09 April 2007


I generally respect what I hear from Sen. Kim Elton but this particular comment stuck in my craw:

"It just makes sense, given the fact that some people are talking about deficit spending next year, that these programs that are run by the federal government and mandated by the federal government ought to be paid for by the federal government," Elton said.
He's quoted in reference to a decision by his subcommittee to not add funding for the state to takeover some permitting oversight. It stuck in my craw because if potential deficit spending by the state is the issue, perhaps current deficit spending by the federal government should also be considered.

More broadly, though, let's consider what this story says about the state of news reporting in Alaska. There were numerous Senate Finance subcommittees that made numerous decisions about how the state will spend money. Between the two heavyweight news organizations in this state (the ADN and the AP), this is the one story that can be mustered about those decisions (about a week after the decision was made, I think). What about all the attention the Public Safety subcommittee gave to the VPSO program and Trooper recruitment? Anyone want to update us on those decisions?

Conversely, the ADN and the AP might be able to argue that the Finance subcommittee decisions are just a small part of the process and that to report on what they do is to report in media res. Really, they might say, just wait until the final budget comes out and we'll update you on what's different from last year. That might be alright except that to do so would prevent the public from weighing on those decisions.

The larger problem with picking a single issue and writing one scattershot story on it is that it privileges that issue and that particular funding issue over all the many other policy calls that are being made in the subcommittee process. Now, everyone is wondering about who should permit wastewater in the state and almost no one is thinking about the other billions of dollars in the state budget.

If the ADN and the AP are going to use their considerable spotlight to report on Juneau, I'd just ask for a little consistency and continuity of coverage.

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