Saturday, July 25, 2009

Saturday Alaska Progressive Blog Roundup - July 25, 2009 -- Taking on the ADN - Part One

Two analyses of Alaska bloggers' role in the understanding of very-very-soon-to-be-ex Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin have appeared within the past two weeks. One seems to miss how we took on the important aspects of the role the Alaska mainstream media failed to play, the other seems to understand this.

Thursday,'s Daniel Libit penned an entry titled Exiting the Sarasphere. Libit contrasted the mostly in-state political blogs that have been highly critical of Palin with those who defended her, and which are largely based in the Lower 48.

In his article, Libit takes up the issue of invective and trumped up legal action threats taken against Alaska's most meteoric and nationally prominent independent commentator, Shannyn Moore. But he failed to give Moore's ongoing saga the depth I suggested he find.

Libit does somewhat accurately describe the dilemma many of us will face Monday morning in a more-or-less post-Palin Alaska, and our realization that the Palin farce has brought worldwide attention to other Alaska issues we hope to now find more time to help solve:

For years, Moore has been fighting a proposed open-pit gold mine in the Bristol Bay Watershed, which would threaten Alaska’s salmon and trout. Now she has many more eyes watching her.

“I am grateful for that,” says Moore. “I have no problem saying, ‘Thank you, Sarah Palin’ for a lot of things.”

On July 14th, Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America co-founder and author of the 2009 book, Bloggers on the Bus: How the Internet Changed Politics and the Press, updated his book's Chapter 13, with a weekly column at Media Matters, titled Saradise Lost: How Alaska Bloggers Dethroned Sarah Palin. Boehlert's article takes the story of our continuing efforts past the end of the 2008 presidential campaign.

Boehlert observes:

As Time noted last week, "A more experienced, more familiar politician would have been ready for the ramping, but Palin seemed consumed by it. Instead of ignoring hostile bloggers, she combed the Web for their latest postings." And Wonkette recently captured the obsession with the snarky headline "Sarah Palin Will Soon Condemn, Bomb Entire Internet."

It was fitting, then, that the day after making her resignation announcement, Palin had her attorney issue a strange, over-the-top, four-page letter threatening legal action against any news organizations that picked up on the Palin resignation speculation that had been aired by influential Alaska blogger Shannyn Moore.

Appearing on MSNBC in the wake of Palin's stunning announcement, as observers tried to make some sense of it, Moore, searching for a possible explanation, pointed out that there had been a "scandal rumor" floating around Alaska for months about a possible corruption investigation centered on Palin. Moore clearly did not validate the claim of the rumor. She simply pointed out that it existed. Palin's legal eagle, though, then claimed Moore had stated the corruption charge as "fact."

By singling her out for public denunciation, all Palin did was turn the Alaska blogger into a media celebrity and guarantee that she'd be given a larger media platform to discuss the rumor.

How did the flagship operation of Alaska mainstream media react to Moore's courage? They certainly did not defend her. Here's what appears to have happened:

According to one of my sources at the ADN, editorial page editor Matt Zencey reviewed before publication (possibly even soliciting) a scurrilous, defamatory op-ed by a Republican Party operative, named JoAnn Grimes, or something else. Then, when people, some of them attorneys, complained about the defamation, the ADN removed the op-ed.

When I called Zencey to ask about the op-ed and its removal, he stated that it had been removed "voluntarily" by the author, and that she had "voluntarily" ended her relationship with the ADN. I next observed to Zencey that anyone with knowledge of the internet could still gain access to the "voluntarily removed" article. I also pointed out to him that Grimes' piece had spawned other articles on the web that continued to spread the false information Zencey had allowed to be published. After asking whether he or the ADN intended to apologize to Moore, or to any of the other Alaska bloggers mentioned in the articles spun from Grimes' ADN piece, Zencey hung up on me. I had been extremely polite, by the way.

The op-ed's removal was followed by a curious op-ed by local outdoors writer Bill Sherwonit, called, Whatever Happened to Joann Grimes? In the comments to the article, ADN senior vice president and editor, Pat Dougherty, took the unusual step of inaccurately jumping into the comments, falsely claiming that Grimes' husband, Jeff Pantages, had never written for the ADN:

ds55 wrote on 07/16/2009 07:50:42 PM: Are we allowed to mention that it was revealed Joann's husband, Jeff Pantages, writes for the Anchorage Daily News?


If you are going to mention it, you might also want to note that it is not actually true, unless you mean that he is someone who has written a letter to the editor or op-ed column.

Pat Dougherty

Dr. Chill then responded with [edited for convenience by PA]:

If you are going to mention it, you might also want to note that it is not actually true, unless you mean that he is someone who has written a letter to the editor or op-ed column.

Pat Dougherty
WT Heck!? Pat, if you frequently publish his opinion/editorial columns, and it gets a by-line and you print his picture, isn't it fair to say he "writes for ADN?"

So if I may, I'd like to note that your statement is not actually true:

Baseball Has Some Hints for Government

Best answer for left-wing naysayers is to ignore them

New citizens feel optimism, patriotism here

John McCain should know: Getting old has its advantages

Permanent Fund's first guide kept future ... By JEFF PANTAGES. Published: May 24, 2008
Economy will take time to recover, but it's no Depression By JEFF PANTAGES 10/26/08
Legislature did OK with $1 billion energy relief measure: Opinion ... By JEFF PANTAGES. Published: August 15th, 2008 | compass : It's time to fix tax, get pipeline built By JEFF

and commentor (and commentator) justafarmer, responding to Dougherty's seeming defense of Grimes, wrote:

@ Pat Dougherty: If you are indeed an ADN editor, you need to take a course in journalism ethics. I am a journalist of 30 years and a retired university professor who taught journalism ethics. This entire Joann Grimes debacle is a nightmare and I can NOT believe you are excusing it.

Please note that I am a registered commentator here so you have my contact details. Please stop insulting those of us who are trained journalists.

I'm in receipt of a number of the letters sent to ADN editors and McClatchy management by people who were very disturbed at Zencey's course of allowing Grimes' piece to be published. Some were written by attorneys. To date, to my knowledge, none have gotten responses.

When it comes to dealing with people critical of Sarah Palin this past year, the ADN has been remiss other times too. The only coverage of Alaska Rep. Mike Doogan's "outing" of AKM at The Mudflats this past winter was a snotty, extremely hypocritical piece written by Sheila Toomey, the Alaska Ear, a writer who had pseudonymously sat across from or in the same room with Doogan, while she anonymously influenced Alaska politics to a similar degree as had AKM. Not once did a reporter or editor at the ADN take up the important issue of Doogan's having used state resources to wreak vengeance upon a citizen activist who had crossed him.

It took Progressive Alaska and other Alaska bloggers to get the ADN to "Tear down that shrine, Mr. Dougherty."

The ADN had the resources and archives to deal far more seriously with the Wayne Anthony Ross attorney general nomination than they chose to. Instead, the editors actually inaccurately predicted his confirmation the day before Ross was soundly trounced in a joint session of the legislature.

And now, this morning, the ADN has published an "Our View" editorial on how to deal with our totally dysfunctional executive ethics code, that totally misses the point. The editorial, which has some valid points, fails to realize that until the oversight of how the complaint process is handled - by taking the filtering and processing of such complaints out of the hands of people who are appointed by our chief executive - whatever is done about confidentiality and real investigative costs will remain at least as suspect as what we now have to endure.

Before the legislature faces this dilemma next year, I recommend we find a way to get an independent group of five Alaska attorneys to look at each of the rejected, negotiated or successful complaints, and assess whether or not they feel they were frivolous or had merit, and if so, how that reflects upon the validity of the current process.

But whatever the legislative solution, a rewrite of our executive ethics code needs to evenly and productively reflect all the lessons learned these past 14 months.

image - PA rendition of Pat Dougherty


Anonymous said...

Phil, don't you think that Sean is a Palinbot? I don't see him being much different but he'll be unethical and silent and we'll be wishing Caribou-bou Barbie was back.

Philip Munger said...

He's more conservative than Palin, but far more honest from what I've observed. I've probably written more about my Parnell concerns than has any other Alaska blogger, so far. look 'em up...

Anonymous said...

Wow. As a conservative Alaskan I have come to rely heavily on your site and the rest of the progressive blogs in our State as the place to go for breaking stories and a "reporter's chutzpah" - for digging up the details of stories.

The adn has become a sweet little unimportant drivel of a paper. While it will be sad when the hard working folks who print the paper and work in other support positions lose their jobs, I will only be celebrating when this McClatchy rag goes the way of so many other papers in the nation.

Mr. Dougherty has presided over it's reporting and editorial demise. The only question in the newsroom seems to be "How large can we make that next photo of Sarah?"

This isn't journalism. This is a freakish sort of "People Magazine takes over the news pages" phenomenon.

Remember: the Republic needs a strong media to survive. So, while Sheila, Pat and Matt were pondering how next to pander to Palin, hard working blokes with blogs (I like that. It's my new term for Alaskan Progressive Bloggers - Blokes With Blogs) were doing the real, hard, challenging job of reporting the news.

Thank you. And thank you Shannyn, Celtic Diva, AKM, and Gryphen.

We disagree on so, so many policy issues (I'm a pro-life, pro-development Alaskan). But when it comes to caring enough about the news and the vital role it plays in our system of government to dig deep and work hard, you have each stepped up to the plate and hit home runs.

I tip my hat to each of you.

Philip Munger said...

Anon @ 12:02,

Now that we'll have more time to not deal with Sarah, we'll be holding ALL OUR ELECTED OFFICIALS' feet to the fire more than we have.

justafarmer said...

wow! I'm famous! :)
now I'll go back to my first attempt at pasta making.

ella said...

To anon. @12:02 - Thank you for your post. It restores a bit of faith that people who disagree can respect each other, and communicate in a civil manner - with no snark, name-calling, and anger. I remember the days when we had intelligent discourse, debating our points-of-view in a civil manner. Those days seems to be gone, and this presents a danger to our 2-Party system and a danger to individuals. Your post was well-received by this recovering Republican.

Michelle said...

Phil, this is such a good post - thank you. So much that is missing from the ADN is basic investigative reporting and fact checking. They keep repeating the false stories put out by those elected, and it takes the blokes with blogs as well as the people who comment very little time to disprove and clarify these statements. Something is just WRONG.

Anonymous said...

My tactic is skip directly to the comments on the ADN articles. Almost invariably, the half-truths, mindless talking points and vapid worship are de-bunked pronto by articulate, intelligent, well-researched and courteous comments. The ADN staff needs to pay more attention to their readership and get the FACTS.

Anonymous said...

a joke! ask reporters who work there who has been lowering the bar?

Grandma Nancy said...

There are many of us who believe that the only way for validation that the ethics complaints were "frivolous" and not judged so by those currying favor with Palin would be for an independent panel of at least three to five attorneys to look at each of the ethics complaints to assess whether or not they had merit. Because this has been so contentious on all sides, the findings should then be made public. This would put an end to rumors and arguments from both sides.

Ennealogic said...

@anon 12:43 - please tell us.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Phil. The ADN should read your post...and blush with shame.

However, the ADN did have a good "Our View" editorial a day or two ago calling for Palin to "give it up" in reference to the Fund Trust.

I'm of the opinion that Palin brings out the worst in people around her including the local newspapers.

Philip Munger said...

"I'm of the opinion that Palin brings out the worst in people..."

I lived in Whittier for seven years. Whittier was like that too - it never brought out the best in people.

alaskapi said...

I am glad to see a call to reform the ethics law which takes into account some of the failings of the current one.
The provision to keep findings confidential be they dismissed , settled, or whatever , per the wishes of the person being investigated is unacceptable.
In recent months we have had to listen to spin from Governor Palin about her take on the complaints lodged against her.
Without real information regarding the disposition of cases we have been asked to agree or disagree on nothing more than spin...
Which is the very thing which has been driving folks away from active participation in their own government for years now.

High regard for the Office of the Governor, the work and duties of the person in that office, has taken a tremendous hit in the last 2 administrations in this state. Whether we have just witnessed an outpouring of concern from citizens who were concerned or upset at the appearance of unethical behavior on the part of the governor or the actions of a few disgruntled politcal adversaries ( I have the view the former is a better description) - we MUST have a process which is more independent from those being investigated AND an open accounting at the end.

The Leg Judicial Council did a good job, against the personal politics and feelings of some, in releasing the Branchflower report in entirety such that their remarks and choice not to carry it further had context.
( Has anyone ever wondered how different things might have been if the timing there had been different and the findings released before SP was tapped for VP run? )
Interested in the comments about ADN-
They are so much better than they used to be I don't notice some of the continuing screw ups for what they are at times...

Philip Munger said...

well said, alaskapi

KaJo said...

I was just reading up on Palin's Wikipedia page, and noticed that there is nothing on that page about the Alaska Fund Trust.

There's a bare-bones mention of SarahPAC, but not this "not-so-legal" defense fund that really isn't a defense fund.

I wonder if anyone here would be able to update that page. I have an account, but I don't consider myself knowledgeable enough to try. Any volunteers?

(I'm going to mention this at a couple of the other blogs, too)

Philip Munger said...


Go for it. Follow wikipedia's guidelines. Keep at it!

Anonymous said...

I doubt ethics will ever get adequately reformed by the legislature. True reform would require constitutional amendment (which the legislature wouldn't initiate).

We're stuck with bad executive branch ethics.

Regarding ADN, I'm surprised they haven't gone out of business or been sold to a conservative entity like NewsCorp.

Anonymous said...

Oh, my ... this whole conversation is so terribly deep, going in so many important directions ...

The ADN has forgotten their responsibility as the Fourth Estate. They are the gatekeepers. If they don't know what that means, they need to go back to J school.

I'm mostly concerned now about:
1) whether the Attorney General should be appointed or elected;
2) whether the Personnel Board should be appointed; how many should be on the board; and what their qualifications should be;
3) what the powers of the Personnel Board should be, and what oversight the Legislature should have.

This ethics conundrum cannot continue. It needs to be fixed now, once and for all.

Great job, Phil -- and everyone!

Anonymous said...

At least Dougherty understands the concept of basic fact checking and due diligence.

He doesn't spread unsubstantiated rumors from sources sometimes connected to CNN either.

What a joke.

Anonymous said...

Phil - Just face it - You're always the best, or you've done more than anyone else, or whatever it is.......Just admit it, you're better and smarter than everybody else.

Come on, you can say it......

"I Phil Munger, am smarter and better than everybody else"

Wasn't that easy ?

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