Sunday, September 1, 2013

A transition at the News-Miner, a loss to the state ...

Sometimes I don't get to the papers for a few days and miss something important.  This is one of those times. On Wednesday Dermot Cole wrote a piece announcing that he is leaving the News-Miner and moving over to the Alaska Dispatch.  Maybe when I get over to the Dispatch I will find a similar announcement there, but I don't go there as often anymore.

Personally I think this is a loss for the News-Miner, Fairbanks and the state as a whole.  In my opinion, the News-Miner probably is the best hard news source in the state right now from a number of perspectives -- oil, mining, fiscal policy, to name a few.

Following in the footsteps of some before him -- Rena Delbridge comes immediately to mind -- Matt Buxton certainly is one of the top three, and in fact may be the best, hard news state political reporter right now.  (The AP's Becky Bohrer and, somewhat surprisingly given her age and newness to the job, APRN's Alexandra Gutierrez are the other two.) To a certainty, Matt is the best twitterer.  And, week in and out, Rod Boyce writes the most practical and insightful editorials in the state.

But, as a reader, one of the things that makes the News-Miner work best is Dermot.  Certainly, Dermot is more to the left on some issues than me and, thinking back, it is possible that I disagree with him more than I agree with him.  But Dermot forces me to think, long and hard, about the issues on which I disagree with him and, always, without exception, I -- and the views I express on these pages and elsewhere -- are the better for having been made to do so.

More importantly, the total mix of the News-Miner is the better for it.  It gathers together in one place the hard reporting of Matt Buxton, the reasoned opinions of Rod Boyce and the important insights that Dermot brings to bear.  While I have no clue about the inner workings of the News-Miner, from a reader's perspective having all three in one place somehow makes the total product bigger -- and better -- than the mere sum of the individual components.

I know that the Dispatch brain trust will argue that those same talents will transfer seamlessly to Dermot's new, on-line home.  But, to me, they are wrong.

The Dispatch is not a balanced organization.  At one time, when Rena Delbridge and, following her, Patty Epler, were there, the Dispatch had a strong state economic and political news team to match its strong editorial bent.  Somewhat like the News-Miner has been to this point, it was a one stop shop where hard, insightful news was matched with hard, insightful commentary.

But now, what state economic and political news there is in the Dispatch is mostly fluff and even that comes with a palpable ideological bent.  The result is a sense that rather than hard news, readers are just being handed a "reporter's" own particular bias wrapped in a package that merely has the word "news" in front of it.

In short, there are no hard state political and economic reporters at the Dispatch, just a series of commentators.  I can get that a lot of places -- Fox "News" comes to mind for one.  The state isn't the better for it.

I will miss Dermot at the News-Miner.  I am sure I will still read him and be challenged by him, but it won't be the same.  The package will be different and in this case at least, that is important.