Monday, November 02, 2009

Story on caribou slaughter in Alaska shows rural reporting shouldn't be done by remote

Alaska Dispatch reporter Jill Burke's three-part series about a senseless caribou slaughter near the remote town of Point Hope has provided an excellent example of rural journalism at work. After ATV-riding hunters left 37 of the animals to rot on the tundra, state troopers arrested eight suspects in connection with the slaughter. An Animal Planet story advancing the Nov. 30 trial is bringing national attention to the story.

Burke's reporting "speaks to how hard it can be to tell stories anywhere in rural America," Al Tompkins of The Poynter Institute writes. "The only way to report this story is to with boots-on-the-ground reporting, which is increasingly difficult as news staffs and budgets shrink." After interviewing Burke, Tompkins writes: "Her answers reminded me how similar rural Alaska is to so many rural and remote parts of America -- undercovered and misunderstood, especially by [news] media."

Burke said, "Urban Alaskans think rural Alaskans should be treated like everyone else because Alaska is a pretty accepting, multi-ethnic society. Rural Alaskans think they should be treated differently, and preferentially, when it comes to fish and wildlife because they need wild foods to live." Rural Alaskans are mainly Alaska Natives, but have pretty much the reactions to reporters as city folks: "I found people fairly accommodating in Point Hope," Burke said. "Some were leery, but I run into people who are leery of reporters even here in Anchorage." (Read more)

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