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State pays thousands for upbeat tabloid

Posted: Friday, November 19, 2004

ANCHORAGE - How much is 12 pages of good news worth to the governor of Alaska?

Hard to say, but at least $23,993.

That's what the state spent to print and distribute about 146,000 copies of "Breaking New Trails," a relentlessly upbeat publication that looks like a tabloid newspaper and was inserted in copies of the Daily News, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner and the Juneau Empire last weekend.

It's coming soon to most other sizable communities from Ketchikan to Nome.

State and city administrations have long used such advertising to promote their successes and programs, and to communicate with constituencies. Becky Hultberg, Gov. Frank Murkowski's spokeswoman, said the governor's office decided the second anniversary of his 2002 election was an appropriate moment.

A mandatory expense caption in the Murkowski tab reports it "was released by the Office of the Governor at a cost of $.06 per copy to provide information to Alaskans on the Murkowski administration's efforts to improve education, create jobs and protect our families and communities."

The 6 cents a copy figure covers only the $8,764 the state paid the Daily News to print it, Hultberg said. When the costs of inserting it into newspapers ($12,194), shipping fees (about $1,200) and correcting a design error ($1,835) are added, the per-copy cost rises to about 16 cents.

That doesn't include the time employees spent preparing information and writing the stories.

A story on the front page features a quote from a Teamsters union official touting mining, missile defense and construction work in the state. "We're enjoying a very good year, and we expect it to continue over the next couple of years," union secretary treasurer Mike Kenny says, in a statement taken from an interview originally broadcast on an Alaska Public Radio Network show.

Some articles put a favorable spin on unpopular decisions: Williams, for example, notes Murkowski "eliminated the Longevity Bonus for a special group of Alaska seniors and created a less costly aid package for needy seniors."

Photos of Murkowski appear 10 times, including one image of his Ketchikan High School varsity basketball team. That's the governor at the front left, with a full head of dark hair.

Hultberg said "Breaking New Trails" is deliberately positive. Controversies like the governor's veto of the Longevity Bonus program or ethical lapses among his appointees "have been well-covered in the media," she said, adding that the tabloid was produced to showcase "the positive things."



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