Opinion: Enthusiastic about the Empire

Local news and opinion coverage surpassing larger cities elsewhere

  • By Gregg Erickson
  • Wednesday, April 19, 2023 10:37am
  • Opinion

Many don’t realize how lucky we are in Juneau to have the Empire. I travel visiting grandchildren across the western U.S. and for business. Wherever I go I check out the local newspaper I haven’t found a community even ten times Juneau’s population with a daily newspaper matching the Empire in coverage of community news, local sports, homegrown culture and statewide politics.

I’m a Juneau resident, but spend much of my time in Bend, Oregon, a fast-growing metropolitan area with almost 200,000 residents. Bend has a good daily, the Bulletin, but its average column-inches of local stories is only two-thirds the Empire’s; its statewide political coverage is of lower quality and a third of the Empire’s column-inches.

Portland’s Oregonian, despite its honored history and a market 75 times the size of Juneau, often has fewer pages than the Empire. Missoula, Montana, where a daughter and two of my grandchildren reside, has the daily Missoulian, owned by an outfit publishing papers across the state. Rarely does it have more than one local story. I could name dozens of communities in California, Nevada, Washington, Idaho and Montana where, if it exists at all, the quality of local and statewide newspaper coverage is inferior to Juneau.

A big role in the Empire’s success is its newsroom Can anyone find as productive and enthusiastic a political reporter as the Empire’s Mark Sabbatini? His reporting on the Legislature, the Permanent Fund Corporation and the Dunleavy administration is essential reading for anyone interested in Alaska politics. Clarise Larson’s byline appears almost daily on nuts-and-bolts stories on our local economy, tourism and government. If you are in the visitor industry or concerned about the tourist impact on Juneau’s livability, her coverage of tourism controversies is indispensable. Stories by Jonson Kuhn cover not just the big high school games, but also the Coast Guard, Juneau education issues and search for a new school superintendent.

I challenge anyone to find a local paper the runs essay on local ecology, let alone one as learned and engaging as Mary F. Willson’s weekly “On the Trails.” I never skip her Wednesday columns. Ditto Jane Hale’s literate first-person column on gender, social mores and her personal history column, “Coming Out,” and Win Gruening’s honestly conservative essays.

To fellow Juneauites I say let’s support the Empire and count our blessings.

• Gregg Erickson is an economic consultant with offices in Juneau and Bend, Oregon.

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