You have to hand it to Alaska Dispatch News owner Alice Rogoff. She put her money on the line and gave it her best shot at changing Alaska. It worked. She ended up changing America too.
Ms. Rogoff’s crusade to shape Alaska began close to ten years ago when she went into business with Tony Hopfinger and Amanda Coyne by dumping a bunch of cash into the up and coming Alaska Dispatch website. It’s amazing how easy it is to grow a website when you are willing to lose a million bucks a year doing so. Ms. Rogoff ignored her bottom line and beefed up the staff. And what a staff it was. Hopfinger, Coyne, Medred, Burke, along with other seasoned journalists.
What did Ms. Rogoff get for her willingness to dump millions of her ex-husband’s cash into a money-losing website? She got a Senate seat. Back in 2010 Ms. Rogoff dedicated her entire all-star staff to the sole task of taking down Joe Miller. And take him down she did in grand fashion. Rogoff is why Lisa Murkowski kept her seat and beat Miller as a write-in candidate.
It is true Mr. Miller gave Ms. Rogoff plenty of rope for her to hang him with but without her seemingly unlimited supply of cash and willingness to abandon journalistic standards and any semblance of fairness, Joe Miller would be sitting in the U.S Senate today.
But not only had Ms. Rogoff become an Alaska kingmaker, she instantly became Washington D.C. swamp creature too by saving Lisa Murkowski’s job.
President Obama had to be thrilled. He eventually rewarded Ms. Rogoff by having dinner at her home while visiting Alaska. Ms. Murkowski then rewarded Mr. Obama by saving his signature piece of legislation, Obamacare. Welcome to the swamp life Washington D.C. is so famous for. In the swamp money talks and there is a whole lot of back scratching going on.
Alice Rogoff’s work as kingmaker was just getting started back in 2010. Her next big play was to spend $34 million for a newspaper worth only a fraction of that. Hey but what’s a few million here, a few million there, when you were married to one of the richest guys on the planet.
Ms. Rogoff took her $34 million dollar paper and used it to help create the Unity Ticket comprised of like-minded leftists, Bill Walker and Byron Mallott. Ms. Rogoff picked up where she left off targeting Joe Miller but this time she had her sights set on incumbent Gov. Sean Parnell.
She printed too many columns and news stories to count hyping a National Guard scandal Mr. Parnell had very little to do with. But it was the only thing Ms. Rogoff had that came close to resembling dirt on the guy so she ran with it. It worked. And oddly enough the day after the election the daily flood of National Guard stories that were apparently so important to ADN readers magically and suddenly disappeared. Poof! They were gone forever. It was the single most transparent journalistic hit job I’ve seen on a local level.
The free-market has neutered Alice Rogoff and her role as Alaska kingmaker is over. She spent millions propping up the Alaska Dispatch website, another $34 million buying the Anchorage Daily News and according to court proceedings the paper still owes another $21 million she says she can’t pay. Man that’s a lot of dough! Credit Ms. Rogoff for being so dedicated to her ideology.
In the end Ms. Rogoff can take comfort in knowing her short stint as kingmaker allowed her to buy a U.S Senate seat, a governorship, and by saving the career of Lisa Murkowski she saved Obamacare.
All it cost her was abandoning a few journalistic standards, integrity, and fairness, and tens of millions of dollars lost and another $21 million in debt. You would think swamp rules dictate all that would earn her at least one more shot at a dinner with Barack Obama.
Dan Fagan is a former reporter for KTUU, and columnist for the Anchorage Daily News. He also taught at UAA as an adjunct journalism professor and he hosted a radio show for many years on KFQD. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.