Sunday, March 29, 2009
Picture of Mudflats' AK Muckraker Posted!
Posing below AK Muckraker (upper left) are Independent Commentator Shannyn Moore, Alaska Report Editor Dennis Zaki, and gadfly-blogger Phil Munger. Notice the snarky smile on AK Muckraker's face.
Seriously, what has happened since Alaska Legislator Rep. Mike Doogan (D-Spenard) used state and party resources on the morning of March 27th to reveal the identity of Alaska's most prestigious anonymous blogger, has been remarkable. As figures representing the expiring paradigm of elitist journalism (Amanda Coyne, Tony Hopfinger and Sheila Toomey, for example) have come forward to defend Doogan, without any reference whatsoever to possible legal questions regarding Doogan's move, commenters at their articles have been surprisingly supportive of the longstanding concept of anonymity.
On Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 7:45 p.m. I was assisting at the registration and resource tables for the Alaska Press Club annual conference, being held at the Anchorage Senior Center. The story of Doogan's e-letter seemed to grow during the day, as an emerging low-key background buzz. For good reason, Doogan is held in high regard among members of the Alaska Press Club. But I sensed growing concern among journalists I spoke with, who have covered constitutional, privacy or civil rights issues.
When I got to the annual journalists' bash at the Anchorage Press offices, I was immediately assailed by my good friend, Amanda Coyne. Right away, she was jumping me for cussing out anonymous commenters at Progressive Alaska. She was right that I have done that. And I have challenged the courage of some anonymous commenters, who made baseless assertions or accused me of having done or written something particularly egregious.
I responded to Amanda that I'm not concerned about knowing who a commenter is, but rather find it difficult dealing with a number of people who want responses from me on an issue, and are each signing on as "anonymous." I couldn't tell one anonymous from the next. All I usually wanted was for the commenter to create a nom de blog - a pseudonym.
I've used a purposeful pseudonym locally. I signed in to KUDO's old forum as "Gustav." I mostly showed up there to defend people like Richard Mauer against Jack Frost. I also am registered at the Anchorage Daily News as "niklake," which the early on-line ADN automatically took from part of my email address. When I post what some might consider a significant comment at an ADN article, I usually sign my real name at the bottom. If I'm merely making an observation, niklake will do. It's certainly easy enough to find out who "niklake" is.
I've known AK Muckraker since the August 26th Alaska primary election. AK Muckraker came up to me at the Egan Center gathering, saying warmly, "Hi. I'm "Mudflats."
In September we got to know each other much better, at dinners, rallies and other gatherings. My admiration for AKM grew, as several of the Alaskan progressive bloggers became a fairly close-knit group of friends. We shared resources quite openly, understanding the whole time the importance AKM placed on anonymity.
Did I feel a tinge of jealousy when the Mudflats became a national phenomenon? Yes, I did. But I'm quite happy with PA being what it is - a little Alaska blog, presented from my quirky set of perspectives.
Many have asked me, "Who is Mudflats?" Most were less rude than was Rep. Doogan, when I declined to provide information.
Throughout the fall presidential campaign and the current legislative session, we Alaska bloggers have witnessed the decline in jobs in regular media, and its impact on the ability of traditional outlets to track Alaska politics and other issues important to our state and its diverse regions. We've applauded efforts by regular media outlets to try to focus on growing problems with diminishing means. I've answered every one of the dozens of questions posed to me by regular Alaska reporters, working on a story. And I've been helped in my efforts to learn more about a host of issues, by several mainstream reporters.
Doogan's lashing out at AKM has been characterized by some of the thousands of commenters at the stories on his action, as a sign of his anger at new media for displacing what he cherishes. Sheila Toomey's meretricious item about this in today's Alaska Ear column is just as pathetic, if not worse. After all, Toomey did exactly as Doogan is complaining AKM shouldn't be allowed to do, for years. She made scores of thousands of dollars doing it. Right across the newsroom from her, sat Mike Doogan, who knew exactly who she was, what she was doing.
The lack of concern for the Doogan-Toomey connection in Coyne's article troubled me over the weekend. As several emails from civil rights attorneys, offering to provide pro bono help for AKM piled up in my email box over the weekend, I thought, "This story has national impact, yet all the regular and newly emerging regular media (as in Alaska Dispatch) seem to be able to see are the most superficial aspects of this."
The superficial nature of this story's coverage by some outlets is matched, of course, by its non-coverage by most other local outlets here. The most detailed, powerful or far-reaching articles, so far, have been, in my opinion, these:
Bob Poe Speaks About Mike Doogan and Mudflats - by Bob Poe
The Right to Privacy - Bloggers and Privacy - by what do I know Steve
Blogging the Big Stuff - by what do I know Steve
My Friend Mudflats -- Not a KKK Member, Mr. Doogan - by Shannyn Moore
Rep. Doogan's main accomplishment for this session.... - by Celtic Diva
Mudflats has compiled many of the articles about this at this link.
Doogan sprang this Friday morning. Over the weekend, the only mainstream print coverage of an important emerging civil rights and political issue in Anchorage, was by a gossip columnist. The gossip columnist, who for years was protected, in part, by the person who "outed" the influential blogger, failed to make this incredibly obvious connection in a meaningful way. That in itself is newsworthy.
It is interesting that over this weekend of a press club conference, where this story was discussed widely, that it began with the "outing" of a blogger, and ended with the election of one of that blogger's protectors - Shannyn Moore - to one of the Vice President positions of the Alaska Press Club.
No doubt, some are spewing their coffee or Irish whiskey, upon reading of Moore's new responsibility. Yet, somewhere else, someone is hoisting glass of tea, a pitcher of beer, or a container of spring water, toasting, "Here's to you, Shannyn!"
Alaska media is painfully contracting and growing simultaneously. There's pain in growth:
In AKM's new concerns about family and income; in Moore's new worries about press responsibilities in the face of hostility toward new media; and, most likely, in Doogan's several hangovers, as he begins to realize what an awful thing he just did to his legacy, merely to spite somebody who crossed him.