final weekday of this special session of the Alaska Legislature played out. But, except for a couple of nutty right-wing radio hosts, nobody even bothered to play along with the VOT.
Back when the VOT was preparing their web page, I e-mailed Tom Brennan. I wished him and the "paper" luck. I asked him when he expected to get the web page structured so that readers could comment on articles. On May 31, Tom replied, "Phil, we sure will. And we'll be able to get them onto the page pretty
quickly. We're still learning with the software and haven't figured out how
to get a letters box configured, but we'll get it done. Thanks - Tom Brennan."
Still waiting. Maybe if my imaginary young friend called the imaginary paper...