Monday, February 5, 2007

Fine writing in Fairbanks

Mention of the Fly-By-Night club and its dancing salmon in a recent post brought out a Fairbanks blogger, Nicole, who also misses the Fly-By.

She wrote knowingly of the deep dark winter in Alaska. (Check out the Hope Social Hall on a winter's day, photo above.) Fairbanks Funk, Nicole called it:

Fairbanks Funk is the overwhelming urge Fairbanksans get to move somewhere else. Anywhere else. It strikes as the light decreases in November, increases until December 20, and slowly fades in February.

If you attend a dinner party in Fairbanks during those months, you’re guaranteed to discuss relocating with at least three people. Each of them will have a different utopia in mind and strangely none of the destinations will be tropical. In fact, many in the grip of the funk will come to believe that moving to the ever-cloudy, often rainy Pacific Northwest would provide relief.

In our house, I know it’s set in when the hours my husband spends on leave him red eyed and strangely idealistic. “If we only moved to Olympia,” he says, “We wouldn’t be here. Life would be better.”
Read her sub-zero adventures with two kidlets and her husband TJ from Fairbanks. Good salmon cake recipes, too!

Mourning Molly's passing

I don't know about you, but I've been down in the dumps since the news of Molly Ivins' passing. I feel lonelier without her here on the planet, fighting the good fight, and writing it so damn well.

She came to Alaska, remember? Keynoted the Alaska Press Club a loooong time ago. She told us not to feel shy about reporting on a paper way up in Alaska. Get on a bigger paper, she counseled, and you'll likely bench it more than you get game time. Here, you're out and in the fight, all four quarters.

She was my hero.

They're blogging in the Republic of Ester!

I was mosying around a site called, wondering if anyone in Alaska was doing a hyperlocal site. An Alaska search turned up a blog in Ester, linked to a local newspaper published there. Here's how they describe themselves:
The Republic of Ester is an independent state of mind, characterized by freedom of speech and a willingness to spout off, a lot of art, a lot of mine tailings, piles of recycled stuff, and a love of rousing discussions about politics, science, and bad jokes down at the pub of a Thursday evening.

Pay them a visit at their site. They made me homesick!

Open source journalism: How's that work?

Frankly, the answer is yet to be discovered, but here's a place to check into some musing on it. Jay Rosen has launched a Web site dedicated to open source reporting, called He plans to test out how professionals would work with amateurs to report news. He makes the distinction that these amateur pieces are not op-eds, but the real deal, reporting.

How exactly will that work? He's trying to figure that out now by collecting information on open source reporting, and gearing up for a test story on elections and voting experiences. Check out his Web site. There you can find a short 6-minute video of him talking about his project. And, you can even sign up to be a contributor.

Or, you can listen to a talk he gave at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society last November. The talk was called "open source journalism" and you can find it here. He talks and takes questions on his idea for about an hour and 20 minutes. (I download these into my music player and go walking in the hills, pondering the future of our work.)

One idea that emerges from it is that professional journalists will use amateurs as "smart mob" contributors to their stories. His example was the two or three reporters assigned to cover pharmaceuticals for a newspaper in New Jersey. Your source list could include a "smart mob" of people who work for the pharmaceuticals, spouses of those who work there, former workers there...etc etc. If you could put out a call for this audience to tell you what they know, you would learn more than if you were relying on your traditional sources and yourself to cover the industry.

The reporter rakes in all this info and then starts to work with it. Fact checking and corroboration are a big part of this process, according to Rosen. You may already know of Rosen's New York University Web site, Pressthink.