Last week, the Anchorage Daily News hosted a public event to celebrate the work of two of its recently retired and longest-tenured photographers, Erik Hill and Bob Hallinen. A capacity crowd squeezed into King Street Brewing Co. to take in a pair of career retrospective slideshows that spanned a combined 65 years in Alaska journalism. Hill and Hallinen delighted those in attendance with stories that were funny, nostalgic and poignant, and reminded us of everything we have to celebrate together — the stories we’ve shared, the things we’ve seen, the moments we’ve witnessed and experienced as a community.
A little more than a year ago, all of that came perilously close to an end.
In late summer of 2017, the fate of Alaska’s biggest newspaper looked suddenly uncertain. After three years of ownership as a merged entity that combined the Anchorage Daily News with the online Alaska Dispatch, the paper was in bankruptcy court, and there was no guarantee it would come out the other side as a viable news outlet. Alaska’s most prominent news site could have gone dark. The state’s largest city, and its residents, could have lost their newspaper.
Fortunately, that didn’t happen. A purchase by the Fairbanks-based Binkley Company, run by the family of the same name, provided the paper with a path to continued operations, and the Binkleys made it clear they intended to keep the company alive, not sell it for parts. The cuts necessary to slow the financial losses were painful and difficult, resulting in the departures of many well-known and well-loved members of its staff, but the result was a news organization better able to stand on its own — albeit one still in an uncertain position, whose fate depended entirely on the community it served.
What has happened in the 14 months since has been a testament to what the ADN and Anchorage have been through together, and a heartening sign that our community values what we do. Through all of the turmoil and uncertainty of the last year, our audience — you, the Anchorage and Alaska community — stuck with us. In those months, digital subscriptions have consistently grown as residents recognized the value of local news and pitched in to helped fund it. Online traffic remains strong. ADN.com has continued its dominance as the most widely read news website in the state by a large margin. Across all of our platforms — print, online and mobile — ADN has remained the state’s most prominent news organization. Stabilizing the ADN has taken a lot of hard work by some world-class journalists and news professionals, but in the end, none of that would have been possible without you. You are the reason the ADN is alive today.
That continued support has allowed us to tell your stories and keep our government and other institutions accountable. Essential reporting on Anchorage’s crime epidemic, investigations into issues with rural policing, domestic violence and sexual assault, heartbreaking stories from mothers of children caught up in the opioid epidemic, beautiful photos of wildlife at Potter Marsh or a recipe for the best salmon dip you’ve ever tasted — none of it would have been possible without you.
“The confidence of the community in a paper’s integrity ... is its chief asset," newspaperman William Allen White wrote a century ago. That’s as much the case now as it was when Erik Hill and Bob Hallinen returned from a long day in 1989 documenting the devastation of the Exxon Valdez oil spill to find that the ADN’s “A People in Peril” series chronicling hardships in rural communities had won the Pulitzer Prize. It was true then, as it is now, that a great city and a great state deserve a great newspaper. In 2018, some might dismiss that notion as old-fashioned, but we believe the opposite is true. Your confidence in us is what allows us to tell Alaska’s stories, and for that, we are forever thankful.
The views expressed here are those of the Anchorage Daily News, as expressed by its editorial board, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. Current editorial board members are Ryan Binkley, Andy Pennington, Julia O’Malley, Tom Hewitt and Andrew Jensen. To submit a piece for consideration, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to email@example.com or click here to submit via any web browser.