The sale of the state’s largest newspaper “has resonated across the state’s media and political landscape. It is a momentous acquisition.”
Those quoted words are what the Daily News-Miner published in this spot in April 2014 upon the purchase of the Anchorage Daily News by the owners of the Alaska Dispatch, which was then only an online news source.
And those words are again valid following the approved sale this week of the Alaska Dispatch News, the renamed Anchorage paper, to a group led by the Binkley family of Fairbanks and including Arctic Sounder Publisher Jason Evans.
We wish the new owners the best of luck as they assume operation of the Dispatch News, which was on a financial death spin that had been forestalled only by an influx of $1 million by the Binkley group last month as it made its play to buy the ailing news organization out of bankruptcy.
That action also gave the group prominence during the bankruptcy proceedings, which on Monday resulted in a judge’s approval of the sale. No other potential buyers existed; it was approve the sale to the Binkley group or shut down the paper.
Alaska would have been be ill-served if its largest news organization had been allowed to go out of business.
The Alaska Dispatch News, as noted here in 2014, is full of Alaskans working hard to tell the stories of their fellow Alaskans and to report on issues affecting the state. The grand vision of now-former owner Alice Rogoff to expand that reach didn’t work out as she had hoped, however, and should be remembered as a lesson.
The best thing now is for the newspaper to look ahead. For its employees, that won’t be easy as the new owners take actions to improve the company’s precarious financial situation.
It also won’t be easy for the new owners. The judge presiding over the bankruptcy proceedings expressed that belief in court Monday.
The Binkley family, well known in our part of the state, is certainly keen for a challenge and has deep roots in Alaska that could be helpful in finding success. The Fairbanks family has a century of riverboating experience in Alaska through five generations and owns and operates the Riverboat Discovery and Gold Dredge 8, two of the top visitor attractions in the Fairbanks region.
John Binkley, vice president of the family business, is well known in the Alaska political and business worlds, two points that could come in handy when running a business reliant in large part on advertising revenue.
Mr. Binkley’s background in politics is plentiful: He is a former state legislator representing the Bethel area and ran for governor in 2006, finishing second to Sarah Palin in the Republican primary election, and he was considered for appointment to the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by then-Sen. Frank Murkowski, who had just won election as Alaska governor. On the business side, and in addition to his role in the family business, he is president of the Alaska Cruise Association and a member of the Alaska Railroad board of directors.
Alaskans, and other media outlets, should hope the new owners do succeed. A strong newspaper in the state’s largest city is vital.
Three years ago the News-Miner concluded its welcome editorial to Ms. Rogoff with these words:
“This is one of those prominent points on the timeline of Alaska media, up there with such events as the 1992 end of the great Anchorage newspaper war that saw the Daily News triumph over the Anchorage Times … These are interesting and fast-moving times in the media industry, but the challenge remains the same as ever — to serve readers well.”
That remains true today.
— Fairbanks Daily News-Miner