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Blogger ignites firestorm in Dillingham, leaves her job

Kyle Hopkins

When Eileen Goode launched a blog last fall about her new life as a public radio reporter and news director in Dillingham, she started with a few jokes about drinking and fishing and incest.

"I love living in a place where I can be treated as a respectable personage simply by dint of being sober, employed and totally uninterested in having sex with relatives or children," she wrote.

Goode figured she was mainly writing for herself and her friends back in New England. Describing this strange new place for her mom, or her sister.

For a long time, she was right. But last week, Goode's adopted Alaska town came across the blog too. Her neighbors weren't laughing, and now Goode is out of a job.

The 28-year-old resigned from KDLG on Monday morning, she said, after a firestorm of outrage over the sometimes serious, sometimes mocking jabs she made at the town over problems like alcoholism and sexual abuse on her personal blog, titled "Chilly Hell" and subtitled "I'm in Dillingham Alaska -- What's Your Excuse?"

In some posts, Goode accused the community of a general failure to acknowledge and deal with its problems.

Shannon Swift, a 21-year-old who grew up in the region and was one of the first to notice the blog, says that's baloney.

"She says she's shedding light on the situation, what we're ignoring and neglecting, but really there's so many people in this region, and in this town especially, that have given their lives to those issues," said Swift, who works summers at the local hospital.

Goode stands by the blog and doesn't plan to take it down. What she said about accountability and alcoholism in Dillingham is true, she said in a phone interview Monday, even if she said it in tasteless ways.

"If we scream at anybody who says it's bad when these things happen, then they're going to just keep happening," she said. "What I said I said in a monumentally stupid way, because all I successfully did was make people madder than inclined to listen to me."

Goode, who says she previously worked as a reporter in Massachusetts, began working for KDLG in December 2007. A public radio station owned by the local school district, KDLG operates out of the high school building and reaches as many as 7,000 listeners in the Bristol Bay region, said station manager Rob Carpenter.

As a reporter and then news director, Goode wrote and edited stories and read the news on the air. When she resigned, she was making just less than $40,000 a year, she said.

Partly out of boredom, she started blogging last year. Unlike many bloggers, Goode didn't write daily updates. She took long breaks from writing, and when she did write, the posts were lengthy, profane and often bizarre stream-of-consciousness essays. Topics ranged from "Battlestar Galactica" to the misery of early morning radio shifts to a surreal 5,000-word rant about whether she should cut her toe off.

"I didn't think that many people were going to read it," Goode said.

That might have held true at first, but it changed last week. By Thursday or Friday, someone had begun circulating an anonymous e-mail quoting the most inflammatory passages.

By 1 p.m. Friday, a copy had reached Goode's inbox too -- forwarded by the mayor, she said.

Carpenter, the station manager, got three dozen unhappy e-mails and phone calls, a landslide for the small public radio station.

In addition to lines describing Dillingham as home to "sexual relations with relatives" and people "passing drunk women around like poorly rolled joints," the most controversial looked back at the death of a 21-year-old EMT the day before Thanksgiving.

Goode wrote that, at the time, she'd been bemoaning the lack of news.

"Is it too much to ask for someone to die tragically?" she asked on her blog. She went on to describe how, soon after, the woman was found outside, freezing, by a skier and never recovered.

Her death was sad but it wasn't a tragedy because it could have been prevented, Goode reasoned on her blog.

"Whatever it is that makes everyone here everyone else's cousin doesn't seem to make people particularly inclined to watch out for the safety of their very intoxicated friends," she wrote.

Candy Miller graduated from high school with Kim McCambly, the woman who died. McCambly was aunt to Miller's stepdaughter.

"How dare she say it wasn't a tragedy," Miller wrote in an e-mail to the Daily News. "When I have to look into my little girl's eyes as she (is) crying for her aunt it's just heart breaking."

"Not everyone in this town drinks or does drugs or commits sexual crimes," Miller wrote. "There are good people here that raise families and work very hard to make a living and support themselves."

Goode said the station manager told her on Friday afternoon that he wanted her off the job. For his part, Carpenter says Goode was never asked to resign.

Either way, many of Goode's former listeners are happy to see her go.

Over the weekend, a man pushed her in a ditch, but later apologized, Goode said. A local bar refused to serve her. On Monday morning, she resigned.

"The first rule of living in a small town is, No. 1, be polite," Goode said. "And I wasn't polite."

See Goode's blog at www.chillyhell.blogspot.com.

Read The Village, the ADN's blog about rural Alaska, at adn.com/thevillage. Twitter updates: twitter.com/adnvillage. Call Kyle Hopkins at 257-4334.

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By KYLE HOPKINS
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