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Alaskans Deserve Better
By Governor Frank H. Murkowski


May 29, 2005

Reporters, apparently bored with trying to follow the substantive work that was going on with the special session, finally took to filming each other trying to get into the Governor's office to attend a meeting.  They made themselves the story.

Alaskans deserve a capital press corps that informs and educates the public about important policy actions of the government.  In this special session there were major stories of which the public should have been informed.  Just a few examples:

- How does public employee retirement system reform stop the bleeding, and why do we have a $5.6 billion unfunded liability? 
- Will the reform of workers' compensation law lower rates by creating a better market for competition between insurance companies, and will it make more jobs available for Alaskans?
- What effect did the involvement of outside labor groups have on the Legislature's effort to approve a pension system and workers' compensation reform laws?

Instead of these and other substantive stories, reporters focused their considerable free time during the special session on minor bickering among legislators and titillating gossip about who was mad at whom. . I do not believe that any governor should have to respond to unprofessional antics, whether they be personally insults, gossip in the guise of reporting, or rude behavior at a press conference.

Like any other public official, I have an obligation to communicate with the public about the work of my administration.  I have dealt with local and national press on a near-daily basis for more than 24 years. I am used to tough questions and expect good reporters to ask them. So, my complaint is not with the press in general, but with the unprofessional behavior of certain individuals.

It's time for the media to stop reporting on trivial events and look at the larger picture.  Alaska is in a very strong financial position compared to other states.  We have no sales or income tax.  We have $4.5 billion in the Constitutional Budget Reserve and Permanent Fund Earnings Reserve.  There is $30 billion in the Permanent Fund.

Over the past two years, jobs in Alaska are up.  Education funding is up.  Energy prices are up.  Mining is up.  Fishing is up.  Exports from Alaska are up.  We are dealing daily with three gasline proposals.  We are hopeful for ANWR-at long last it's on the horizon.  We have the largest capital budget in years, which will allow us to catch up on our infrastructure backlog such as needed school repairs.  The recent legislative session produced many important, positive results.

These are serious issues for serious people.  Alaskans have every right to know about these matters, and Alaska's media outlets can and should be playing an even-handed role in conveying this vital information to an eager public.

Some, even most, media companies are doing a very good job for the public.  I will continue to make time for serious reporters who focus on issues and policy and not personality.  The gossip columnists however, can continue to film each other outside of my office door should that continue to be their priority.


Frank H. Murkowski is the Governor of Alaska.


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