Geldhof's background needed to be reported

Letters to the editor

Posted: Tuesday, December 19, 2006

For some time, the Juneau Empire has been running stories about Juneau access and the Lynn Canal Highway. The coverage nearly always includes the background and perceived conflicts of road supporters. Nevertheless, the Empire rarely reveals the background and agendas of road opponents. The most recent article about John MacKinnon is an example of this type of coverage.

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Four years ago, Department of Transportation Deputy Commissioner John MacKinnon addressed potential conflicts by removing himself from any decisions related to Juneau road access. He consulted with the attorney general's office to ensure that everything he was doing was above board.

Yet, without a scrap of evidence or proof, based on the judgment of "Joe Geldhof, Juneau attorney," the Empire article implied that MacKinnon is unethical. This is the worst kind of character assassination.

Rich Poor, in defending MacKinnon in the article, is described as a former transportation official and Juneau access road advocate. Nothing wrong with that.

But who is Geldhof, the Empire's oft-quoted expert on road access? He is treated as an authoritative source yet regularly identified only as a "Juneau attorney." The newspaper leads the reader to believe Geldhof is an unbiased observer who merely has Juneau's best interests at heart.

Geldhof, in fact, is paid to represent a ferry union that has publicly opposed the Juneau road project. He therefore has a personal and financial interest in killing road access. You can quote whomever you want in your articles, but road opponents must be held to the same standard as road supporters. Their agendas should be equally scrutinized.

The road controversy will no doubt rage on ad nauseam, but the public is not well served by articles that feed conspiracy theorists, unjustly impugn the character of public servants, or selectively omit background information that is critical to the reader.

Win Gruening


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