Alaska newspaper gets new name, new mission

Alice Rogoff

Some of you will be understandably surprised as you pick up your Sunday newspaper. It looks similar, but the name has changed. The Anchorage Daily News has now become Alaska Dispatch News.

For those of you who also read us online, you’ve watched over the past 12 days as we combined the old Daily News website with our online-only news source, Alaska Dispatch. As of this weekend, we are known as Alaska Dispatch News in print too. The name "ADN," by which many people have come to call the Anchorage Daily News over the years, lives on at adn.com.

For decades, the Anchorage Daily News has been a leading source of news across Alaska, its reporters crafting beautiful features about the people and places in our state, uncovering corruption and winning awards and praise for their hard work. They have helped shape the debate and kept Alaskans informed through some of the state’s most turbulent times.

Yet the paper’s name never fully conveyed the ambition of serving as a statewide news organization. That’s why we have adopted the name Alaska Dispatch News. It makes clear what we are about: news, features and voices by and for and about Alaskans.

When our editor, Tony Hopfinger, was naming a startup news website in 2008, he resurrected “Alaska Dispatch,” the name of a now-defunct newspaper in Southeast Alaska that existed at the turn of the last century. He chose this name because he understood that Alaska is like one small town. It does not revolve just around Anchorage. Many of the most important and meaningful stories reside far from the largest city, and often local stories in Anchorage are of interest to those from elsewhere who come to the "big city." We always think of Anchorage as the state's largest village.

The Dispatch name served us well for our first six years, in a sense summing up our mission. Now Alaska Dispatch News will do the same for our merged company and for this newspaper.

Many of you know the ownership of the paper changed hands in early May, when I bought it from the California-based McClatchy newspaper chain and announced that I’d be combining my Alaska Dispatch staff with the employees of the Anchorage Daily News. Since then, you may have noticed we have more Alaska news every day. That is no accident, as our mission is focused on expanding news coverage, both in Anchorage and across the state.

To that end, one initiative in the works is to expand our footprint. We already have reporters based in Mat-Su, Fairbanks and Juneau, but we now want to add reporters to some of the state’s hub towns. Our first rural Alaska bureau will be opening shortly in Bethel. We are also eyeing Nome, Barrow and other towns where we can base reporters. Meanwhile, we are working on opening a bureau in Washington, D.C., so we can track the federal decisions that affect so many Alaskans.

You may have also noticed that we've chosen to prioritize state and Anchorage news stories on the front page of the newspaper and website. And we are now reporting more stories ourselves rather than relying on other media such as The Associated Press. Most visibly, as of today, we’ve resurrected We Alaskans, the highly popular Sunday feature magazine that the Anchorage Daily News published for two decades before discontinuing it in 2000.

A few other changes to note: The Life section that appears in today’s paper will be renamed "Culture" and start running on Fridays next week. We believe the new name better reflects that section's content, from food to art to features to travel. We are moving the Play entertainment section from Fridays to Thursdays starting this week, which will give readers more time to plan for the weekend. And we expect to make more changes to the A and B sections of the newspaper as we step up our rural reporting and expand our business coverage.

Another important change I want to highlight is that we no longer intend to publish unsigned editorials or endorsements. Instead, we've chosen to dedicate that space to more of your opinions and perspectives. Our feeling is that as long as we strive to balance all of the many, competing opinions over time, we will be helping you reach your own, better-informed conclusions.

Whether we're covering the proposed Knik Arm bridge, a ballot initiative, cultural matters or groups of candidates, we see our job as providing you the best analysis on which to base your choices. We aim to supply you with more information and many perspectives -- not tell you what to think. Just as important is for you to become a voice in our state and share your thoughts with others. We encourage you to share your own opinions and to write letters and comments. The livelier and smarter the debate becomes, the more people will participate in it. We need that for our civic society to function as well as it should.

This is the start of a conversation we hope to have with you for a very long time. Thank you for allowing us into your thoughts. And please register to vote if you haven't already. The deadline is today for the Aug. 19 primary.

Alice Rogoff is the owner and publisher of Alaska Dispatch News. She can be reached at alice@alaskadispatch.com.