The rejection of Wayne Anthony Ross, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's nominee to the post of Alaska Attorney General, by our legislature, was one of the biggest non-election-day defeats ever suffered by a politician in Alaska history. I suspect the next Palin poll will place her statewide approval in the mid-50s, perhaps a bit lower.
Many elements contributed to the rather astonishing 35 to 23 vote against a man the Anchorage Daily News, mere hours before the vote, predicted would win it. Although three Alaska web-based news and opinion outlets - The Alaska Report, Just a Girl from Homer and Progressive Alaska - had predicted Ross' defeat as early a late Saturday, April 11th, Alaska's journal of record not only failed to lead the way in breaking the information that helped damn Ross and Palin, their editors wrote Thursday morning that "Alaska is about to get an attorney general named Wayne Anthony Ross."
Rather than cut that editorial out of our print copy of Thursday's paper and tack it on the wall next to Denis', Shannyn's and my posts that proved more accurate, it is probably more productive to ask bloggers who participated in Ross' demise, what we learned from this interesting experience. I've done that in an e-mail to several of my colleagues. I'll post the results after they come in.
This was a collective effort that involved many people. Bloggers - not all of them progressive - played an important role. Legislators and their staff, assessing a lot of information about the nominee, were key. And so were the many, many constituents who wrote to their legislators.
I think the turning point for me happened nine days ago, when it appeared people affiliated with TeamSarah, Conservatives4Palin and SarahPac might be willing to try to destroy the Burton family. That got me to spend several hours going through old Wayne Anthony Ross op-eds, looking for information that might help Leah Burton and her father, ex-Public Safety Commissioner, Dick Burton.
Through the entire WAR campaign, Alaska's progressive communication community learned a lot.
Here are five lessons I learned:
1. Bloggers, combining reportage and opinion, have more flexibility in key areas than do traditional media. It is good that they have high standards they must uphold, but if we approach a subject honestly, we can deliver timely, accurate information.
2. Bloggers openly have been sharing material in many ways traditional media doesn't. Several progressive Alaskan bloggers have been e-mailing up a storm since Ross' nomination in late March. Some of us have maxed out our cell phone time on this.
We all pride ourselves in getting new information out more quickly than the next blog, but there isn't much of a proprietary sense to how we exchange what we learn from the feedback we get. This also includes our working with Camille Conte at KUDO-AM.
3. Traditional outlets like the ADN, for instance, even in possession of huge files on Ross' longstanding involvement in issues that resurfaced during the nominee's vetting, somehow couldn't find the will or resources to do much research on the man. Yet, as information came in from people who recounted incidents that gave Leah Burton solid credibility, the ADN never quite got to the story that could resolve the question Sean Cockerham and David Hulen had raised at the end of last week - "is Burton credible?" That, of course, is a paraphrase.
But the ADN, particularly editor Hulen, owes it to the Burtons to follow through on what was left dangling at the beginning of last weekend. I know that Sean Cockerham has been very busy covering the session by himself, and would probably finish the Burton story if he had time, but closure for them is Hulen's responsibility, not Sean's.
4. The lack of in-depth reporting on just why Alaska's most prominent and prestigious Native organizations opposed Ross has been appalling. Subsistence hasn't come up in a while, at last not like it used to, and many recent additions to the Anchorage reading community could have used a primer. The ADN, KTUU and APRN all failed in this respect, to one degree or another.
5. Because Ross' previous statements, writings and actions have offended such a wide spectrum of Alaskans, his nomination provided a rich opportunity for Alaska bloggers representing many interests, to co-operate. And, in the end, the nomination succeeded in empowering these new community resources.
I made some new friends, as we shared information.