Saturday, March 28, 2009

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.


Susan said...

What an honor to rename the award after Tom Snapp and Howard Rock. Tom truly was a champion newspaper editor. He was quite something to watch when there was news in the making. I distinctly remember working next to him as he worked - telephone next to his ear as he furiously wrote in shorthand while smoking a cigarette.
My siblings and I had the honor of working for Tom & Colleen - we folded newspapers for 3 cents per paper as teenagers. As the years passed we all worked different jobs - clipping newspapers, filing, delivering papers then moved up to typesetting, layout, and then to office operations (payroll, A/P and A/R).
I didn't know Howard Rock, but my husband Steve became friends with him at his family's local watering hole, Tommy's Elbow Room, which was across the street from the All-Alaska Weekly.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Tom was a fine reporter and a serious editor (if not always the best businessman) and the All-Alaska Weekly was, at times, one of the bravest papers in Alaska. To Tom's credit, the AAW was the rare weekly that focused almost exclusively on politics and hard news and not, say, music reviews and lifestyle stories.

I keep imaging Tom in the age of the Internet. He would have had a blast. He would have taken one look at, oh, a blog like Mudflats and said "I could do that! Why I could just write all day and I wouldn't have to deal with ads and printers and those people who think they can design a newspaper. I can just write and write and write!"

Tom would be so proud to have the 1st Amendment award named after him.

Lots of reporters checked in with Tom before running their story just to make sure they weren't missing anything. Even if he didn't break a story he was interested in, he would keep notes and clippings just in case something surfaced. He always found new angles on large stories and his honesty was never in question. He only ran what he was absolute sure about and he always considered as many angles as possible. Compared to most papers, people didn't complain that Tom misquoted them. He'd call sources back time and again to make sure he had their quotes and points of view straight but, of course, he usually nailed lairs, cheats, and corrupt politicians to the wall with his stories.

Tom's only ideology was: Tell the truth. He was the Izzie Stone of AK. He could have worked at any paper in the state but he knew the only way he could tell the truth all of the time was to own his own paper.

Does anyone know what happened to Tom's files? His office systems were a bit eccentric but his notes and clippings on, oh, pipeline corruption, the AIP, etc. might be of great interest to reporters today. I always figured that if anyone could put together, say, Bush's lost year in Fairbanks working for Mark Air, or the Corrupt Bastards Club, it was Tom. He was the institutional memory for much of the state press corps.