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Own history

lavrakas

2002 World Press Photo winner/Jim Lavrakas

Some of the assets of the bankrupt and now-gone Alaska Dispatch News –  which once claimed it had no assets – are up for sale.

From 5 until 7 p.m. today and again from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, the new Anchorage Daily News is selling off the framed photos that once hung in the old Anchorage Daily News offices and printing plant on Northway Drive, moved with the Alaska Dispatch News to new offices on Midtown, and are now owned by the new Anchorage Daily News which bought the Dispatch out of bankruptcy.

Proceeds from the sale will reportedly go to cover the costs of printing some new art to hang on the walls of the new Daily News.

Among the photos are two iconic northern pike prints – one near wall size at about four-feet-long – taken by former Daily News photographer Jim Lavrakas, now a Homer-area fishing guide.

He captured the final moments of the life of a juvenile rainbow trout. It peers out through the mouth of a pike in the last seconds of life as the little fish is about to become food for the big fish.

The photo is something of a reverse image of the history of the Anchorage Daily News/Alaska Dispatch News/Anchorage Daily News.

“Salmon swallows whale: Website buys Anchorage Daily News, Alaska’s largest newspaper,” the Seattle PI headlined in 2014 after the Alice Rogoff-financed internet startup Alaska Dispatch.com bought the News.

Rogoff was warned the $34 million she was about to spend on a fading newspaper was way too much, but she charged ahead with the purchase anyway.

As everyone in Alaska other than a few cave dwellers now knows, it didn’t take long for the salmon to choke on the whale. By August of this year, only about three years after the purchase, Rogoff was in bankruptcy court.

And by September, what was left of News and its companion website, ADN.com, was in the hands of The Binkley Company. Though the family-owned Fairbanks company bought what was left of the ADN empire out of federal Bankruptcy Court for the rock-bottom price of $1 million, it is in a continuing struggle to get the operation on its feet in the tough media market of today.

Under Rogoff’s leadership, the operation was losing a $500,000 per month.  The Binkleys have laid of staff, tightened spending, freed themselves from a costly printing operation in the old ADN building, and taken other steps to cut the sort of losses no business can sustain for long.

Creditors, meanwhile, continue to pursue Rogoff, who financed her failing newspaper for three years with much of the $5 million per year allowance she gets from estranged husband David Rubenstein, one of the country’s richest men.

Under the Binkleys, the state’s largest newspaper looks to have a financial future, but success is by no means guaranteed, which makes for an even better reason to grab a bit of history.

In its heyday, the Daily News had one of the premier photo departments in American journalism. For three decades, it was showered with regional and national awards. Daily News photograph anchored the newspapers “People in Peril” series that won the Pulitzer Prize for public service in 1989.

It was the newspaper’s last Pulitzer, but Daily News photographers Bob Hallinen, Erik Hill and Paul Souders were finalists for another Pulitzer in 1990 for their coverage of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Daily News photographers continued to pile up the awards in the years that followed, but there were year by year fewer photographers at the newspaper. Former Daily News editor Pat Dougherty oversaw the reduction of the paper’s newsroom from 104 people in the 1990s to 34 by 2011. 

Souders left the newspaper for greener pastures. Now based in Seattle, he was named the country’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year in 2013. Hill and Hallinen soldiered on at the ADN through its various incarnations of the retired years. Hill retired amid The Binkley Company downsizing.

Hallinen, a somewhat elfish man with a big and bushy white beard, remains at the newspaper and well-known across Alaska. A number of his photos are among those on sale along with the works from what was once a large stable of world-class photographers.

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