Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Saradise Lost - Book 3 - Chapter 21 - At the Intersection of Palin Alley and Truth Boulevard - Part One

I. Progressive Alaska has been on the case of the editors of the Anchorage Daily News since long before soon-to-be-ex Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was chosen to be Sen. John McCain's 2008 running mate. Most notably, editors Pat Dougherty and Matt Zencey.

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


Casey said...

Good morning Phil...great post. I am sorry I was not aware that you tried as hard as you did with the ADN. Their loss I am afraid, because for better or worse, most folks come here, and to your pals blogs before going to ADN. I would take your word on anything before I did the newspapers. What a shame really.

Its interesting that during the last election (early on) I was watching a segment of Morning Joe. They were discussing the fact that some believed that in the not too distant future MSM would become fairly irrelevant. The 24 hour news CNN is just plain silly these days, and newspapers just flat out do not do their work to the journalistic standard of days gone by.

The idea then was floating about, that bloggers would take over. I remember watching the men at the table scoffing at that notion. I am sure they are not scoffing now...or at least they will not be soon.

Bloggers...reputable bloggers, have huge power. I blog too...but my little space is just my ramblings about my life...and the fact I have bipolar...yada yada yada.

However, I have decided to finally, after all these years, to sit up and take more notice of my government. Municipal..provincial and Federal. I can only hope that I can bring a measure of intelligence to the blogs I will do in that regard.

Thank you Phil...for everything.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps you could talk Zencey into giving the AK Bloggers a lesson in jounalistic ethics with an emphasis on basic fact checking and due diligence.

Be proud of yourselves, be really proud, and don't ever forget to teach your kids that spreading unfounded rumors about somebody really IS okay.

Really, it is.

Ask your "ethicist"

Anonymous said...

Anon@ 6:10 a.m., Bitter much?

KaJo said...

Anon @ 6:10 AM -- Joann Grimes, is that you?

Casey said...

lol @KaJo....I thought the same thing. So many smarmy little time ...I love your wit on all the blogs my dear.

Ivyfree said...

The problem is, and I say this as a complete outsider from the Lower 48.... the pro-Palin stance was so obvious on the ADN that it was difficult to take anything they said about her seriously. And I know that newspapers take editorial positions; that's fine. The problems occur when the editorial positions move into the news section. It's not okay to read such obvious bias in a newspaper that claims to have journalistic ethics. How stupid do they think their readers are? Well, we're smarter (obviously) than Palin supporters.

Anonymous said...

howdy ET,

cbl from FDL here -

following up on the Emmoniak story - have you Alaskans been able to determine why Palin's Rural Advisor John Moller was/is on 'personal leave' ?

p.s. ADN just broke the story about Medicaid


Anonymous said...

Thank you, Thank you Phil, for finally writing about this. The ADN used to be a decent and balanced paper, but it seems that lately the editors there think the sun shines out of Sarah Palin's butt! It's extremely disappointing. I, too, now use and trust the local blogs more than the ADN.
Sadly, the same pro-Palin stance has been showing up on KTUU Channel 2 news, which is really sad. They used to be the one professional TV news source in Anchorage, but they've sold out and become a mouthpiece for the Ghastly Governor, too.
Even as Mayor of Wasilla, Sarah Palin used threats of limited access to press releases to control the publisher of the Frontiersman. And it worked. It appears that she's using the same dirty tactics now.

AKPetMom said...

I open up the MacBook in the a.m. and visit Progressive Alaska, Mudflats and Immoral Minority. Then all of a sudden I realize that I haven't gone to ADN. Then I go, read their headlines, and then go to Valley stories. I then go back to the local bloggers after having garnered no information of consequence from the ADN.

I go out of habit (to ADN), but it's a habit I'll soon have to break, I'm afraid. There just aren't enough hours in the day to spend any time with their drivel. Plus, the palinistas have taken over the comments and sane minded folks sometimes are censored.

Keep up the good work, Phil, and all of the other AK bloggers!

Philip Munger said...


I’m not sure how much of this failed program is the current Governor’s direct fault. The shortfall in funds for looking at home care needs began under the Frank Murkowski administration, and was exacerbated by the legislature’s low funding of it. The cycle began around 2004-2005, before Palin was elected.

But it just got worse under Palin. I’ve heard a lot of stories from seniors about this, at events held by the Democratic Party in Alaska, involving seniors. It is good to see the Feds finally jumping in. That wasn’t unexpected, though. Details of these lawsuits had been kept pretty quiet, though, until Lisa Demer’s ADN article came out today.

Palin has been a bad influence on so many departments’ long-term planning. She requests Department Heads to only send her good news for her twitter. I wonder where or when she has expected them to give her the fucking truth?

Anonymous said...

Sarah Palin enacted that same "good news only" policy from her employees at the City of Wasilla, too! It was appalling and unbelievable then, and it is even more so now. She not only wants to deceive her followers into thinking "all is well", she wants to deceive herself, too. Perhaps if we were ALL a bunch of brainwashed twits who only saw the few "good" things, and ignored the huge steaming pile of "not so good" things that come from anything she touches, we'd be happy, brainwashed Palinbots, too!

Makabit Bat Guriel said...

You fools are so amusing. You call other people smarmy but go on with personal attacks all the time.

Gee...Gustav! I thought you were going on to other stories...guess you are not done with the pyscho babble, huh?

Makabit Bat Guriel said...

Pardon me...that should have been spelled bad.
One straitjacket and valium cocktail coming up for Mr. Norman "Gustav" Bates!

basheert said...

The ADN is now carrying the Medicare/Medicaid embargo by the Feds story. I'm sure this won't be SP's fault - she'll blame someone else, but she's the GINO and the buck stops there.

With over 227 deaths involved, it's good to see the ADN covering this latest Alaska story - especially since the program enrollment in Alaska is now being embargoed.

And no this is not a rumor. At least not according to ADN. Some things don't fit under the carpet well. And delays that allow people to DIE without receiving care due to paperwork snafus and disorganization are not looked at kindly by the agencies that dispense the federal dollars.

Philip Munger said...

basheert - see my comment above on the medicaid story.

Casey said...

@MBG,,,had a little look at your profile and your blog friends too. Are you aware Palin's only interest in that it brings the rapture ever closer. In her convert or some such thing...but the raptured are the "chosen". Sorry about that.

oh...and when you come on a blog chastizing people for what you call name calling....what was that you were doing with your "psycho " talk. It was really kind of confusing, but perhaps it was meant to be.

Philip Munger said...


MBG & I go way back. She's being far more reasonable today than usual. And yes, she does know that Palin's interest in Israel is cynical, but apparently MBG doesn't care.

Her talking about meds usually means it is time for her to change hers.

Anonymous said...

I'm not too worried what you think of me Gustav and you clowns always remark about being on meds.
I believe that is called projecting...

As for Palin, she has her right to believe anything about religion she wants, we do still live in a country where the "clerics" don't require removal of heads over things like that.

And Casey, I imagine you are confused a lot! *grinning*