SIGN IN to access Harper’s Magazine
1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
2. Select Email/Password Information.
3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.
Subscribers can find additional help here. Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!
A bit more than a year ago, my mother-in-law moved to a small town north of Anchorage that has been much in the news lately. Her immediate complaint was that the local papers weren’t very good. As the former mayor of Wasilla got the Republican vice presidential nod, however, I took to reading the Anchorage Daily News most mornings, often clipping and circulating its articles to journalist and blogger friends. What I discovered was very impressive. ADN was indispensable to understanding the curious world of Alaska politics.
The reporting in ADN helped answer a critical question: Can local papers make a meaningful contribution to presidential election coverage? In an earlier series of posts, I discussed the local papers of one state that are not simply bad but actually appalling. They have led to the deterioration of that state’s political culture. But ADN provides a counter-example. It shows what a local paper with limited resources and reach can do, not only for its immediate readership, but for the country as a whole. In the 2008 presidential campaign, no local paper made a stronger contribution to our understanding of the presidential campaign. In fact I am tempted to put the Anchorage Daily News in head-on competition with industry leaders such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal. The ADN took advantage of its position as the principal newspaper of Alaska and offered Americans a vigorous examination of the problems and scandals that affect the state’s politics. It was prepared to expose the sores that a less scrupulously professional paper would happily have covered up in deference to parochial interests. And it was unflinching but also fair in its coverage of and editorializing on Alaska’s native daughter, Sarah Palin.
Here are some of the pieces—both original reporting and opinion—that lead me to cite the Anchorage Daily News as the best local newspaper in campaign 2008 coverage:
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!
“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”