Murkowski: Media not focusing on achievements

Posted: Friday, May 27, 2005

Gov. Frank Murkowski continued his row with the media Thursday when he criticized reporters during a Fairbanks news conference for not writing about his administration's success.

"This is a message to the media and I would like them to pick up on it because I think Alaskans are entitled to the real story," Murkowski said.

According to the governor, the media are not reporting that the Alaska Legislature, which adjourned Wednesday, was either hard-working or a success.

"The important thing is to measure the accomplishments associated with this administration and this Legislature," Murkowski said.

He concluded the conference with this comment: "I'll be working with you to communicate that appropriately to Alaskans."

Murkowski was in Fairbanks for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Alaska Railroad Depot, and meeting with a new task force to fight the proposed near-closure of Eielson Air Force Base.

The governor has taken several opportunities in recent days to express his views about the press.

Last week, tensions rose in a news conference in which reporters asked questions about an election bill allowing "soft money" contributions and contradicting language written on Murkowski's Web site about the state's public employee retirement system.

"The guy makes statements at a news conference and then contradicts his own statements," said Bob Tkacz, freelance writer and publisher of Laws for the SEA. "And when you ask him to clarify it like any responsible journalist, he jumps on you."

Several days later, the Capitol press corps grew suspicious when Murkowski conducted an interview with only three of its members: from The Associated Press, Alaska Public Radio Network and Anchorage's ABC television affiliate.

Some journalists not invited tried to enter the governor's office during the meeting but were asked to leave. Tkacz was escorted out of the foyer by a security guard.

Murkowski spokeswoman Becky Hultberg said sometimes the governor prefers to conduct smaller interviews in relaxed settings. Future news conferences will be open to all journalists, she said.

While a guest last week on the Dan Fagen show, a radio program broadcast out of Anchorage, the governor said he invited reporters he thought were objective.

Murkowski would not say which journalists are not balanced. But he told Fagen the media favor comments from labor unions when covering bills such as the workers' compensation overhaul.

Tkacz said the governor is using a classic technique to blame the media when things don't go right politically.

"They create their own problems and then they expect you to compliment them when they solve them," Tkacz said.

• Andrew Petty can be reached at andrew.petty@juneauempire.com



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