Update: The word is now official. The Alaska Dispatch News is history. The Anchorage Daily News is back. The first of the new Anchorage Daily News newspapers are begin landing on city doorsteps Sunday, according to a company statement. The ADN website is to change its name Sunday along with the newspaper. The last edition of the Dispatch News was Friday. The Daily News no longer publishes a newspaper on Saturday.
The Anchorage Daily News started its return to the state’s largest city on Wednesday with a Facebook shift away from the Alaska Dispatch News.
The move had been expected.
The Binkley Company, which bought the troubled Dispatch News out of bankruptcy, had been known for some time to be trying to separate itself from the sad legacy of the publishing misadventure of Alice Rogoff, the wife of one of the country’s richest men.
Long story short: Rogoff, the financier of the successful online startup AlaskaDispatch.com bought the Anchorage Daily News/ADN from The McClatchy company in 2014 for $34 million, renamed it the Alaska Disaptch News/ADN, and proceeded to turn it into one of the biggest business failures in recent state history.
The ADN’s situation in August was so grave the Binkleys, a Fairbanks family that made its fortune in Alaska tourism, had to loan Rogoff $1 million to help avoid the newspaper closing its door. About a month later, they bought the paper by repaying themselves the loan.
Since then, they’ve announced layoffs, signed a contract to print the newspaper in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley and implemented a variety of cost-cutting measures to stop what had been $3- to $5-million per year losses at the state’s largest news operation
And they’ve tried to distance themselves from Rogoff, who left creditors holding the bag to the tune of $2 million and is now the subject of a bankruptcy court probe.
A Washington, D.C. area transplant to Alaska, Rogoff might have helped grow that separation with a recent suggestion in the Columbia Journalism Review that the Binkleys, a four generation Alaska family, somehow conspired with 40-year Alaskan Ron Duncan, the founder of the telecom company GCI, to put her out of business.
“…The Binkleys and Duncan, of GCI, ‘worked in concert’ to force her to sell the ADN, with GCI starting the process through its filing of the eviction notice,” she told the magazine.
“‘I believe the Binkleys and GCI together decided to force me to sell and the only recourse I had was to go into bankruptcy,’ she says. ‘I think at the end of the day it was probably political. The management of GCI wanted to see the paper in the hands of people with conservative state politics. There is a sizable group of business people in Anchorage who believe the role of a newspaper is boosterism. Ron Duncan is one of that group. Time will tell whether the Binkleys are as well.'”
Both Duncan and the Binkleys have denied any effort to force Rogoff to sell the ADN.
When the Bankruptcy Court publicly offered ADN for sale, no one showed up to bid. When Morris Communications, which used to own the Kenai and Juneau newspapers, was asked to look at buying the Dispatch News in the spring, it examined the operation and concluded it wasn’t worth anything.
And the accusation of “boosterism” soundedc strange coming from a woman who in 2013 outlined her dream for Alaska:
“Here is what Alaska could look like if we start acting decisively about what we want in our future:
“Imagine it is the year 2030. The Arctic Ocean is virtually ice-free, requiring only intermittent icebreaking in the winter. The “center route” for shipping over the North Pole is nearly as well travelled as the Panama Canal. The volume of cargo shipped around and across the Arctic Ocean is equal to the volume in the Port of Singapore, which saw 471 million tons of cargo in 2009.
“There are two ‘twinned’ transshipment ports for transferring goods to ice-enabled hulls for the trans-polar crossing. One is in Dutch Harbor, twice as large as that port is today. The other is on the northern coast of Iceland. A new Bering Strait Arctic port has been built near Nome, with deepwater facilities just a 60-mile drive along the Bob Blodgett Highway at Port Clarence.
“The waters off Nome have periodic winter ice, but its shipping channel and shallow-draft harbor is kept open by local icebreakers when needed.
“The Nome-Port Clarence port complex has a small boat harbor in Nome with longer piers, fuel docks, repair facilities, tugs and support watercraft of all types. The large fishing and crabbing fleet have expanded as facilities for them grew. Pleasure boats are there, too. A waterfront resort fronts onto the Bering Sea. The city of Nome now has a population of 10,000.
“Adjacent to the port, a highway interchange leads to the deepwater Port Clarence harbor, 60 miles to the west. The highway also heads due east, the first major new highway in Alaska, linking Fairbanks and Anchorage with Nome. There is a high-speed adjacent railroad line.”