Almost all local almost all the time

Posted: Sunday, June 10, 2001

Indulge me just this once ... more. I received a letter from a reader who decided to cancel her subscription, citing the absence of coverage of a Coast Guard training exercise and the imbalance between local and non-local stories on the front pages of the Empire.

"The majority of your front-page coverage focuses on worldwide news," the reader said. "I live in Juneau and want to primarily know what is happening in my community, not the rest of the world."

I take a personal interest in cancellations. It's not that I want you to like the Empire. My job is to help fulfill your very reasonable expectations that the Empire will be your primary source for local news.

The letter writer perceived that we failed. Everyone's opinion is valid, but in reality, the overwhelming majority of the Empire's front-page articles and photos are local.

The letter arrived about the time I had to do the monthly Newsroom report for May. When I look back over those 27 editions, I find ample evidence of the extent to which our paper truly is community-based.

May's Empire front pages included local, non-legislative stories about:

Faculty solidarity with an Auke Bay Elementary School teacher battling cancer; Assembly agreement on flightseeing; traffic planning for Egan Drive; arrival of the season's first big cruise ship; Harborview Elementary School's reading program; Jean and George Rogers' recovery from a house fire; Legends speakers Rocky Bleier and John Stoessinger; and a Tlingit grandmother's long road to a college diploma.

Our front pages reported the UAS commencement; a Mendenhall Valley apartment fire; a local banjo player's recovery from a brain aneurysm; the blessing of the local commercial fishing fleet; a local rider's bike marathons on behalf of AIDS prevention; program problems at Gastineau Human Services; Duke basketball star Carlos Boozer's visit to Juneau; student participants in the Auto Show; and Renaissance theater at JDHS.

We reported on honors for a ferry crew; the operator of the city's recycling center; two cruise ship spills; JDHS student art awards; the volunteer clean-up of Juneau trash; progress toward a Southeast electrical intertie; tax equalization for aviation companies; ferry repair delays; and delays in completing the Mendenhall pedestrian bridge.

We told you about teacher salary negotiations; cemetery ceremonies honoring slain law enforcement officers; the struggles of a family with a baby battling cancer; funding progress for a local ice rink; the Southeast Transportation Plan; the indictment of a hearing aid merchant; a non-Native's adoption of Tlingit-tradition basket weaving; a public meeting on the city transportation plan; attempts to maintain a recycling program; and preservation of historic land at Excursion Inlet.

The front pages included stories about local child-care issues; Juneau Youth Services funding shortfalls; efforts to prevent Fetal Alcohol Syndrome; interpreting the 2000 Census; senior housing's move from St. Ann's to Wildflower Court; passage (at last) of a garbage bear ordinance; an ecologist's 35 years spent studying Juneau's wetlands; developments in logging the Tongass; and how locals pressed for Medicaid coverage for cancer victims.

We reported a the property tax rate cut; the rescue of passengers and crew from a charter boat; the effect of herring shortages on the salmon derby; a record-breaking power lifter's regimen; the search for heliport locations; Goldbelt's struggles and progress; the long-term herring outlook; the threat aphids pose to spruce trees; a "Strings at the Glacier" concert; and revival of Tlingit language studies.

There were page-one stories about bear-proof containers; Memorial Day ceremonies; a Mount Roberts avalanche; a hatchery boost to the regional economy; a design for an ice rink; a near miss at the airport two years ago; the resignation of wastewater plant superintendent; new rules for whale-watching; profiles of JDHS graduating seniors; and a March of Dimes family feature.

The rest of our page one space in May went to legislative, national and worldwide news but there was more local coverage on page three and in Sports, Business Spotlight, Neighbors, Empire Outdoors, the arts and entertainment coverage we call Preview and Weekend Best Bets and even in Channels, the TV guide where we offer "What's Up With That?".

We may have missed a Coast Guard training exercise, but we regularly report on Coast Guard activities. We don't get everything and we don't get everything right, but we're a good source for local news. And we enjoy hearing from you.

Managing Editor Steve Reed can be reached at streed@

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