Consider We Alaskans magazine an old friend who's been out touch for a few years – back now to bend your ear with more tales of life in the 49th state.
The Sunday magazine was removed from the Daily News 14 years ago after a 20-year run as an integral feature of paper's package of weekend sections. It returns this week as one of several upgrades to the paper, following its purchase by Alice Rogoff, owner of Alaska Dispatch News. Back to the future?
As before, We Alaskans aims to use storytelling by talented Alaska writers to foster a greater sense of unity among the far-flung residents of the largest state in the union, whether they live in Klawock, Kwethluk or in between. Time has passed, but the mission remains about the same, as longtime We Alaskans editor George Bryson described it in We Alaskans final issue – until now -- in July 2000:
"Taken together, the stories and photos seem to coalesce into a portrait of who we are and where we live – a sense of place that will never be confused with anyplace else in America. For that, all Alaskans can be proud."
And at its best, We Alaskans can take readers to place few will ever visit and leave an indelible memory. Former Daily News writer Doug O'Harra recalled a particularly sharp one after he was sent to Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska with assignments to profile an environmental activist who operated a small store at a ruined cannery and participate in a caving expedition.
"While on the island, one of our subjects offered to take us to an islet that contained a mystery. Little visited, known only to a few locals, the jungled spruce forest just off the beach contained what may be the most fabulous monument I'd ever seen in my life. It was an abandoned totem pole — weathered and rotting — standing alone in the rain forest right where a Native Alaskan had carved it a lifetime earlier. Seeing that pole in its natural cultural setting, moldering away in secret, gargoyle eyes and mute lips, made the hair stand up on my head. It was weird, wonderful, eerie and disconcerting. Like we were not alone."
Weird and wonderful. If We Alaskans can deliver a steady diet of that, we'll consider it a success.
Thanks for reading.
Mike Campbell, Alaska Dispatch News
Cover by Pamela Dunlap-Shohl, Alaska Dispatch News