The saddest thing about this for me is that I have so many friends who either work at the paper, or who did at one time. Other than a couple of bad reviews in the early 90s by Len Frazier (he was far worse with some other local artists!), I have always been treated extraordinarily favorably by the ADN, whether it was about my art or my writing. I wrote scores of music reviews and articles for the paper in the 90s.
In very early 2008, PA questioned why the ADN only covered the State of Alaska's demand that University of Alaska Prof. Rick Steiner, then in dispute with the state over access to science information, for which the state wanted a half million dollars - the guy works for the state, right - through a sometimes erratic gossip columnist. It was an important story on the climate, species endangerment, and academic freedom fronts, to name a few.
In early July of 2008, I tried to get a full answer out of ADN editor Zencey about how the editors were handling a contentious column in their op-ed pages by my colleague, Linda Kellen. Linda had been critical of then Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, about statements he had made at a weird joint press conference with Palin.
Zencey wouldn't be open with me about a simple question. I wrote about the incident then. It has since troubled me.
Throughout the 2008 presidential campaign, PA was the most critical of the Alaska blogs toward aspects of their coverage of the way the campaign was shaping up to influence the future of Alaskans. Maybe part of the advantage PA and other blogs had then was our ability to talk openly about the inevitable and obvious. Here are some examples:
• The McCain-Palin campaign was doomed because of Sarah Palin
• The thwarting of the bi-partisan Branchflower investigation created a dark, perhaps indelible cloud over local customs
• The ethics challenges in our political future had switched remarkably from legislative to executive oversight challenges - our blogs recommended further reforms long before the so-called "complaints" escalated
• The polarizing figure Palin had developed into so rapidly and fully, in such a short time
After the 2008 national election, The ADN's editors , with their comprehensive archives of Alaska news, failed to make an effort to use their local knowledge to note or assist Alaska bloggers and citizens, with poignant stories to tell from all around Alaska about Wayne Anthony Ross, Palin's AG nominee, to help in what emerged as a detailed truthful narrative of the totally inappropriate nature of the nomination.
The ADN further predicted Ross as a victor in the nomination battle, after the battle was over.
Earlier in the 2008-09 winter, PA chastised the ADN editors for leaving their Palin "Shrine" up after Bob Poe had filed for the 2010 gubernatorial primary as a Democrat. They took it down within 36 hours.
There have been other battles and hilarities with the ADN:
• Their lack of attention to the fact that their only coverage of State Rep. Mike Doogan's (a former ADN writer) outing of an Alaskan blogger had been done by a gossip columnist, who also named the outed person. They never questioned the fact that Doogan had used state resources to pay back a citizen activist for asking Doogan a sensible question.
• Further somewhat derogatory references to citizen activists who want to examine aspects of our executive ethics statutes, and an editorial stance that seemed to question whether we have too much sunshine in our state disclosure regulations for politicians. Good grief.
• A fundraiser they held on their front page and at their political blog. For Sarah Palin. Just a couple of days before she announced her resignation. Then - two days later - they didn't even have a reporter at Palin's resignation to watch the speech as it happened. They didn't even send one.
The AP's Rachel D'Oro, who the ADN had asked to cover for them, arrived late. The conference had only been announced about an hour before it happened. Many media organizations had a difficult time dealing with the short notice.
• Linda Kellen's ongoing records request for communication between two Alaska media figures and people representing Palin is starting to yield results. They bring up more questions about ADN editorial policy and employee conduct than they answer. So far.
There are more ongoing issues with the ADN and Alaska bloggers. I had another disturbing phone conversation with editor Zencey today.
To me, the most bothersome thing about this is how little realization there is in the ADN editorial offices (at least the higher elevations there) that bloggers are not their adversary.
Craig's List is.
II. Eric Boehlert's positive take today in a Media Matters essay, on Alaska bloggers' role in perception of who Sarah Palin is, resonated a bit on local blogs. Boehlert tried to characterize our role in Alaska politics, as we helped craft detailed global understanding of the complexity of Palin's personality and political mania:
A completely unique (and contentious) relationship formed between the bloggers and Palin, and looking at the liaison from afar, I'm not sure which side was more obsessed with the other. Certainly the bloggers, collectively, have shone a homegrown, 24/7 spotlight on Palin that I doubt any other local politician has ever been subjected to. With their relentless pursuit of the facts and their rooting out of whatever Palin prevarications stood in the way of the truth, Alaskan bloggers, as well as their energized army of readers, have been relentless in fact-checking the governor, calling out her abuses of power, and holding her to the standard of transparency that she herself promised as a statewide candidate in 2006.
Once again, as I've written here before, Sarah Palin is writing her own history. We're just among the many chroniclers of this strangely compelling story.
Eric does our team a tribute, though. Once again.
Steve Aufrecht, the ethicist we consult, though not often enough, wrote Thursday of Eric's essay:
So what has this group done?
Followed up on every rumor they heard. They didn't always post what they heard, but they looked through the evidence and
- after getting it from several sources, but without confirmation, reported it as a rumor
- got more information and confirmed or rejected it
- analyzed the data available and offered possible explanations and their reasoning
- sometimes taken too much glee in Palin missteps
- kept a constant vigil on everything Palin said, giving her no lattitude when she stretched the truth, and she kept them very busy
They've (I'm not sure what it means that I'm using 'they' instead of 'we' but I'll not worry about it and go on that way) posted lots of videos and pictures, of varying levels of good taste, that related to Palin, and had links to local and national stories on Palin.
They've also been sources of information for Outside journalists. Overall, while some of the group have been louder than necessary and sometimes a little fast with declarative sentences, most of the bloggers have qualified their claims based on how much they actually knew or how solid the evidence was.
One critical contribution was the group's early awareness of what Don Mitchell said last week, that Palin is a celebrity, not a serious politician. But unlike Paris Hilton, Sarah Palin held an elected political office, so she was accountable in a way that celebrities aren't. Now that she's almost out of office, she can take advantage of that celebrity without getting flak for not doing a competent job as governor.
However, if she plans to continue trying to influence public policy and democratic elections, there will continue to be an open season on Sarah.
I'll add that as long as there are Alaska media outlets questionably trying to influence public policy and democratic elections through their practices, it will continue to be as open a season as it should be.
image - Matt Zencey