On October 18, I wrote an article about the problems with anonymous news sources, including the increasingly popular Blue Alaskan media operation. In that article, I offered a $500 reward to anyone who can provide irrefutable proof of the identity of the person(s) behind the Blue Alaskan. Last week, the Blue Alaskan fired back with an article titled, “Fast and Loose.” While I enjoyed the title, the Blue Alaskan’s article only further deepens my belief that the Blue Alaskan needs to come clean.
Let me explain.
The Blue Alaskan’s first criticism is that I did not contact them. To that I say, of course I didn’t. I would have no idea who I am contacting or who is writing back. That’s the whole point.
Second, the Blue Alaskan argues that anonymous writing is protected under the First Amendment. This is an argument a lawyer would love: it is factually correct, convincing, and speaks to a principle that many of us–including all of us at the Landmine–hold dear. We are big First Amendment fans at the Landmine. I successfully sued Governor Mike Dunleavy on First Amendment grounds after the Landmine was excluded from press conferences.
Unfortunately, the Blue Alaskan’s First Amendment argument is completely irrelevant here. Nobody in this discussion has argued that anonymous writing–by the Blue Alaskan or by anyone else–is illegal. That would be silly. Of course anonymous (or pseudonymous) writing is legal. I am arguing that the anonymous operation of a news outlet is irresponsible and unethical.
The First Amendment argument made by the Blue Alaskan is a classic “straw man:” a weak or irrelevant argument propped up only so it can be toppled for the edification of the writer. Moving on.
Next, we have the argument that the Blue Alaskan must remain cloaked in anonymity out of fear. As the Blue Alaskan stated:
“…clearly my voice is unpopular in a state where Progressives are one of the minority voices in a place where political war is being waged against ‘tyrannical leftists.'”
Yes, Alaska is a conservative state overall. But the Anchorage Assembly is heavily progressive and the Alaska House of Representatives is controlled by a coalition full of progressives. Anchorage (which seems to be the setting for much of Blue’s writing) is a purple city politically, which split solidly for Biden in the last presidential election. Residents of Juneau (the seat of Alaska government) voted for Biden at a higher rate (68.11%) than residents of California (63.48%). There are countless progressive voices in our state, and have been for decades. Blue’s appeal for “minority” status as a progressive, in a state with progressive cities full of progressive voices, is, frankly, kind of embarrassing.
As I stated in my first piece, we live in the United States. This isn’t Russia or China. Blue’s desire for anonymity seems to come from a desire for convenience–not out of genuine concerns for safety. Is it sometimes uncomfortable to report the news in a “big small town” like Anchorage (or Alaska, for that matter)? Sure. But you get used to it. And ultimately, accountability encourages you to do a better job.
Next, the Blue Alaskan made a few points that I really think underscore the absurdity of anonymous news reporting:
“The Blue Alaskan is one person, hardly worthy of the title of ‘elaborate and organized media operation.'”
Well, how do we know? Are we supposed to just take your word for it? For all anyone knows, the Blue Alaskan could be one person, two people, a group of people, a PAC, the media arm of a local political communications firm, an operation by a candidate or group of candidates, etc. Is the writer connected to any candidates, companies, or political organizations? Is the writer being paid to write the large volume of news being put out on Blue Alaskan? If not, then how does Blue Alaskan support themselves financially? Nobody has any way to verify who or what the Blue Alaskan media operation is or why it publishes the content that it does.
“The Blue Alaskan does not have ‘high-level institutional support’ or ‘funding.'”
See response above.
“I have heard rumors that some other Alaska blogs/media outlets have received some form of funding in their formative days. The Blue Alaskan is not one of them.”
See response above.
“The Blue Alaskan is not ‘the work of an Alaska-based or outside PAC, a political campaign (or campaigns), or an individual with political connections that would affect how readers assess the content of articles.'”
See response above.
“The Blue Alaskan does not have a ‘personal or professional relationship’ with any candidate for political office, nor any affiliation with any company or organization I have written about.”
This actually seems unlikely. There aren’t too many people in Alaska who could put out the type of content that Blue Alaskan does but who don’t have any connections to candidates or campaigns. Of course, it’s possible. But again, see response above.
In my last article, I was critical of the Blue Alaskan soliciting donations when nobody knows where the donations are going. The Blue Alaskan defended this practice, writing that “A business license is not required to accept donations in the State of Alaska. This was verified with the state well in advance of the donation link going live just recently. There is no exchange of goods, no merchandising, no paywalls.” While Blue might be correct about the legality of this arrangement, the claim that “there is no exchange of goods” is… sketchy. Obviously the donations are being made in support of a “good,” even if that good is intangible news reporting.
Since attempting to find out the identity of the Blue Alaskan, I have received numerous tips. Many are meritless, but a few are promising. In particular, we may have been able to identify one person who either is the Blue Alaskan or is assisting the operation by attending public meetings on their behalf and creating media. There is clear evidence of this… but we are still investigating.
That being said, I have increased the prize to $1,000 for anyone who can provide irrefutable evidence of the identity of the person or person(s) who are behind the Blue Alaskan. I will write you a check directly or donate the $1,000 to a charity of your choice.