Sunday, November 1, 2009

APC Board discussing Spring 2010 conference dates

Currently under discussion is whether to hold the Spring 2010 J-Week sessions May 6-7-8 at UAA. A final discussion and vote by the board is due by Nov. 3, 2009.

Friday, August 28, 2009

2009 APC Board to meet Saturday, Aug. 29, 2009

This is our first opportunity to get together as a board after summer. We'll be teleconferencing Saturday, and getting oriented to the tasks ahead.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Press Club Meeting: Board & Officers Election

  1. Opening Remarks
  2. Treasurer’s Report
  3. Conference Discussion
  4. Contest Discussion
  5. Member Poll
  6. Election of New Officers
  7. Photo of New Board
  8. Adjournment
Conference Discussion
  • So much Alaska media is Anchorage-centric; it’s interesting to see how Anchorage frequently controls the narrative. With the demise of “AK” in particular, might a statewide theme be appropriate?
  • There are two audiences to the Press Club (traditional media and new media); should the club be changing into something new? Traditional journalists might not be as happy with the new direction.
  • When you’re the only reporter in a small community, an annual conference is a great opportunity to have your work reviewed and adjudicated, to interact with other journalists, and communicate.
  • Should we poll members to see what they think about a new direction?
  • There’s a huge value to the Press Club and the conference for those members who are not in Anchorage. Keep people more involved by having multiple smaller events rather than one big annual event.
  • What happened to the Polar Bear? It was supposed to be replaced by an e-mail newsletter.
  • There are a lot of basic responsibilities involved in the conference and the contest; it’s hard to get extra things done.
  • There are a lot of people who can’t be here today, so it would be nice to hear from the membership. The new media seminars were popular and helpful. The diversity of types of media this year was great and should be continued. The days of focusing on just one medium are over. You have to be agile.
  • For next year’s theme, we need to take a hard look at who we’re training for future jobs and what those jobs will be. What’s the potential for a job in this state and Outside?
  • Entrepreneurial journalism — how do you get the job done when the institution isn’t there? Grassroots journalism is becoming more important.
  • We have to look at the lack of diversity in Alaska’s press corps. What are the institutions that are reaching out to a more diverse audience? How can we get them involved?
  • This year’s organizers should be applauded for working through so many obstacles. The target is moving quickly.
  • Do we have a head count? This year is an anomaly, but do we have numbers from other years? Membership list has about 350 names.
Treasurer’s Report

About $15,000 in the account; that’s down somewhat from past years. We were expecting contest entries to be down, but they were comparable to last year (about $12,000). We’re working on getting reimbursements for volcano-canceled flights. This year’s conference cost less than $10,000.

The Senior Center is a great venue from a financial standpoint; the deposit is a few hundred dollars, and the banquet is the biggest expense. It’s been suggested that, if we want this venue next year, we reserve it now. Members have suggested this year’s conference was too early. This was the only time we had. Later in April is better (after the Legislature wraps up but before finals start at the University, keeping Easter in mind). The University might be a possibility if we want to change venues. It would be relatively easy. There would be a charge, but it wouldn’t be expensive. If a student club signs on as a co-sponsor, the facilities fee will be waived.

Contest Discussion
  • Should there be different categories for bloggers? Big blogs and small blogs? Currently there are no special categories for bloggers.
  • Should we assign two members to research what other press clubs are doing and come up with a model rather than reinventing the wheel?
  • Add a body of work category — five best articles? In addition to (or instead of) awards for specific articles?
  • Adding new categories means adding judges and increasing workload for board members.
Member Poll
  • Maybe we should establish a subcommittee to find out what members of the press want from the Alaska Press Club.
  • Could be done as a “webinar,” too.
  • What about the possibility of doing an online conference?
  • We seem to be more serious lately; we used to have fun.
Election of New Officers

Nominations for the 2009-2011 term:

Shannyn Moore
Tom Hewitt
Suzanna Caldwell
Will Morrow
Ben Stanton
Rindi White (current board member)

All candidates were unanimously elected to the board.

Election of officers:

President: Kathleen McCoy
First Vice-President: Dimitra Lavrakas
Second Vice-President: Shannyn Moore
Third Vice-President: Ben Stanton
Fourth Vice-President: Will Morrow
Secretary: John Creed
Treasurer: Rindi White
Membership Director: Aliza Sherman Risdahl


— Maia Nolan

Liveblogging J-Week
Panel Discussion
Rural Alaskans on the Move

Ed Schoenfeld (Coast Alaska), Kyle Hopkins (ADN) and Lori Townsend (APRN) are tackling the issue of urban migration.

Hopkins started covering rural affairs over the past year, and he says ADN pulled the plug on a planned summer series on urban migration because they found the facts didn't necessarily match up to the perception. There's a stereotype, according to Schoenfeld, that there's a mass migration from the villages into Anchorage. In fact, the movement is from small villages into larger villages, from larger villages to regional centers, from region to region. The Wrangell newspaper has a regular shipment to Wasilla, where there are former Wrangellites working construction. It's not a simple, one-dimensional situation. In Southeast, former loggers and fishers from places like Kake are moving away. Some of them have gotten mining jobs in Southeast.

"This is not a story about environment versus economic development. Here's a guy from the village who's gotten a job ... and he's sending money back to the village," Schoenfeld says. Some jobs require workers to move to more remote places. Some rural communities are becoming bedroom communities.

Hopkins lived in Kake in the mid-1980s and had always wanted to go back and do a story — catching up with people he went to grade school with, seeing how the community had changed — but found that many of them had moved to other communities. At the same time, people were beginning to talk about rural migration, and ADN started looking at the issue. Non-profits said they were seeing increased need due to families moving into Anchorage from the villages, but when he'd try to get in touch with a family, it would generally turn out either that the family had moved for other reasons (medical care, for example) or had been on the move for years. It was frustrating at first; were they looking in the wrong places? But after a few weeks, it started to feel like forcing the story. There was no flash of people; it was a slow-building story, not breaking news. Tom Kizzia did a follow-up article in December looking at the numbers, and on closer examination, the numbers just weren't there.

"I find it really confusing," Hopkins says. "When you talk to people, anecdotally, you hear it all the time." The Anchorage School District had 500 new Native students last fall, but the way they tally racial background has changed, so compared to prior years' numbers, "they weren't apples and apples anymore."

Townsend agrees that it's difficult to track down specific stories of relocation to Anchorage; most often, what she's found are people who move into town for the winter and go back to the village in the summer. "A lot of what we see as far as people moving around, it is more village to village and smaller places to hubs rather than coming into Fairbanks or Anchorage." She recalls that, when she lived in the Lower 48, there used to be reports that young people were leaving reservations, but it seemed to be an ongoing pattern. One of the issues she'd like to see more work done around is what happens when villages empty out. What kind of an impact does that have? Alaska villages are very different from the small towns that sprung up along the railroad in the Old West. Those towns may have died, but they didn't have the thousands of years of history many Alaska villages have.

"We try to take little bites at it here and there." Recently she heard about a community where suddenly dozens of houses are for sale; that's a story. Alaska News Nightly is thinking of restarting a segment from "AK" called 300 Villages in which individual communities were profiled. She'd like to focus on issues in individual communities and the issues they're facing. It sounds easy enough to leave and get a job someplace else, but a lot happens in small towns that makes them hard to leave. You have to go there to report; people in small towns are suspicious of outsiders. Making cold calls to the tribal council or the village council is a hard way to get answers.

First Alaskans Institute did a survey about moving frequency and reasons, but it wasn't a scientific survey, although the numbers are interesting, Hopkins says.

Suggestion from the room: Perhaps the story isn't about leaving rural Alaska, but how those who stay are managing to stay. What are they giving up to pay for fuel? How are they heating their homes and feeding their families? The economic question is major, especially among rural Alaskans who have seasonal employment. There's a lot of talk about creating economies in villages, but there's no model that has successfully created economic stability in small communities off the road system.

Townsend says village pride has been increasing among young people; could it be there's a circular effect that's countering some of the outmigration? She's interviewed many Natives who were punished for speaking their language, especially in boarding schools, but now people have a better understanding of what it means to be ripped away from one's culture. In Kotzebue, most of the students at the UAF extension campus are not traditional-age college students, which suggests that traditional students are leaving town to go to school.

Infrastructure in the villages — is it worth $40 million to run power to remote communities? These regions are wide-open to every con man and dreamer who comes through, Schoenfeld says, and sometimes it's hard to tell the difference. There are a lot of energy technologies, but how many of them are viable in these regions? One of our jobs as journalists is to look into these ideas when they are proposed and see if they are legitimate and practical. There is a rush to economic development, but it also has to be prudent. If one village renovates their cannery and makes it a tourist destination, that may be successful, but there can only be so many renovated canneries (or water bottling plants, etc.).

Townsend says that when she asks village councils if they're losing people, they're frequently reluctant to answer; they may not want to ask for help, or they may be afraid of losing funding.

From the room: I know of a lot of schools that open with ten students and end the year with five. How do I tell that story without jeopardizing the school's funding? Townsend says she has also heard of students registering in multiple districts to help schools stay open. Tenakee is currently using Craigslist to attract new families so they don't lose their school funding. Some schools have kept on teachers they didn't like because the teachers' children kept enrollment numbers high enough to protect state funding.

Cooperation will be important in trying to tell this story; one anecdote from one region doesn't establish a trend, but if reporters can show that it's happening in numerous communities in several reasons, then it's a story.

Sexual assault may play a role in urban migration for young women. Barrow recently had a case that was notable in that a rape actually went to trial and garnered a conviction, which is extremely rare. It's hard to get primary sources on the record for this kind of story, but social service providers often talk about it off the record.

There's also a disparity in employment opportunities. A whole day at AFN last year was dedicated to exploring marketplace opportunities. It's easy to do a story on a startup business bringing jobs to a small community; it's important to remember to follow up and see what happens. There's a tendency to over-report the optimistic stories and not check back. You don't want to only tell the rosy and forget the reality; at the same time, you don't want to overlook the good things that are happening. "As a consumer of news, you're just kind of hungry for more context," Hopkins says. "I'd like to get more on that story." Why do people stay in rural Alaska when times are hard? You have to tell that part of the story, too.

There's another census coming up next year, Schoenfeld says, which means the redistricting questions will come up again: Which regions are overrepresented? Which are underrepresented? Southeast will probably lose a House district, and it may lose a Senate district. Anchorage, Mat-Su and the Railbelt will absorb those seats. Redistricting is really a rural issue. In the past, the Bush has had political power, but if it loses power in the Legislature, it will lose out on resources.

Personal stories can illustrate a lot of these issues. It's difficult to get those stories, Schoenfeld says, but it's important to remember that we need to talk about the personal impacts of all of these issues. Be thoughtful. Think about how you're going to approach people and what you might have to say. If you have the opportunity, as an urban reporter, to go to a rural place, that's an opportunity to look for those people. Even if we don't have an immediate trend, there is a long-term trend of changing people's health, diet, activity level, lifestyle and culture, and you can tell those stories well if you personalize them. It takes an investment of time, especially if you go into smaller communities. People in urban centers are more used to things moving quickly; in rural areas, it can take longer to get people to trust and talk to you. You have to sit down with people and let them talk until they're done talking, Townsend says, which is increasingly difficult. There's a lot of value in establishing relationships with contacts in rural areas — even just a few minutes on the phone each week. Hopkins says that was part of why he wanted to launch the rural blog at ADN: It forces him to reach out into rural communities on a regular basis, and as a result, he's developing contacts in those areas, so when news breaks there, he knows who he can talk to.

— Maia Nolan

Liveblogging J-Week
Panel Discussion
Open & Transparent Government: Fact or Fiction?

Gregg Erickson, Alaska Budget Report
You have to look at the executive branch and the legislative branch separately. Executive branch has gotten “worse and worse and worse” since he started out. Each administration has learned from the previous administration how to keep things secret. “Certainly, the Palin administration is the worst we’ve ever seen.” He’s said the same about the Murkowski and Knowles administrations. On the other hand, the legislative branch has become much more open and transparent. They still do go behind closed doors, but it happens less frequently. “By and large, the direction of change in the Legislature has been better.” Maybe they have less to hide, or maybe they are less concerned about public criticism. Electronic bill tracking has made things easier to follow; “people are on the record a lot, lot more than they used to be.” You don’t have to be a journalist to ferret things out. Our public records laws are not ideal; Rep. Mike Doogan has sponsored legislation this session that may improve them.

John McKay, attorney
The Palin candidacy shed some light on our public records laws. The most significant change in terms of public records access in the last 10 years has been the change in the public interest attorney rule. We are the only state in the union that penalizes citizens for seeking records, unless it turns out that you’re right. “It’s a tremendous disincentive.” Deliberative process privilege is asserted more and more; for example, it was asserted in regard to the Todd Palin memos during the election. A few years ago, there was a woman appointed to a state commission, and another commissioner happened to have a job as the head of the Republican party. He was using state time to do party business, and the woman became upset because she wasn’t able to blow the whistle on the other commissioner because it was the subject of an ethics investigation. The woman felt muzzled. She was being told that because it was being pursued as an ethics violation, she couldn’t speak publicly about it, but she did finally talk to some reporters. Eventually the ADN filed a lawsuit requesting the public records. The woman, of course, was Commissioner Sarah Palin. Palin talked a lot about openness and transparency during her campaign. We need to appeal to people’s better natures and attempt to enlist them as allies; remind them that they once espoused the idea of open and transparent government.

Jason Moore, KTUU
Moore has been covering Governor Palin since she was mayor of Wasilla, and what he’s seen is the change in Palin over the last six months. He thinks there was a genuine sense during her first two years in office that she was more open, although he attributes that in some ways to the “love affair” the media had with her at first; she was a “breath of fresh air” after Murkowski. He saw that change dramatically once she became a national candidate. She came back and it’s been drastically different; she now has a press office that is as hostile as he’s ever seen. E-mails are “over-the-top” with complaints about how the administration is covered. Before the Republican National Convention, reporters could knock on Palin’s door and talk to her; now it’s “nearly impossible” to get a straight answer.

Gregg Erickson
When Palin came into office, she told ABR she couldn’t understand why Alaska Budget Report was so “crosswise” with the government over public records; she seemed to want to be more open. Two weeks later, ABR submitted a request for transition reports from the Murkowski administration that they knew had been shared outside the executive branch, which should have meant deliberative process did not reply. The request was denied. They were later told they could see the reports, but not make copies or take notes because they would “confuse the public” about what the administration had in mind. The document on top was a memo from the attorney general’s office that indicated that the documents had been redacted as fully as possible. Ultimately, ABR managed to get the documents released. The problem, it turned out, was that perhaps the Department of Law had been “a little too candid” about some of the failures of the Murkowski administration. If you go to court to try to make public records public and you lose, you are on the hook to reimburse the Department of Law. It has “a tremendous chilling effect” on public records requests. You can’t convince a publisher to be on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars.

John McKay
What records become state property? Ruedrich blurred the line between personal and public. Recently an Attorney General opinion ruled that personal electronic devices (such as BlackBerries) aren’t necessarily personal if they’re being used to do state business. That doesn’t necessarily mean the state will give e-mails up easily. Bill Dedman of MSNBC wrote an article about the State of Alaska’s attempt to charge him $15 million each for three different requests for state e-mails.

John McKay
Asked about the status of requests for Gov. Palin’s e-mails, McKay said he doesn’t know of any pending litigation. Andree McLeod, who is not a journalist, has filed some requests, but will she take the financial risk of pursuing them? He’s not sure. Just because Todd Palin was copied on an e-mail does not necessarily mean that deliberative process privilege is not legitimate. Deliberative process is not the end of the road; if the citizen can prove the interest of the people outweighs the interest of the government, the privilege can be revoked. Remember that Gov. Palin ran as a reformer, and that’s how she views herself. Hold her to that.

— Maia Nolan

Liveblogging J-Week:
Lunch with Anne Kilkenny

Anne Kilkenny opens her remarks by reading an e-mail she received from a stranger last fall:

“Much has been said about the bravery of our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Too little has been said about those who have fought in their own ways to hold the line against a shadow from within.”

That shadow is the threat to free speech. Americans can disagree, and agree to disagree, while respecting one another’s rights to free speech, Kilkenny says. “Without you — without a free press, there is no healthy democracy. There can be no healthy democracy.”

Kilkenny jokes that she was not selected for this honor because of the “great journalistic quality” of her e-mail. “You can tell (State Rep. Mike) Doogan, I swear, I wrote that before his comments.” She adds that she didn’t “go hide under a rock” when her e-mail went viral; she realized she had a responsibility to stand behind what she’d said. Kilkenny was present at a city council meeting in which she observed then-mayor Sarah Palin ask about the process of removing books from the local library.

“My selection should not be construed as an endorsement of my opinions, or my politics, or my candidacy for pope,” Kilkenny says. Balanced reporting, she adds, depends on reporters having access to minority and dissenting opinions. It’s fitting that the Press Club chose to represent someone who expressed an unpopular opinion; free speech is not about just telling those in power what they want to hear.

“For two months, I set aside my personal life ... because I did what my conscience directed me to do,” Kilkenny says. “In short, I was selected for doing what you do every day: Telling a story as thoroughly as possible.”

“What can I tell you about the cost of being the messenger that you don’t already know?”

Kilkenny received 14,436 e-mails, up to 3,000 per day, 200 per hour. She replied to questions from about 5,500 e-mails. Most days she worked 18 to 21 hours, replying to e-mails and giving dozens of interviews. She was on the BBC live and did more than 28 interviews with foreign media. On the worst night, she got four phone calls between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m., and she learned to tell callers in her sleep how to find her e-mail on the ADN website. When people contacted her with new information, she did her best to help them connect with media. She provided “innumerable” primary sources to reporters. There was a steady stream of reporters through the house.

“At one point, our mudroom looked like the lost-and-found at Heathrow Airport.”

Kilkenny tears up as she talks about the support her husband and son provided. She is proud that her son volunteered for a campaign and wore his candidate’s button to Wasilla High School, and experienced only a little backlash.

“Some people had me canonized and on the bullet train to heaven. Others, about six percent, had me demonized and already on the way to the hot place.” If she only had a buck for every person who thought her use of “irenic” had been a misspelling of “ironic,” Kilkenny said, she’d be in Hawaii. She deeply regrets having used the word “hate”; that kind of word should be avoided like the plague, she says.

“There’s kooks out there, but far fewer than I feared.”

She found two “distressing themes” in the e-mails she received: First, prejudice, including blind partisanship, is alive and well. She was alarmed at the number of people who used the information in her e-mail to reinforce personal prejudices against one candidate or another. Second, she was appalled by the number of people who believe that the First Amendment should be used only to protect speech with which they agree, particularly when it comes to social and religious issues.

Here’s how to deal with people who are in the middle of a media frenzy:
  • E-mail is not the best way to contact them. They don’t have time to read it.
  • Use the phone. People are in the phone book. She’s in the phone book.
  • Call repeatedly, but be patient and don’t get nasty.
  • If you do e-mail, put your name and publication in the subject line in caps. (“I got about 10,000 that said ‘your e-mail.’”)
  • Clearly define your lead topic and communicate with your interviewee early on.
  • Never terminate an interview without leaving contact information.
  • Leave a business card with the date and time of the interview written on the back.
  • Let the interviewee know where you’re staying in case you leave your custom European sunglasses on her buffet.
Develop and support citizen journalists:
  1. Give us validation and credentials. (The ADN was helpful by confirming that she was a person.)
  2. Fact-check us. Work together.
  3. If you can’t prove something, simply say so. Don’t use the label “partially true” just because you can’t prove it. That implies it’s partially false.
  4. Don’t badmouth the public or spread fear of the public. Don’t call attention to the negative effects of media attention. (The negative e-mails were only a tiny percentage.) Why would anyone ever speak up if they thought it would ruin their life forever?
  5. Respect your sources. (“I don’t need to go into why.”)
“Maybe I’ll write a book someday. Why not?”

The board could have chosen anybody “but they picked me, a nobody,” to represent everybody.

She closes her remarks by reading an e-mail she received from a survivor of the Auschwitz and Dachau concentration camps:

Dear Anne,
Too bad there were no people like you in pre-Nazi Germany!

— Maia Nolan

Liveblogging J-Week
New Media
Community Funded Journalism

We’re getting ready to hear from David Cohn, founder of Spot.Us, about community-funded journalism.

Cohn, fortunately, was able to get in late last night despite Redoubt’s continued activity. He calls himself a “recovering tech reporter.” He used to write for Wired, then worked as a freelancer while getting his Master’s in journalism from Columbia. After that, he worked as a new media consultant (although he hates the word “consultant”).

New media is a broad term, and Cohn is beginning by asking the room what we’d like to know about new media — or what we think it is. In addition to gateway media, there’s social media, too, and then database journalism (sites like EveryBlock). He’s sharing an example — watching the growth of Wal-Mart at Flowing Data.

Cohn doesn’t know what the evolution of journalism will look like, but he is confident that there will continue to be a need for journalists. There’s no lack of desire for news — news outlets have more readers than ever — it’s just a question of how the marketplace will emerge. It will look drastically different, and he doesn’t know that it will be sustained by news organizations the way it is now, but it will be an industry, and it will make money.

“Journalism is a process, not a product. Newspapers are a product ... and there is journalism in it. But journalism is a process.” You used to need an institution — like a newspaper — to cover the overhead for the delivery of journalism, but that’s no longer the case. “Journalism itself is alive and well.” But the organizations no longer have the authority to say who is and isn’t going to do journalism. More organizations that have traditionally not been news organizations are now doing reporting; for example, the ACLU was one of the first groups to break news about Guantanamo Bay. It’s an advocacy group, of course, but it did do reporting, and we’re going to see more of that. Journalists will find work, but it won’t necessarily be for a newspaper; it will be for other entities.

“Let’s talk about WikiMedia.” Buzzword: Crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing is great for some things and not for others; for example, you don’t want your brain surgeon or your airplane pilot to be crowdsourced. Think journalist as community organizer. One example is the Off The Bus project at Huffington Post, which provided ground-level coverage of the 2008 presidential campaign. It’s participatory journalism.

What about online comments — how can they be elevated to be productive and not just divisive? There are different levels of engagement, and commenting is a low threshold, so it’s more likely to incite snarkiness. Ever heard of the 1-9-90 Rule? If you are looking for participation and you have 100 readers, one will participate actively. Eight or nine will comment now and then, and the other 90 won’t be engaged. What are some ways other than commenting that will engage that one reader (and require a level of involvement that will “weed out the jerks”)? You have to engage; it will require time and effort. The more time you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it. Cohn tends to have a “yes” attitude, so he’s not advocating for shutting off reader comments, but, as with fishing, you have to throw some back before you land a keeper.

It’s important to be on Twitter, but not because it’s cool. Remember Friendster? It was replaced by MySpace, which was familiar and usable because you already knew Friendster. Then came Facebook — same thing. Twitter is different. Maybe it will go the way of Friendster, but your time on Twitter isn’t wasted, because what Twitter represents is not going to go away. If something comes along to replace Twitter, you’ll know how to use it. He’s also introducing the room to FriendFeed. TweetUps and Meetups capitalize on social media by bringing it into the real world. It’s about making yourself available online. These are tools, not chores. If you think of Twitter as a chore, don’t use it.

One thing you can do as a journalist is take data — like police reports — and make it available in a user-friendly format so citizens can collect information. When you want to do something on the web, find the path of least resistance and stay agile. Don’t spend six months building something that might fail. Try something that will take you a week to build. Example: SeeClickFix, where you can create a map to track non-emergency issues like potholes in your area. Again, don’t be on it just because it’s hip and new; use it as a tool if you can, or don’t.

The first thing to do is to not get sidetracked by the tools. Decide what you want to do, and then find the right tool. ReadWriteWeb is a good site that covers tools like these. Potholes are a great example of an issue that can be covered using participatory journalism; you make the map available, then track reports from citizens.

Journalists sometimes get sidetracked by technology and the fear that we have to build everything from scratch. We don’t. The tools exist already; we just have to use them.

There’s a difference between being on the web and being of the web. The New York Times asks online readers to register, and one of the questions asked is country of residence. The number two response to that question — after United States — is Afghanistan. Why? Because that’s the first country in the drop-down list. Those readers aren’t in Afghanistan; they just don’t want to register. The Times is on the web, but it’s not of the web.

Some news organizations are making use of Second Life, where there is a real economy. Cohn has a friend who reports for Reuters in Second Life, and he covers Second Life events like real news. Second Life may have some possibility for expansion, but Cohn isn’t sure. Like Friendster, Second Life may go away, but what it represents will stay.

— Maia Nolan

Liveblogging J-Week
Video vs. Still Photographs: A Walk in Two Worlds

AP photographer Rick Bowmer is going to talk about the transition from still photography to video, a medium in which he’s recently started working. So far the room is not packed, but it’s still early... if you’re just waking up, come on down to the Senior Center. We have coffee!

Bowmer says the AP was late in coming to online slide shows, but once they started doing them, there was a big push for them. Two and a half years ago, the AP selected Bowmer and three other photographers (out of 116) to shoot HD video. He “heard the word experiment quite a bit” — the AP wanted to see what was possible. There was a learning curve — “It’s like still photography on steroids” — but he’s gotten a new appreciation for the medium. He used to be annoyed by news videographers — “They were always in the way” — but now he has a better understanding of what they do. He had to learn Final Cut Pro, and he’d come home at 7 p.m. and work until 3 a.m., playing with video. “After a while, it started making sense.” After about six months, he could pick up the video camera and it felt as familiar as the still camera. He can program it with his eyes closed. Now it’s fun, but for the first six to eight months, it wasn’t. “It’s a labor of love.”

Colleagues have accused him of selling his soul, but Bowmer tries to explain to them that it’s a rewarding medium. Capturing audio was very powerful for him — adding sound to images adds a deepening element to the story. Each of the four photographers who participated in the pilot program approached it differently. Bowmer abandoned stills at first and focused on video, then realized that perhaps he had “stepped over onto the dark side.” After about a year, he started working with both together, which he thinks is a lot more powerful.

“When I go on the road,” he says, holding up his still and video cameras, “these are my weapons. These are my tools.”

With the economy the way it is, it might not seem like the right time to expand into a new medium, but at the same time, video offers more market opportunities.

He’s now sharing one of his first videos — it’s a roller derby story. He opens with a long slow-motion shot of a racer picking herself up off the track as the other skaters move by in the background. He tries to use as many stills as possible, and he likes to use slow or fast motion — “It gives you the power to really tell a story. Using video to go from point A to point Z, you tell the entire story.” Surprisingly, he doesn’t really watch too many movies (although he did take one film class in college).
“It’s just a fun way to tell a story.
I guess I drank the Kool-Aid.”
In another video, about extreme kayaking, he sets a voice-over of a kayaker talking about feeling like he’s moving in slow motion over a slow-motion shot of the same kayaker descending a Class Five rapid. He also uses still shots with the voice-over, which he says he thinks can have a bigger impact than just video. For the video stories, there isn’t a lot of canned voice-over; he tries to use more natural sound to tell the story.

In a recent story about an Oregon family that recently found itself homeless, Bowmer uses long still shots taken from video — close-ups of the family members’ faces in particular. Don’t feel handicapped by video, he says; it’s easy to frame-grab for stills.

Bowmer thinks video is a “pretty powerful medium,” and as an example, he shows two episodes from an AP video series called “Lucky Charms,” about American soldiers serving in the Middle East, and their families back home. Again, he uses organic audio over video and stills, and the effect has a deep emotional impact.

He shows a photo of a man, covered in blood, being carried away from an explosion in the West Bank. It has impact, he says, but without the audio, the story isn’t as complete. There are elements you need, he says, and still photography is a powerful medium, but it is missing something that video can provide.

Take a look at some of Rick Bowmer’s AP videos.

— Maia Nolan

Tom Snapp's family attends press club conference

Tom Snapp's sister, Colleen Redman, brought her son, Scott, by the Senior Center this afternoon to meet some people. He has worked for Conoco Phillips in Anchorage for 25 years as a reservoir engineer. He bears a striking resemblance to his well-known uncle, Tom Snapp. Scott Redman grew up in Fairbanks, a graduate of Lathrop High School, where he was co-captain of the varsity football team.

The Press club's 1st Amendment award is names after Tom Snapp and Howard Rock, founders of the Tundra Times newspaper in 1962. The paper was founded largely to oppose Project Chariot, a bizarre plan by Edward Teller and the Atomic Energy Commission to use nuclear explosives to create a deep water port at Cape Thompson in Norhwest Arcic Alaska in the early 1960s. Tundra Times established a dissenting voice within an Alaska press corps that had been in support of Project Chariot. Tundra Times also led the fight for the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

AUDIO PODCAST: Gasline 101

Friday, 3:45-5 p.m.

Program: The fundamental mechanics and politics of building a gasline. Former House Majority leader Ralph Samuels learned on the job and will share some basics about the gas industry that all Alaskan reporters should know.

Listen to the session here:

AUDIO PODCAST: Beyond meetings, making goverment coverage come alive

Friday, 3:45-5 p.m.

Program: CoastAlaska News Director Ed Schoenfeld, UC Berkeley Journalism Professor Bill Drummond and Atwood Fellow Patrick Yack will offer pointers on how to improve local government coverage. Topics: different approaches to the same story, finding personal impacts, covering issues instead of meetings, and involving citizen journalists.

Listen to the discussion here:

AUDIO PODCAST: Panel - Photojournalism, Going to Extremes

Friday, 12-2:30 p.m.

Program: Over lunch, find out how to take compelling photographs while shaking from hypothermia or with your camera frozen. What to carry in that bag. And how to mentally prepare for doing your best work in extreme conditions. Some of Alaska’s finest photographers: Chris Ho, KYUK-AM/TV. Scott Jensen, KTUU-TV, Jim Lavrakas, former Anchorage Daily News photographer. Clark Mishler, author of Anchorage, Life at the Edge of the Frontier. Rick Bowmer, Associated Press, Portland. MODERATOR: Dimitra Lavrakas.

Listen to the discussion here:

Friday, March 27, 2009

Shout out to Erik Hill, ADN photographer who demo'd Sound Slides

We attempted to podcast this session, but sadly the audio card was full and we were unsuccessful. Thank you Erik for your time and good work.

AUDIO PODCAST: Lisa Margonelli - Mapping the maze of oil and gas

Friday afternoon, 2:30-3:45 p.m. (teleconference, Lisa didn't make it out of SF due to Redoubt)

Program: The oil industry can seem like a labyrinth with minatours around every corner. But Lisa Margonelli, author of Oil on the Brain, has spent years following the network of intricate passages to demystify the oil supply chain. She’ll show you how you can help your readers, viewers and listeners understand how the industry affects our daily lives.

Listen to it here:

Thank the volcano gods, the keynote speaker made it out of Seattle, bound for Anchorage

David Cohn hung on all day in the Seattle airport, waiting for that slip in the throng that would let him skip onto a flight to Anchorage. He said the Seattle airport was wired, so he was happily at work, and he'd wait for all the flights into Anchorage to see if he could get one. He only had to wait until 4:45 p.m. (like, all day.)

In honor of his success, we're offering this shrine to Mt. Redoubt in appreciation for letting one of our Outside presenters slip through.

AUDIO PODCAST: Robert Meyerowitz - The art of intimacy

Friday morning, 10:30-11:45 a.m.

Program: A feature story done well is about intimacy. Maybe that’s why it’s one of the most powerful forms of journalism. UAF Snedden Professor Robert Meyerowitz takes you beyond “who, what, when, where and why” to tell gripping tales.

Listen here:

AUDIO PODCAST: Clark Mishler-Elements of Photography

Friday morning, 9-11:45 p.m.

Program: How to take better pictures no matter what level you're at. Veteran Alaska photogrpaher Clark Mishler will show you 15 elements of shooting that even professionals sometimes miss.

Listen here:

AUDIO PODCAST: Panel - Are we ready for the next big one?

Friday, 9-10:45 a.m.

Program: From quakes to volcanoes, to ice jam floods to fires, Alaska is a state where the question is not if a disaster will happen, but when. Since 2001, every region in the state has experienced at least one disaster. Many have had several. Given the odds, you’d expect newsrooms to be prepared. But are they? PANELISTS: John Madden, Director of the State Division of Emergency Services. Lt. Gen. Craig Campbell, Commissioner of State Dept. of Military and Veteran Affairs. Edgar Blatchford, UAA Journalism Professor who was in Seward in 1964, where the earth opened up and waves washed away the waterfront. Janice Boylan, compiled: The Day Trees Bent to the Ground: Stories from the 64 Earthquake. Tay Thomas, 1964 Earthquake Survivor. Mike Ross, KTUU-TV Anchor who worked at WWL-TV in New Orleans, the only station that stayed on the air during Katrina. MODERATOR: Michael Carey, host of Anchorage Edition.

Listen to the session here:

Liveblogging J-Week
Alaskan Issues: Gasline 101

Former House Majority leader Ralph Samuels is here to explain the gasline in terms we can all finally understand. Samuels is upfront about the fact that he voted against the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act, but he promises to try to give us a balanced look at gasline issues. He’s starting with a primer on state finance.

Currently, oil revenue provides 90% of the state’s budget. North Slope oil production is on the decline and will continue to decline, but the decline has been hidden by the high price of oil. The state’s budget situation will become critical well before 2016. Alaska needs to move rapidly and decisively toward replacing its oil-based economy with a more diversified economy based on natural gas. Gas is the new Prudhoe Bay. “Eventually, the production decline gets us. That’s the frank reality that nobody wants to talk about.”

TAPS vs. Gas Pipeline
  • TAPS was built in the 1970s.
  • At its peak, it transported two million barrels per day.
  • Currently, it’s transporting fewer than 800,000 barrels per day.
Alaska rode the crest of oil money until the 1980s, when the state crashed in a major way.
  • Oil pipelines are common carriers, which means they are required by law to provide service to all legitimate applicants.
  • Gas pipelines are contract carriers, which means the transporter provides service on a contractual basis.
Who should own the pipeline? If anyone could answer that question without getting into rhetoric and politics, we wouldn’t have a problem. (The shipper must be a separate legal entity from the entity that owns the gas — so Denali, for example, must be completely separate from BPXA and Exxon.)
  • Third-party ownership - Perception
  • Third-party will build cost overruns into tariff.
  • Why pay a middleman to ship the State’s gas?
  • High tariffs make more profits and companies will strive to meet this objective.
Producer-owned pipeline - Perception
  • Producers will tie up explorers.
  • Explorers will be at a disadvantage by being forced to pay their competitors for transporting gas.
If you’re a small company, will you want to explore in Alaska if you know you’ll have to “kiss Exxon’s ring” to get your gas out?

Tariff: The cost of shipping gas to market, usually given in millions of British Thermal Units (as opposed to millions of cubic feet). Tariffs only incorporate the cost of the pipeline, including return on equity, and treatment — not the cost of exploration and development. Right now, 8 billion cubic feet of gas is reinjected into the reservoir to pressurize the reserves so more crude oil can be recovered. Some say we should have built the gas pipeline in the 1970s, but the truth is that, right now, the gas is more useful in the ground, helping pressurize the reserves for recovery of higher-priced crude. We have a “monstrous amount of natural gas” in our reserves.

Ownership of pipe vs. ownership of gas: What are the risks, and who takes them? You’ll never build a pipeline with no gas in it. You get contracts in place, take them to Wall Street, and then you get the money to build. Currently, the risk is with TransCanada. In AGIA, the State of Alaska assumed half that risk by fronting $500 million.

Compression: Expansion by compression offers relatively inexpensive addition utilizing compressors. It increases throughput. Generally speaking, compression drives the tariff down, depending on how much additional gas is added. If Conoco, Exxon and BPXA all agree to ship gas at a tariff of $5, and then another producer gets on board and more compression stations are added, the tariff is decreased for each producer.

Looping: Increasing capacity of a transmission system by inserting an additional section of pipeline. This is less expensive if included in the original design. Generally speaking, looping drives the tariff up.

Two types of tariffs for expansion:
  • Rolled-in tariffs: Costs are borne by all shippers, both new and old. Usually in the U.S., tariffs are only rolled in when the tariff is lowered for existing shippers.
  • Incremental tariffs: Additional costs are borne by the entity that caused the expansion.
  • FERC must approve tariff changes.
AGIA requires rolled-in tariffs.

FERC: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. “FERC is the king. FERC will make the decisions that govern what the tariff is.” President Obama is in favor of this project. Of course, so were President Bush and President Clinton. FERC does NOT regulate retail electric/natural gas sales to consumers, nor do they have oil pipeline or local distribution oversight.

  • Completion risk
  • Cost overrun risk
  • Firm transportation risk
  • Market price risk
  • Political, tax and regulatory risk
Who assumes the risk?
  • Midstream (Pipeline builder) - Risk from now until open season.
  • Upstream (Shipper) - Risk beginning in open season
Open Season: The process by which a pipeline company invites prospective shippers to bid for transportation capacity and, after having reviewed the bids, awards to and allocates capacity among prospective shippers. The open season process is regulated by FERC.

There will not be two pipelines ever built. We may not get one pipeline; we certainly won’t get two competing pipelines.

Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline Act (ANGPA):
  • Expedited the approval process
  • Prohibited an over-the-top route
  • FERC required to adopt regulations for open season
  • Environmental reviews
  • FERC given expansion rights for the first time
  • Drue Pearce, federal coordinator, 2006
  • Study of alternatlive means of construction
  • Loan guarantees
  • Judicial review
  • Special in-state provisions
“Some of this is dry stuff.”

Capacity allocation: Put yourself in the shoes of Conoco Phillips. They own a third of the gas in Prudhoe Bay. Say they bid it in Chicago — it’s sold in Chicago. Then the State says, “No, we want to take gas from Point Thomson.” Conoco only owns five percent of Point Thomson. Now they have a sale but no product. How am I going to sign a 20-year deal with Chicago Light and Power when I don’t know where my gas is going to come from?

  • Department of Energy loan guarantees
  • Firm transportation (FT) commitments
  • Debt equity ratio
Samuels says that hopefully Sens. Begich and Murkowski will be able to ensure more federal assistance; “read the politics however you like.”

The DOE loan guarantees were authorized to the sum of $18 billion, indexed for inflation. They are to be administered by the Secretary of Energy. They are not to exceed 80% of the total capital costs of the project — including interest during construction. Terms of any loan are not to exceed 30 years.

Firm Transportation commitments (FTs) are binding commitments made by a shipper to a pipeline to ship gas (or pay even if no gas is shipped) at a specified volume and cost, for a set period of time. The FTs are the bottom line. They are what gets the money to build the pipeline. It’s a piece of jargon you need to know.

Debt-equity ratio: What formula will be sought for financing? FERC mandates the rate of return on equity.

You want to look down the road 20 years, but you also need to look at tomorrow. You’re planning on 30 to 40 years of cash flow. Other issues: Completion risks, international issues with Canada, First Nations claims (don’t forget that TAPS was the impetus to settle Alaska Native land claims), etc. Many of these issues are common to Denali and AGIA. Natural gas pipeline stakeholders include the people, the governor, the legsilature, the builders, current and future shippers and explorers, and the governments of the United States and Canada. “You have to deal with all of them; you’re not going to steamroll any of them.” You’re going to have to sit down and address some of this risk mitigation.

For those of you who are in broadcast media, Samuels says, he feels feel sorry for you. To cover this in a three-minute segment at the top of the news is nearly impossible; it’s dense stuff. He thinks that many of his former colleagues still don’t fully get it.

— Maia Nolan

Liveblogging J-Week
Alaskan Issues:
Mapping the Maze of Oil and Gas

Lisa Margonelli was, unfortunately, a travel victim of the Redoubt eruption, but organizers are working on getting her on the phone. Margonelli is the author of Oil on the Brain, and if we can reach her, she’ll be helping us understand how the industry affects our daily lives.


Rhonda McBride has managed to connect us to Margonelli, who says she’s sorry she’ll be missing former House Majority leader Ralph Samuels’ talk, Gasline 101, which follows this session.

Margonelli is giving some background on her oil expertise. In 2001 she got an assignment from now-defunct Jane magazine to go to Saddam Hussein’s birthday party. It was her first immersion in “a very weird oil culture.” Everyone in Iraq, down to the coffee shop waitress in her hotel, defined their lives in terms of oil.

The same month, Margonelli was sent to Arctic Village, north of Fairbanks, to follow a Native filmmaker, but by the time she got there, the story was the fight to keep ANWR closed to development. Gail Norton flew in while she was there, and the people of Arctic Village were fighting to keep the Refuge closed. As Margonelli flew out of Arctic Village, she could see the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, and it occurred to her that it was strange for her to use so much oil without understanding the issues around it. She drove to Barrow, following the pipeline, and decided she wanted to learn more. That’s how Oil on the Brain was born.

One thing she learned in Iraq is that there are a lot of unlikely alliances around oil that aren’t really reported on — for example, people from countries that are supposedly at war are colluding on oil smuggling operations.

To write the book, Margonelli spent time along the supply chain at all levels, getting to know the people who make the industry run, and looking at how their lives were affected by greater forces in the oil economy.

Gas Stations
Consumers see two things at a gas station: Convenience, then price. A three-cent price difference will get people to make a four-point turn to the other side of the road. A six-cent price difference will get them to drive across town. Gas stations make only a few cents per gallon in profit. Gas stations face a variety of other bizarre challenges, including customers driving off with hoses still in their cars, robbery, and accidents.

Part of what drives retail prices is boutique air quality requirements; different places require different fuels. Even truck drivers face customer hostility about prices; one truck driver she spoke to said his own wife had called him to complain about the amount she was paying for gas. One of the things consumers don’t think about is who takes the risks. They’re focused on price and convenience. Transporting petroleum is a risky business, as anyone who lived through the Exxon Valdez oil spill knows.

Margonelli visited an oil barge in New York Harbor. The barge was attended by three different tugboats. The tug pilots would call ahead to bridges and tell workers to stop welding when the barges passed through. A single spark on the deck of a ship carrying four million gallons of gasoline could be a disaster. A lot of petroleum infrastructure is very old — built as long ago as the 1920s.

Politics of energy consumers
  • Mainly care about convenience.
  • Price is more than just dollars; it’s well-being.
  • Feel we have no control, are “addicts.”
  • Believe in conspiracies... of all sorts.
  • High oil prices make us want to punish oil companies AND “drill baby drill.”
  • Fantasies of “energy independence.”
Some of the conspiracies we believe in: Producer price fixing; environmentalists blocking development; OPEC manipulation; a variety of Middle East conspiracies. Consumers and voters want to see oil companies punished and publicly reprimanded (congressional hearings, windfall taxes), but they also want to drill in protected areas. Fantasies include running cars on water or solar power, but “energy independence” isn’t realistic.

Who has the oil now?
North America doesn’t have much; 67% of reserves are in the Middle East. We are, however, historically the largest consumers of oil.

Venezuela is the U.S.’s oldest oil exporter. Setting them up to export oil was conceived as a way to provide Venezuela with some independence and self-sufficiency. Now Venezuela is associated with Hugo Chavez. Venezuela’s politics are determined by oil, and there is notaxation. One Venezuelan politician told Margonelli that, while we see corruption in moral terms, he sees it as a method of distribution. Chavez will give oil money away as schools, medical care, food. It costs Venezuela a lot of money to keep oil flowing; they’re constantly re-drilling wells, and there’s a constant struggle between those who want to distribute oil money to the poor and those who want to use it to continue drilling oil.

When you live in an oil-producing country, expect the following from your government:
  • Cheap gas.
  • God gave us wealth, so we should be powerful.
  • Our destiny is controlled by someone else.
  • The U.S. is trying to control us.
  • Government as “cow” leading to corruption, poverty, lack of democracy, and violence.
  • No taxes.
Where does Alaska fit?
  • Extreme consumers and extreme producers.
  • State bears large risks.
  • Multiple political/environmental realities in state, PLUS outside advocacy groups. Squabbles and blame.
  • Extraordinarily complex economic, political, and technical issues vetted at local levels.
As she was touring and looking at oil producers, she started to question things. The Republic of Chad is the world’s newest oil producer. The World Bank helped Exxon make it happen. Chad has become “a nightmare.” The country is so poor that there are no gas stations; you buy smuggled Nigerian gas out of whiskey bottles on the side of the road. Exxon followed its regulations, but it didn’t have the same level of accountability it would in the U.S. Ultimately, everywhere oil comes from is someone’s backyard. In Chad, there was no accountability. In the U.S., there is at least some accountability, even in moderately stable countries like Kazakhstan.

How do we change?
  • 73% of Americans want change.
  • But we don’t agree on why, or on what to do.
  • Nuclear, solar, wind, tar sands, more drilling, efficiency...
  • The “media” is seen as eroding morally and physically.
Examples of reporting that does a disservice: People replicate stories they’ve seen before; they say they blame the oil companies. But it’s a lot more complicated than that. Nixon, Ford, and Carter’s energy conservation policies have paid off, but all three lost their careers (in Nixon’s case, obviously, not for those reasons). If you go against the dominant narrative, you take a risk as a politician. Know what the myths are and report on them as myths, then move into the deeper causes. We have to get out of the “the oil companies are ripping us off” narrative; it goes nowhere and it doesn’t allow for change.

— Maia Nolan

Liveblogging J-Week: Rolling With the Punches

Thanks to Mt. Redoubt’s continued activity, last-minute adjustments are being made to this weekend’s schedule. Fortunately, some presenters may be able to appear telephonically.

— Maia Nolan

Liveblogging J-Week
Photojournalism Panel

Jim Lavrakas, former ADN photographer:

Some tips for shooting in the cold:
  • Keep your batteries warm. When he buys a new parka, he gets extra pockets put in to store batteries next to his body.
  • Rotate warm batteries into your camera regularly.
  • Use pocket handwarmers to keep your spare batteries warm.
  • If your LCD screen freezes, you just have to stop chimping and trust your camera. If your shutter is firing, your meter is working, even if it doesn’t seem to be.
Some of his favorite photos are from the Iditarod; it was freezing and he slept on the trail with his camera in his sleeping bag. “At the finish line in Nome, the mushers are cold, the photographers are cold. I always wanted a really good snot-sicle photograph, but I never got it.” Be aware of snow conditions and avalanche possibilities. Cold can be your friend, though, if you use the light right; steam and light can create a holographic effect.

When working with a pilot, use a professional commercial pilot. They know the territory, they can handle the weather, and they can put you in the right spot for the perfect shot.

On wildlife photography: “Telephoto is the way to go when shooting big, scary animals.” Keep your distance.

Spot news is extreme, too. People can be unpredictable. Stay back. You need to sort out what your best place is going to be so you can be safe and let the police do their job. It helps to build relationships with police officers who will let you get into position to get your shot.

Click here to see a gallery of Lavrakas’s favorite shots, compiled for the ADN

Clark Mishler, Anchorage: Life at the Edge of the Frontier

Mishler is sharing photos from a trip he made to the North Slope, including shots of the Bering ice shelf, a village preschool/high school graduation, and the products of a polar bear hunt.

“When I’m in these situations, I’m just keeping my eyes open for whatever’s going on in the community,” he says.
“I’m always looking for frames” — other objects to look through in order to see his actual subject.

A touchy connection is giving Mishler’s projected photos a bluish tint, but he’s not letting it bother him. “This is my world, actually; seeing things in blue is sort of the way I see.”

“Dressing warm is real obvious for this kind of thing. Don’t mess around. Buy the best possible clothes. It takes years.”

“Any effort that you as a photographer or journalist — any effort will be richly rewarded, because nobody else is doing it.”

Scott Jensen, KTUU-TV

Dealing with the cold is simple: Get a good down coat, a good shell, and good pants. He uses polypro glove liners and handwarmers in his pockets and finds he’s usually hot on the trail.

Video has a different challenge: There’s so much time to fill (up to three minutes) and so much editing to be done. Before GPS, he spent a lot of time on the trail just waiting. He’s always thinking about motion coming into the frame. He looks for where the action isn’t and then follows it into the frame, which means he has to remember to roll before the action gets there. He’ll take his wireless mic and set it up 200 yards up the trail so he can hear the dogs before they run into his shot. You can’t have your hands in your pockets waiting; you always have to be ready.

This year he sat on the trail, in a snowbank, for an hour, waiting for a team to come around the corner. As soon as he hears them coming, he has to maximize the amount of time the dogs are in front of him.

“There’s a lot of patience in video.”

He lost mic battery outside Shaktoolik this year — “I’ve never had nine-volts die so quickly.” He had to go without sound on those shots, which made it a lot tougher.

He didn’t do much editing on the trail this year, but he spent more time actually on the trail this year than he has before. Most of his Iditarod responsibility this year was shooting footage for the recap show. KTUU uses a portable satellite uplink and bases coverage out of Willow, McGrath, Unalakleet, and Nome. The crew will fly out to more remote locations to shoot stories and then back to one of the bases. Next year he’ll probably spend the race on a snow machine, which is his “dream” for Iditarod.

“Every year we’re weathered in somewhere, and this year it was McGrath.” As a result, they missed Lance Mackey’s Takotna-to-Angvik run, which was the race’s key moment. It was hard on the team to miss that.

Rick Bowmer, Associated Press, Portland:

Bowmer is sharing photos from Gaza and the West Bank. He worked with a bulletproof vest and a “brain bucket,” but not a gas mask; some photographers in the mideast carry onions with them. When tear gas is released, they bite the onions and hold them next to their eyes so they’ll tear up before the tear gas hits them.

He shot the Branch Davidians in Texas; he expected to be there a day or two but ended up spending 54 days in Texas. His last day there, after the compound burned, he was chased by helicopters and dogs and finally arrested for sneaking into the compound. He’s also dodged gunmen and been slapped with a machete.

“I’m now living in Portland, and it’s a good place to be. There’s no one shooting at me ... and everyone speaks English.”

In Utah, he was taken two miles down into a mine that had collapsed. It was dark, it was wet, and then he’s stuck underground — and a tremor hits. He looked to a miner, and the miner said, “Aw, that’s nothing. Just relax.” He found out later it was the first mine tour that had been given to the media.

He covered the ValuJet crash in the Everglades. He and another photographer took turns shooting out sides of a helicopter. One time he leaned too far out and the door blew open. Now he travels with his own harness.

Question from the crowd: Are you lucky in other stuff, too? Like picking football winners?

Answer: Well, I got in on the last plane yesterday.

— Maia Nolan

J-Week Liveblogging
Alaskan Issues:
Covering Native Corporations: It’s the People’s Business

UAA professor, former Seward mayor, Columbia graduate and former state commissioner Edgar Blatchford discusses covering Native corporations. Here are his remarks, condensed and paraphrased:

I was very interested in Native issues. I testified to federal legislative committees on the importance of building the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and settling Native land claims. Make sure it’s “fair, just and equitable.” Native corporations have to be watched. I served as Gov. Hickel’s commissioner of regional and community affairs. I worked with regional and community organizations, so I had a great deal of influence over administration of regional grants. I went back to Seward when Knowles was elected and got involved in city politics. I then served as commissioner of commerce under Gov. Murkowski, and I was also on the board of a Native corporation, Chugach Alaska. There is this special benefits program that allows Native corporations to get government contracts and generate revenue to move to Native areas. I began to be caught between two different interest groups. When I voted the wrong way on the board of directors, the minority on the board took their complaints to the governor and I was asked to resign from the board. Then there was some bad press during the last days of my tenure with the state during which information was disclosed to the ADN.

The Basics
Why should you watch Native corporations? They are not tribal entities, per se. In the Lower 48, what you have are Indian reservations. The land is not owned by the tribe; it’s held in trust by the Department of the Interior. They have to ask permission to do anything. Native corporations are very, very different, and so you shouldn’t make comparisons between an Alaska Native corporation and Native entitites in the Lower 48. I’m not talking about the non-profits; I’m talking about for-profit corporations. What I’m really talking about are the over 200 village corporations and the 12 regional corporations: Ahtna, CIRI, Doyon, etc. Who owns these corporations? Shareholders. And you must always keep that in mind. There’s a big difference between a normal corporation and a Native corporation, and that is that, in order to own stock in a Native corporation, you had to be alive in December 1971. The first “after-born,” or “new Native,” was born at 12:01 a.m. on December 19, and she was not eligible to be enrolled. Native corporations are allowed to create a new class of stock in order to open up the rolls for those born after 1971. Doyon, ASRC and NANA have opened their rolls. You get a life estate; when you die, your shares go back to the corporation or they evaporate.

Stock Transfer
I was born before December 1971, so my shares of stock are not going to evaporate. What am I going to do with them? If I don’t like my kids or my corporation, what am I going to do? I’m going to leave my shares to Prince Harry, Prince William, and Bill Gates. Can I do that? Yes, I can. Original shares of stock in a Native corporation can be gifted. I can leave them to anybody. Native shares of stock are transferable upon death to anybody in the world.

Who Watches the Corporations?
Who watched Madoff? The SEC. There were some complaints, and examiners did not follow through on those complaints. Later you find out that the SEC didn’t do their due diligence duty in looking into the complaints that were filed against Madoff. Who watches Native corporations? Under the Settlement Act, it explicitly exempts SEC oversight and leaves it to the State of Alaska. Who watches the Native corporations? When I was commissioner of commerce, community and economic development, this is how I got into trouble. I was a member of the board of directors of a for-profit corporation, and I was a commissioner. When it was offered to me, they said, “We want you to stay involved in Native issues, but we don’t want you to have anything to do with the board. Delegate those responsibilities.” I did that, but I didn’t do it in writing soon enough. Why should you watch a Native corporation? Well, it’s the people’s business. Should you be sensitive to allegations that it’s discriminatory reporting? Should you back off? No. I think what you have to do is have pretty thick skin and barrel right through it. Somebody has the responsibility to watch them. The government has that responsibility. You should treat a Native corporation just like you treat any corporation. Someone has to watch them.

Corporate Democracy
What responsibility does a corporation have to its shareholders? An annual financial report and one meeting a year with shareholders. One report and one meeting a year. When you have an election to a board of a Native corporation, is there such a thing as corporate democracy? Corporate democracy was created for the first time when the Settlement Act was signed. All shareholders were equal. One hundred shares each. Now let’s look at the elections. You have a shareholder who doesn’t like what the corporation is doing. That shareholder is entitled to speak — for the amount of time determined by the people who run the corporation. If I want to run for the board and I have the signatures, does the corporation have to put my name on the ballot? No, they do not. They can put the names of only the people they want on the ballot. When people congratulate other people on election to a board, I say, “Get off it.” If it were a real election, we’d call it a rigged election. A corporation has a rigged election system. That’s how it is. It’s not just Native corporations; it’s across the board. What can a corporation do if they don’t like me? They can keep me off the ballot. You can go to them and ask why your name isn’t on the ballot. “You know why; you don’t behave. You don’t vote right.” Do I have any legal recourse? No. They can use attorneys, accountants, PR people, all their liquid assets, to elect the people they want on the board. Democracy doesn’t exist. This is the system. This is the free enterprise system.

Native Corporations are Big Business
It’s big business. How big is it in Alaska? If I were giving this presentation on public relations for Native corporations, this room would be packed. You guys are going up against a Goliath. Why should you watch a Native corporation? Because it’s the people’s business. There’s one thing on an annual report that has no recorded value because they don’t know what the value is: It’s about 70,000 square miles of land. It’s held at zero value on the balance sheets. There is value to it; we just don’t know how much. I think the only way you can determine the value is to go to the Exxon Valdez Trustees Council and see how much they spent for land purchases. 277,000 acres were sold for conservation, but I don’t remember any big stories about it. “They’re Native corporations, so let’s just back off.” How much of this is private land? All of it. It’s not Native land. It’s private land. It’s owned by a Native corporation. Not all of the shareholders are Native.

Shareholder Interests
When I die, you’ll have Prince William going to an annual shareholders meeting with Bill Gates. Prince William will argue for jobs and economic development for Englishmen. Bill Gates will want a laptop in every office, or something like that. Their interests will not be based in the tradition and interests of Native people. Is this happening? Yes. I think what’s going to happen as Alaska Natives become more distanced from tradition, these corporations will become more bottom-line oriented. Do they have an obligation to watch out for tradition and culture? No, they do not. The only obligation a corporation has is to make money, to declare a dividend for their investors. I suppose you all know this. I want people to be aware of these Native corporations. The State of Alaska, in my opinion, has abdicated its responsibility in watching these Native corporations. If you’re a shareholder and you file a complaint, you’re lucky if it gets addressed. It’s like what happened with Madoff and the SEC. If a shareholder doesn’t like what a Native corporation is doing, they file a complaint. There’s this form you fill out. I’m not blaming the commissioner; they don’t have the people to follow up. Meanwhile, who has the money and the power? The corporation. And they can silence you. If the board is committed to a financial return, do you think they’ll put a shareholder’s name on the ballot if that shareholder is opposed to logging? They might. But they’re not going to put any resources into getting that person elected. What’s it take to control a board of directors? I never learned to count to five. “Edgar, there’s nine directors. You need to learn to count to five. That’s a majority of the board. Once you can count to five, you have the majority and you control the corporation.” There’s no open-meeting laws that apply to corporation. They don’t have to do anything out in the open.

So how do you get information on a Native corporation? You could talk to shareholders. But then, management doesn’t have to give all that much information to the shareholders. They’re only obligated to give an annual report. It is private land. It’s owned by the corporation. It is not owned by Natives. This is what Congress intended when they passed the Settlement Act. President Nixon didn’t want to create pockets of poverty in Alaska, so the best thing was to create an entrepreneurial system.

Future Shareholders
How many Alaska Natives were there in 1971? Maybe 60,000. What’s the Native population today? About 120,000. What’s it going to be 10 years from now, 20 years from now? Maybe 240,000? How many of them are going to be shareholders? When Prince William inherits my shares of stock – or Bill Gates – or they’ll share – will they receive more than an after-born or a New Native? Will their shares of stock give them potentially more dividend than an after-born? Will Prince William receive more money owning 56.5 shares? I would say yes. He probably will be receiving more money than an Alaska Native born after 1971 who has only life estate shares. What’s the difference? Go back to land ownership. 70,000 square miles. Why will Bill Gates and Prince William be receiving more? Under the Settlement Act — and this is where you’ll really get into conflict between 60,000 haves and 60,000 have-nots — 70% of revenues from development of the subsurface estate have to be shared with shareholders of other Native corporations. That means that when Red Dog turned 10 years ago and they finally started to return dividends, I got a check. Section 7(i) of ANCSA states that 70% of net subsurface has to be distributed to all original shareholders or shareholders who have inherited original shares. In 2030 there will be about 200,000 Natives, most of whom will be life estate shareholders. If Pebble was on Native corporation land, you’d have every Native corporation pushing for it. Subsurface includes gold, gas, timber… 7(i) was meant to develop equality among Alaska Natives. It’s a legally-mandated revenue-sharing clause.

Look at Pebble. Let’s say Pebble was on Native land. There’s a Pebble in every region of this state. How much of that has been explored? Very little. Just look at the original estimates of Pebble. It’s a mining district of maybe 500 square miles. Pebble is 15 square miles. Native corporations own 60,000 square miles. We’re talking lots and lots of land. The value of the subsurface estate at Pebble was estimated at $10 billion. Then it went to $50 billion. Then it went to $100 billion. Last year when the economy was good, they stopped guessing. If it were Native land, there would be enormous pressure on the corporations to develop the subsurface estate. The press might not want to cover it because it’s a Native corporation and it’s too sensitive. Where’s the pressure coming from for these transnational corporations to explore? Population. Alaska’s mineral-rich. Look around. Why do we have so many national parks and national forests? That’s a clue, isn’t it? The only people who look off into the future seem to be environmental organizations. They’re transparent. Mining organizations are looking into the future. There are findings of some of these minerals all over Alaska.

Pressure on the Bottom Line
If you’re a shareholder in Houston or Portland, do you want the corporation to dedicate part of the bottom line to culture and tradition? No. You have a car payment, a house payment, kids going to college, and you’d like to take a vacation. When I first ran for the board, I pushed for jobs and economic development in the villages. Now I’m political. Now I talk about the dividend. We’re older. We’re not looking for jobs. We’re looking for retirement. The pressure on the boards is this: $

If nobody’s watching them, if the State has abdicated its responsibility to watch these corporations, who’s going to watch out for that shareholder who wants their voice in the corporation? You see very few people in regional corporations who talk to the press. I’ve been chairman of the board before. I wouldn’t talk to you guys. But somebody has to watch what’s happening. We’re running out of natural resources, and people are going to look north. They are looking north.

How Do You Get Information?
That depends on the instincts of the reporter. How did Woodward and Bernstein do it? They found a source. If you want to know, if you think there’s dissention in the corporation, call up the Division of Commerce, banking and securities, and ask if there are any complaints. And maybe they’ll say, “Oh, it’s an open investigation, we can’t tell you anything,” but then you’ll know something’s going on.

— Maia Nolan