Friday, April 17, 2009

Five Things I Learned from the WAR Battle

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.


0whole1 said...

The result relied, too, on the objects of the investigation. Could W.A.R.'s appointment to AG have been stopped if he hadn't stuck his foot in his mouth saying the law didn't matter re: Governor Palin's ham-handedness with the Juneau Senate appointment?

Could the appointment have been stopped if Ross hadn't been shooting his mouth off far and wide for the last 15 years, taking the distasteful side of every issue he could lay his mitts on?

Could his appointment have been averted if he and Governor Palin weren't so amateurish?

Philip Munger said...


Ross' statement on "legal - schmegal - who cares!" was the difference between 29 or 30 votes for him and 23 votes for him. It cost him 5 or 6, according to my sources.

Waggoner surprised many, and there was a chance Gatto would actually go the other direction.

Melissa S. Green said...

I came into the game late, since although I try to stay politically aware (through blogs like PA) I'm not actually a "political blogger." But I somehow found myself listening to the Gavel to Gavel feeds of WAR's confirmation hearings, & at Bent Alaska took part in a convo about trying to find substantiating evidence for Paige Hodson's testimony at House JUD about the 2005 UAA domestic violence panel presentation. This was before Leah Burton's testimony came to light.

Then spent a long time Saturday re-listening to the G to G audio files & taking notes toward a letter I'd promised Bent Alaska to write -- in which I planned to focus on the domestic violence/sexual assault stuff.

But that promise might have fallen by the wayside in favor of other pressing concerns in my life if it weren't for two things that happened on Monday: (1) I got an email back from Sharon Araji about the UAA DV panel, & was also able to talk w/ Pam Kelly about it; (2) I read -- probably here -- that WAR might not have the votes to win confirmation, & decided I wanted to do whatever I could to make sure he didn't.

I don't know if legislators ever had any time actually to read the letter, given its length & everything else they've been facing this week -- but even just being one of huge numbers of "don't confirm" letters, emails, & POMs was worth the trouble. And I think putting it up on my blog which other people picked up also might've helped decide other Alaskans who might then have written/called/POM'd their representatives.

I think Paige Hodson's testimony is a corroboration of sorts of Leah Burton's: that WAR continued to show bias against victims of domestic violence and sexual violence against women as late as 2005, at least.

As a lesbian, I think the "degenerates" & "lima beans" stuff is really important; but I was disappointed that ADN's editorial really only talked much about that, when there were so many additional reasons that WAR was completely unsuitable.

I hope that in this time of change for journalism, newspapers & responsible blogs (the kind that provide evidence instead of just rants) will come to some kind of productive cooperation in investigating & covering stories like this one.

-- Mel

mlaiuppa said...

Editors. Papers have them, blogs don't.

Owners. Papers have them. Bloggers *are* the owners.

There's a certain accountability to being the owner, editor and reporter. You own your words. That's where the buck stops.

the problem child said...

mlaiuppa, I agree. Back in the day, most (maybe almost all newspapers were owner-edited. Exhibit "A": Ben Franklin.

Anonymous said...

Apply these lessons to the Elmendorf Housing deal to JL properties, Ben Stevens, Ted Stevens, Mark Begich et al

ADN must be on their payroll

Local taxpayers screwed by Zillionaires? Com'n their kids don't go to local schools so who cares about Anchorage property taxes?

Anonymous said...

I would think the WAR vote would have to be the big story of the week. ADN has a story of Palin nominating him... but there is NO story about his defeat. Why is that..? Don't the people who do not blog need to be 'informed ' as well. ADN is not doing their job or they are doing this on purpose so the Gov. does not feel embarrassed. Maybe Both..? WAR is not covered but they did post " 2" stories about the Fisheries nomination getting voted down. Ask yourself... which person is the more important story.They covered the Palin trip to Indiana which was the same day as the WAR vote so we know they were open for business. Smells pretty 'fishy' to me.ADN is apparently choosing which stories they WANT TO report on. I guess that's why nobody buys the paper and goes to the blogs for info.... yu betcha !

crystalwolf aka caligrl said...

I am disturbed here. C4p has basically taken over the comments at ADN. They called Leah a anti-christian...(whatever)They were on Newsminer, mentioned on KTUU. What they said about WAR right after he was turned down, about he receiving a award was the exact thing GINO said not minutes later in a press release. SARPAC is on their website. Meg stapletongue owes one of them "a bagel" Meg stapletongne says the SARPAC on their site "could pose a problems" Right after the vote against WAR they threatened to "go after whomever voted against WAR"
What's wrong with this picture???
I have heard these people aren't even Alaskan, yet they are connected to the Mouthpiece,GINO & SARAHPAC. Have almost shut down comments on ADN, shut down comments on Jueanu Empire.
What is going on here????
I think it bears out more investigation.

crystalwolf aka caligrl said...

Oh I forgot, ADN was linking to IM, Mudflats, paligates & other progressive blogs. They contacted the Editor of ADN demanded he not link to these "truther sites" and now ADN links to THEM!!!!
Censorship much???
Is this GINO's mini censorship hit squad that she learned from the RNC/JM?????
This needs to be investigated.

flying fish said...

It's a matter of speed. The ADN and the Empire are going to be late to all the parties, that's why print papers are dying. On line is faster, bloggers own not only their words but their research time. Bloggers can click a link regarding a topic and type a post with references. Newspapers have to ask for permission. Instant information changes everything, on both sides of the fence.

Blogger with Questions said...

I agree with Crystal Wolf - I was avidly watching the ADN "posts" daily. Anything and everything that might be construed as anti-Palin was instantly deleted. Obvious bias on someone's part -
As a member of The Flats, I noted that many people (even on ADN) questioned where the posts were going. If they knew who you were, you were gone on ADN. If you clicked to ADN it stated 37 comments and there were only 2 - both pro-Palin and anti anyone not in the C4P circle.
Those of us in the Lower 48 chose to support our Alaskan friends - we recognize that the legislators didn't want to hear from us, but we reinforced individuals contacting their legislators to express their anti-W.A.R. opinions and it obviously had an effect.
Interesting that after the vote, many individuals did take the time and effort to email and thank their own legislators.
The ADN is obviously not supporting true freedom of speech and appears to be allowing a small segment of C4P-ers to control the Political Blog. Shame on them.
It isn't worth it to try and go to ADN to render any opinion if they know you are a blogger - they simply post you as abusive even if you are not...and you are banned.
Again, if you are NOT abusive you are banned because you disagree with the C4Pers.
Since when did they control ADN?
A good question...

Anonymous said...

Many of us contacted fellow bloggers - for example I got to AmericaBlog and they picked it up - others went to HuffPo - -
Bloggers move the news - the ADN is simply dying on their prejudiced vine. This is why the print media is history.
People do not like censorship. The ADN deliberately choosing to support C4P and banning anyone else is simply wrong and it will cost them dearly.
I wish someone would approach ADN but it won't do any good. They are McClatchy and they obviously have taken sides.

Anonymous said...

No doubt that the greatest enemy to Wayne Anthony Ross was. . . Wayne Anthony Ross and his wished for boss. :)

Who goes exclusively to the ADN for news any more? I go to ADN to see what is happening and to six or seven blogs to fill in the gaps.

Philip Munger said...

Great comments!

Just home from playing a concert at the PAC with the UAA Wind Ensemble. The tuba solo I was so worried about - I kicked butt!

Melissa S. Green said...

I stopped going very often to the ADN comments quite some time ago because it was full of so much spewing of bile from both pro and anti-Palin sides, with only a few people here & there actually talking with care & reason, regardless of their position. Not only was it useless stuff to read, but it was also bad for my spirit. When I do post -- & my posts do not favor Palin -- I try to follow the same standards I wish other posters would: being reasoned, providing facts as best I understand them, & expressing my opinion without calling nasty names or treating other people with contempt. (I did not always do this: & I do call the gov "Palinocchio" often enough.)

Because I don't follow the comments often due to the bile-spewing (plus the slow load time of ADN pages), I can't speak to whether the Palinbots have really taken over the ADN or not. But I know that the comment I wrote about having substantively verified Paige Hodson's testimony against WAR, which is thus an anti-WAR post, is still sitting in ADN's comments, currently with 47 "recommends" -- the earliest visible comment on the ADN's editorial yesterday. No, not all anti-Palin, anti-WAR posts are challenged into invisibility.

If you want to check my comments, my ID on ADN is yksin.

I'm not thrilled with ADN's coverage all the time, but nor do I think that the comments here supposing the ADN or McClatchy to have become wholly owned subsidiary's of Conservatives for Palin are pretty unbalanced. I expect I'll take some heat for that.

Melissa S. Green said...

Clarification: "Because I don't follow the comments often due to the bile-spewing (plus the slow load time of ADN pages), I can't speak to whether the Palinbots have really taken over the ADN commments or not."

I would support a call at ADN for state of origin of posters to be required & made visible on all posts, which would do much towards curbing some of the worst abuse by out of state Palin-idolaters.

Philip Munger said...

The architecture of the ADN comment section is ungainly:

The page reload is often SLOW

There's no way to show directly that you are responding to a comment, no button at the bottom of one comment that says "reply" and so on

The whole system is moderated from somewhere along Lake Washington, and nobody at the ADN has much say so on how hostiles are dealing with comments the latter don't like

I find the anti-Native, anti-woman, anti-gay and anti-environmentalist bile there lasts a lot longer than a lot of reasoned comments that stretch the brain a bit.

Some of the niche blogs at the ADN have a far, far better community, but anything having to do with Palin gets lurked over by the Palinbotocracy.

Dealing with Sarah Palin is like living in Whittier - it never brings the best out in anyone....

Melissa S. Green said...

Yes, it's truly some lousy-ass commenting software they've got there.

Aussie Blue Sky said...

Phil, I'm glad your solo went so well. You are allowed to post mp3s, you know - even if it's copyrighted (or going to be) you can post 30 seconds .... :)

I've never heard a tuba solo, but I'm quite sure it takes a measure of courage to play one.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @6:59 p.m., I don't understand your comment. My copy of the ADN had Ross's defeat as the lead story this morning, and it was on the ADN homepage all day yesterday after the vote.

clark said...

ADN comments sections have always been about arguing with a bunch of rabid right wingers. and ADN has always sporadically gone on raids where they delete whole batches of comments. i feel for them, to an extent. if comments help promote community discussion, the palinbots and others have poisoned the well.
there aren't as many right wingers as you might believe from reading the comments at ADN and other places. the other day at alaska standard there were several comments posted in support of a pro-knik arm bridge post. another commenter there noted that all of the user profiles had been created in a 10 minute period.
i pretty much read only the editorials and compass columns at ADN anymore. the news-miner gives you most of the same alaska headlines in a less cluttered structure.