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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:
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The earth had become twice as dusty during the past century.
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“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.”