Senate battle draws interest from national, international media

Posted: Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Alaska's write-in ballot count for the U.S. Senate has attracted numerous national media, and now has attracted Al-Jazeera Network's English language channel to Juneau to watch the race between incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Republican nominee and tea-party favorite Joe Miller be decided in a painstakingly detailed count process.

"What is going on in Alaska is reflective of the national mood and the national conversation, in so far as you have the tea party and the anti-government movement, and the exasperation on the right with government spending that doesn't really correspond with the people's requests in terms of entitlements, Medicare and government services," said Nick Spicer, a correspondent for the network's English language channel.

Spicer said the trip to Juneau by the team was prompted by a column Washington Post's Anne Applebaum about the Alaska Senate race.

"There's a hypocrisy in the tea party that she sees reflected in the Alaska debate, and in this particular race," Spicer said.

The Al-Jazeera team, which includes an American correspondent, a Canadian producer and a Danish photographer, is based in Washington, D.C. It's on the lookout for stories that will be of interest all over the world, and found it especially compelling in Sarah Palin's home state.

"Every country has that kind of hypocrisy, but because Sarah has become the leader of the tea-party movement it adds a little extra spice to the story," he said.

Add that to the Sunday night debut of the former governor's new reality show, and the Al-Jazeera team was on its way to Alaska.

Lt. Gov. Craig Campbell, monitoring the write-in count over the weekend, said he liked the idea of Al-Jazeera getting to see the professionalism with which a race even between two bitter rivals is being conducted.

Having them come to Juneau shows the broad interest in how the democracy process is played out all over the world," he said.

"It's pretty interesting that Al-Jazeera would come to Alaska, because we're a small state, but this is of national interest," he said.

So far in the week-long write-in count, Juneau has hosted TV crews from CNN and Fox News, and reporters from the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and others, as well as several Alaska news staffs.

"The Miller camp and the Murkowski camp have diametrically opposing views on who they want to win, but they're conducting themselves with professionalism and courtesy, and I think that's a good example for the people of the world to see," Campbell said.

Spicer said what's happening in Juneau is in marked contrast to some of the other stories they've been sent to cover.

"I was in Ukraine for the Orange Revolution where there was a strong possibility of violence," he said. "The people thought the secret police was going to fire, we didn't know what was going to happen," he said.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or

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