Sunday, December 14, 2008

Rural Alaska gets shorted on the news again, as Anchorage Daily News drops delivery to the bush

Add to the list of metropolitan newspapers that will no longer claim statewide circulation the one with the largest territory, the Anchorage Daily News. After Sunday, Dec. 28, the McClatchy Co. paper will no longer use air freight to ship about 1,500 copies of the paper to communities that are off the road system, places known in Alaska as "the bush." (Encarta map)

"Most communities served by air will lose service," reports Jay Barrett of Alaska Public Radio, quoting a Daily News executive as saying "air freight costs are just too high to continue the service . . . $25,000 a month." Air will still be used to ship copies to the large, outlying towns of Fairbanks (top of map) and Valdez (center) and the state capital of Juneau (lower right). Oil companies already pay to ship coipies to Prudhoe Bay, at the north end of the vast state.

Pat Branson, who works at the senior center on Kodiak Island (lower left corner), which will lose service, told Barrett, "We can get certain excerpts of the paper online, but it's not having the paper in your hand. There's a big difference." The paper has an online PDF subscription for $10 a month. Click here to listen to Barrett's story.

In yesterday's Daily News, Editor Pat Dougherty announced more cutbacks, in size, sections, news and features. "The bright spot for the Daily News is that modest decreases in print readership have been more than offset by increases in online readers. The result is that our total audience is growing -- something our competitors in TV and radio can't say -- and our share of the market is larger than ever," Dougherty writes. "But unlike readership, online revenues have not increased as fast as print revenues have fallen."

Apparently believing that misery loves company, Dougherty reports, "Morris Communications, owner of the Juneau, Kenai, Homer and Eagle River papers, the Alaska Journal of Commerce, KFQD and five other Anchorage radio stations, as well as Alaska magazine, is in danger of defaulting on its loans by spring." (Read more) Alaska Newspapers Inc., which publishes six weeklies in the state, eliminated its field reporters about two years ago and does most of its reporting from Anchorage.

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