Better kept quiet


And don’t you dare link this commentary either.

With the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race caught in a wrongheaded but understandable bit of a cover-up this week because the reality of Alaska can be just a little too real, more than a few members of the Iditarod Fan Club found themselves upset at the media — and in particular — because the media can be upsetting.

Especially those quote-unquote “bloggers,” which is the label some use these days to describe anyone who reports news they don’t want to know. The blogger label is used in the pejorative sense of, “Well, there aren’t any facts there. It’s all just some blogger’s opinion, speculation, fantasy, fiction, yadda, yadda, yadda.”

These readers have obviously not been paying attention to the changing media landscape or are new to the tubes where opinion is all over the old media, the new media, the good media, the bad media, the winning media, the losing media, the any sort of media. The reality is that much of the media today is more about opinions than facts.

And this website sometimes strays into opinion, too.

There is no denying it if for no other reason than that opinions are unavoidable. Everyone has them. They are normal human judgments. People take in information, weigh it and come to conclusions. That’s opinion.

The world is round because a ship that sails away disappears over the horizon: Observation, deduction, conclusion, and opinion.

Yes, we now have photos from space to conclusively “prove” that the old opinion that the planet is a globe is fact,  unless those photos from were PhotoShopped. But let’s overlook that reality-altering possibility and move on. tries to deal in facts, because the staff (that would be me, but maybe some day more if I can figure out the finances of the new-media world) thinks facts are wonderful things for people to discuss, run through their personal opinion-machinery, and then debate with friends, family or even strangers.

As a newspaper reporter back in the day, the highest compliment anyone ever paid me was to say their whole family sat down over dinner and argued over a story I’d written. It’s hard to have a decent argument unless the story contains enough facts for people to form differing opinions as to the conclusions to be drawn.

Unfortunately,  facts can sometimes be upsetting. And news that contains facts, especially in Alaska, can be very upsetting. I understand people being upset. I feel for them. So, in recognition of that and with a curtsy to the Society of Polite Journalists here are the…


1.) The Alaska fiscal crisis. No Alaskan wants to hear that the oily golden goose has stopped dropping those big golden eggs into the state treasury. Some Alaskans are actually starting to panic and use the dreaded R-word. No, not “Republican,” thank you very much Richard Mauer, but “recession.” The media shouldn’t be terrifying the citizenry with hints of an economic slump, and then terrifying them even more with the suggestion government might need to use some of the money in the peoples’ permanent fund to keep the ship of state afloat. Reporting this kind of stuff not only leaves some Alaskans emotionally crushed, it’s bad for business. If worried Alaskans decide to spend less and save more, the economic slump could become an avalanche.

2.) Climbing accidents.  The climbing season is just over the glacier on newly renamed Mount McKinley/Denali , north America’s still highest peak, and somebody is almost certain to die. Nobody needs to hear about this. It’s painful to the friends and family of the dead, and if there’s a search before the body is found, some heartless jerk will invariably take a public position somewhere criticizing “all the money spent on searches for these missing climbers.” That, the state’s largest news website, still allows any comments at all on climbing stories only encourages such bad behavior. The negative statements are hurtful to everyone in the climbing community. And, of course, it’s bad for business. We want tourists to flock to Denali, not flee the “killer mountain,” which is what Denali means in the Athabascan language. Just kidding. Really, Denali means “big mountain stupid white people climb.”

3.) Small plane crashes. Who needs to know? The stories are depressing to the families and friends of the dead, and everyone else is just rubbernecking. You should be ashamed for reading air-crash stories, and the media should be even more ashamed for writing them. And, yes, they’re bad for business. We want to encourage tourists to come to Alaska and charter small planes for sightseeing flights. We don’t want scare them off in favor of the pretend-you’re-in-Alaska ride at Disneyland.

4. Bear attacks. Nothing but bad PR for the bears.  People get the idea bears are dangerous. People then shoot bears.  The media is encouraging bearocide. Even worse, the negative publicity about bears stops scaredy-cats and scaredy-dogs from visiting Alaska. Only positive things should be written about bears. We want tourists to love our bears. We want them to come north by the boat and plane load to view bears. Friendly bears are good for business. So good the Legislature should  think about outlawing bear-attack stories because they’re really, really bad for business.

5.) Fishing. All fishing. The media in Alaska can’t seem to write about fishing without going negative. Fish wars. Fish battles. Fish being shipped south by the cooler load, good God,  and never you mind the entire plane loads of commercially caught fish flying south or west to processing plants in China every day during the summer. But they weren’t caught in despicably crowded salmon fishing hotspots. Like there’s something wrong that? Like going to the theater to see the best movie of the year is horrible because the theater is packed? Whatever. Fishing invariably gets spun negatively in some way. So the media shouldn’t write about it because, once again, it’s bad for business.

6.) Fat people, skinny people or anything to do with either. Do you like reading stories about how you need to lose a few pounds or you’re going to die an early death? Who needs that crap?  And skinny people surely feel the same way about skinny people stories as the majority of us do about fat people stories. Why should the media be writing bad things about the majority Alaskans? Not to mention, this too might be bad for business. Fat people stories could discourage the purchase of gigaton quantities of food at Costco, though personally I find these stories depress me so much I run to the grocery store to stock up on junk food to comfort me while surfing fat-people stories on the net.

7. Food safety. Does anyone really want to know the food they’re eating could kill them? Plus, there’s the information overload problem. You can crash your smartphone with notes on the new things daily reported unsafe to eat. Yesterday some writer was suggesting any processed food was potentially unsafe.  Enough! And yeah, it’s bad for business.

8. Global warming. Shishmaref was supposed to fall into the sea 20 years ago and 10 years ago and again last year. Same for Kivalina. It was supposed to have washed away long ago. And other villages, but they are still there. So what about the people worried about the demise of these places? They must be exhausted from worry now if it didn’t already kill them.. Show some empathy. Get this out of the news.

9. Federal overreach , under reach or any kind of reach at all. Who cares where the feds reach? This is a media distraction. Alaska’s problem isn’t the feds; it’s Alaskans. They’ve lived fat off the golden goose of oil for a generation. They don’t want anything to change. They don’t want development, and they certainly don’t want any more tourists coming here  in the summer to get in the way. Why does the media keep picking on the feds when they’re not the problem? Bureaucrats have feelings, too.

10. Don Young. One word, “manners.” If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all. Young keeps getting re-elected year after year after, despite all the negative press, because his constituent services are among the best in Congress. Everybody in Alaska has likely been helped by Young’s office or knows someone who was helped. But given that  Young is different from almost everyone in the media (and secretly the devil from Fort Yukon), the media can’t help but try to bully him. Stop the bullying, you insensitive bastards. Don’t write another word about Young.



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