SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Alaska in the Spotlight
By Dave Kiffer


September 10, 2007
Monday AM

Ketchikan, Alaska - Alaska has been in the national media lately and - for a change - it was nothing about a Bridge to Nowhere/Somewhere/Anywhere.

First, National Geographic did its "once a decade" hit and run visit to the Tongass National Forest earlier this summer.

jpg Dave Kiffer

Seems like every ten years that august magazine sends a writer/photog up our way for an "update."

And each time I see the Tongass on the cover, I cringe.

It's always a good news/bad news kind of thing.

The good news is that the photos will be great.

Close ups of whales, bears and waterfalls and maybe a cruise ship or three clogging Tongass Narrows. Always at least one great shot for the screen saver!

The bad news is that - unfortunately - the story will always be the same.

In fact, it's hard to tell if the story is about "the Tongass" in 1970, 1980, 1990 or 2000 because the "facts" as presented never seem to change.

On one side of the debate are "timber beast yahoos" and on the other side are "environmental wackos." There's no middle ground for the rest of us. We don't even exist.

That's how National Geo - a magazine which I always enjoy (except for the Tongass hooey) - prefers to see things, a black-and-white battle to the death that never ends.

This current story is same old, same old.

People screaming about not enough timber getting cut, other people screaming about the last old growth tree in the world coming down.

Sound and fury signifying, well, signifying nothing more than what National Geo believes to be the common discourse here, decade after decade after decade.

Just once, wouldn't you like to read a story about the Tongass in which the middle ground is featured? How about a National Geographic cover story that posits the idea that the Tongass is big enough to have both wilderness and logging?

Not in my lifetime, I guess.

Most certainly not in National Geographic's, which is pushing 120 years now. That would make it a little less than "old growth" but certainly old enough to know better when it comes to accurate journalism, or even "ground truthing" for that matter.

Secondly, Alaska got a nod during some of the recent presidential hopeful press coverage (isn't it November of 2008, yet?!?!?)

It seems that one of the candidates (no names, but suffice it to say that the candidate was previously married to a president. Oh, what the heck. It WAS Barbara Bush.) said in essence that she had spent some time in Alaska and had cleaned a fish and that made her qualified to deal with Congress.

Oaaaakaaaay. Maybe the less said about that the better.

Finally, Alaska also gets a big glorious "shout out" in the new Simpsons' movie.

(plot spoiler alert!!! Do not read further if you haven't seen the movie!!!!) (I've always wanted to say that!!!)

Homer screws up again and the family is forced to flee the friendly confines (a little too friendly, thanks to the EPA - oops plot spoiler-plot spoiler-plot spoiler!!!!) of Springfield.

Homer suggests they move to Alaska because "no one cares how fat or drunk you are there!" Clearly that fits Homer's definition of Paradise!

The family then hightails it north.

No, they don't end up in Homer, Alaska. No sitting around the fire and chewing the fat and "leaving the light on" with Tom Bodett for this movie. He probably wanted too much moolah for a cameo.

But when the family crosses the border into Alaska, a smiling border guard hands them each "$1,000" and explains that the state gives each resident $1,000 so no one will complain while the oil companies ravage our pristine state. Fair enough.

They end up in some unnamed wide spot in the dog sled path (the bar is called Eski-Moe's!!). Homer busies himself fetching firewood, while Bart busies himself clapping loudly and causing avalanches to swoop down on Homer.

There's even a scene in the bar in which Homer is playing a video game called "Grand Theft Walrus."

But eventually they must leave the "paradise" and return home (in order to save their beloved Springfield - plot spoiler-plot spoiler!).

So much for Homer's "paradise."

But I suspect Homer will still get to collect his permanent fund dividend. I'm sure he's still got a PO box in Alaska (in the back room at Eski-Moe's) for that very eventuality.

I was relating the Alaska-Simpsons' movie connection to a friend later.

"They should have entered Alaska on the 'Bridge to Nowhere,'" he said with a smile. "That would have been cool!"

Maybe he's on to something. Time to give Matt Groening a call.

And I think I'll drop a note to National Geographic too, while I'm at it.

As usual with Alaska, there's always more to the story!

Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Dave at

Dave Kiffer ©2007

Publish A Letter
        Read Letters/Opinions

Write the Editor

Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska