Civic Journalism...Anchorage Daily News

Editors note: This is correspondance from Tim, "Hey, "I just said I grew up in the village of Teller and that in the village you make it a point to get to know everyone" Pearson. With his ability to network, Tim is in the position to shake-up the status quo...this is the type of action rural Alaskans need to take...not many have the cajones to even try...Tim does!


Tim as an Anchoragite



A big Quianna!!!

You’ve astounded me. I knew I had intelligent, caring and passionate friends, but I had no idea that you were so eloquent, so civic-minded, and so fast on the keyboard. I’m both heartened and humbled.

I asked 126 of you for story ideas that the Anchorage Daily News could start covering or cover even more deeply in order to strengthen our life together as citizens and Alaskans.

26 (20%) replied. The result was 39 pages of material with an appendix. (attached)


I shared your responses on Friday, Feb. 25 with:

Michael Sexton (Publisher)
msexton@adn.com , President & Publisher, 907-257-4210
(no photo found, google/image search feb.28)

and Pat Dougherty (Editor)
pdougherty@adn.com , Senior VP and Editor, 257-4303
(photo, google/image feb.20)


of the Anchorage "“To be the best source of news and information enhancing the lives of Alaskans.”" Daily News.

They even gave me permission to run over the allotted 30 minutes by 20 minutes.

We discussed the concept of civic journalism: journalism for increased public deliberation, civic problem solving, volunteerism and innovative public policy.

The reception was guarded, but that’s all that I hoped for. The meeting started warily (who are you?) and ended cordially.


The next step on their end:

They said they’d read your responses. I didn’t push them further. You know how it goes with journalists – you want them to think it’s their own idea.

I don’t think they quite knew what to make of me. (Hey, I just said I grew up in the village of Teller and that in the village you make it a point to get to know everyone.)

I’m not sure I know quite what to make of me either. I usually don’t make such public waves, but after reading what was considered to be news this past week, I felt compelled to promote a deepening of our common civic conversation.

For my part, I will take the following 7 actions:

1. Share your responses with all 126 of the friends I surveyed so that everyone can see the quality of ideas you generated.

2. Post the document on my website so that it can be downloaded in the future by anyone at any time.

3. Share your responses with 5 key friends (Kitty Farnham, Alice Galvin, Dennis McMillian, Gwen Kennedy, and Lori Henry) who are actively trying to encourage new civic and leadership conversations across Alaska so that the audience for your ideas is amplified as much as possible.

4. Encourage other friends to send me ideas for stories that would strengthen our civic life together so that best thinking, significant heros, and positive public policy innovations can continue to be gathered and shared.

5. Challenge you to stay focused on strengthening our civic life together. So, I’ll ask you two questions:

(answer how and when you wish)

-- what responsibility will you take for strengthening our civic life together? (rhetorical, answer for yourself)

-- what action will you take to strengthen our civic life in the next 30 days? (feel free to tell me, and if you wish, I’ll

compile those too)

6. Continue to surprise myself.______

7. Follow up with an update in 30 days.


Notes from the conversation with Michael and Pat:

--Pat Dougherty says that the number one issue for the Anchorage Daily News is state finances.

--According to Pat, the ADN sees its role in Anchorage and Alaska as being “a forum for the marketplace of ideas.”

--They receive 300 to 400 Letters to the Editor a week – substantially more than many other papers.

--They have 107 reporters. The standard for a community this size would be 60-75 reporters. The number reflects McClatchy’s commitment to the role of the paper in Alaska.

--re: their comments on civic journalism: the concept’s been around for eight years and has been used and abused. It’s hard to define. They said a newspaper did spend significant resources in Maine several years ago and held multiple town meetings the length and breadth of the state on the issue of alcoholism. Even multiple times in each community. Public policy did change as a result. [They didn’t say if the Anchorage Daily News was interested in doing anything similar.]

--my best summary of what they said: they don’t think that they set or have direct influence on Alaska’s civic conversation. They do try to make sure everyone is working from similar information.

--according to Pat: the primary focus is Anchorage – like a bull’s eye – and it moves out from there depending on the story and on resources.

--Michael Sexton, President and Publisher, has been in Anchorage for 5 years. He was in Augusta, Maine previously.

--Pat Dougherty, Senior Vice President and Editor, has lived in Alaska for 30 years (Juneau and mostly Anchorage).

--I did screw up the courage to ask them politely when was the last time they were out in Rural Alaska:

--Pat Dougherty was out sportfishing in the Bristol Bay region in early summer, June 2005

--Michael Sexton was in Togiak two years ago, and leaves for Prudhoe Bay in two weeks.

(“We have decades of Alaska experience in our newsroom. It’s really deep.”)

--they did comment about the challenge of getting Alaskan leaders together: It’s hard to reach Alaskans and Alaskan leaders between May and September because they’re fishing or flying. And Alaskans are often traveling between September and May – focused on their own individual matters.


Tim’s observations:

--The Anchorage Daily News’s mission statement, posted above the exit:

“To be the best source of news and information enhancing the lives of Alaskans.”

--Both Pat and Michael would probably be open to traveling outside of Anchorage if there were invitations and opportunities. They both seem like nice white urban men.

--The rural / urban gap is even bigger than I imagined (and I didn’t think I was na├»ve).

--I’ve now been told by several people (in positions to know) that there is no core group of civic leaders, who cross industry and sector boundaries (private sector, federal, state, oil, fisheries, etc.), who are consistently focused on taking actions that promote the common good.

(The good news: There are no adults in the room. The really fun news: It’s up to us.)

--My bottomline take-away: we Alaskans ARE locked in habitual patterns of conversation. We talk to our friends and mostly to our friends – meaning those we know – so, I’m convinced more than ever of the importance of Kitty Farnham’s insight from complexity science that you can’t manage systems, but that there is value in disrupting systems.


So if we want to change the civic conversation in Alaska for the better, it’s up to you and it’s up to me.

Please pardon me, but I turned 45 on Alaska Day last fall.

I’m going to start disrupting the system.

Tim as a Ruralite



(907) 562-1568 v/f
(907) 952-3498 cell


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