Cause journalism’s gold medallion: Is it now just sponsored content?



When last year the Anchorage Daily News announced it had received a ProPublica grant to produce a series about the lack of law and order in village Alaska, some knowing observers nodded their heads and said, “They’re going for a Pulitzer.”

The project proposed had the distinct contours of what the Pulitzer committee members like to see: Social justice denied, dramatic and easy-to-tell plot line with gripping vignettes that illustrate a greater problem. A series. A cause to champion and a public policy needle to move.

It was not unlike the series that won the newspaper a Pulitzer just a few years earlier. “People in Peril” focused on rural alcoholism in Alaska villages, “the epidemic of despair that is robbing an entire generation of its birthright happens far from city lights,” the newspaper wrote at the time.

If only the booze was gone, rural Alaska would be a great place — that was the takeaway of the “People in Peril” series of 1988. The alcohol kept flowing and the drugs — meth and opioids — fuel family dysfunction and social destruction, as pointed out last year by independent writer/thinking/curmudgeon Craig Medred, an ADN alumnus who remarked on his old newsroom winding up the pitch for another Pulitzer project, this time with ProPublica financing:

“Now the ADN, in cooperation with ProPublica, is back with what it hopes will be another Pulitzer Prize-winning series redefining the problem. This time the newspaper has teamed up with Outside media to argue the problem is a lack of law enforcement to keep people from harming each other.

“The crisis of alcohol and despair has evolved into a crisis of crime,” Medred wrote of the moving target — what is it exactly that ails Rural Alaska: Drugs and alcohol, or crime unpunished?

A generation has passed since that “People in Peril” series. If anything, the problems seem to be worse.

But in 2019, the reporters and photographers followed the time-tested Pulitzer formula and pumped out another series, one that spoke to the rampant lawlessness, and a village public safety program run amuck with convicted criminals serving as village cops.

As predicted, this week it was announced that the newspaper had grasped the brass ring, winning the Public Service Pulitzer Gold Medal for the “Lawless series”, a year-long deep dive into what the newspaper calls the failures of the criminal justice system in rural Alaska. Rural Alaska is a place deeply committed to tribal sovereignty, but that’s a story for another day. It wasn’t the story the ADN set out to tell.

During the ADN’s project year, U.S. Attorney Bill Barr visited rural Alaska and listened to the travails of locals — mainly women — who are preyed on in villages, some of which are intergenerational rape camps.

In lightning speed, Barr released $10.5 million directly to tribes and tribal organizations to beef up the number of officers, to repair buildings, and buy equipment. No strings attached in the sense that there would be little, if any, accountability. More money followed in the way of grants.

It was parachute decision-making and it made for an effective part of the story — the newspaper followed Barr’s every move in Alaska. Barr declared public safety an emergency in Alaska. The newspaper can rightfully take some credit for getting the money to villages.

A year later, few if any village officers have been hired, and there is no accountability for the federal expenditure. It’s business as usual in villages.

 “But what is certain is that the simple and dramatic story is easier to both write and digest than the complex and complicated story, much more likely to spark government action, and thus much more likely to win a prize,” Medred wrote in 2019 at the outset of the Lawless project.

It’s the third Pulitzer Prize for the Daily News in the newspaper’s history — all in the public service category. The gold medal for public service is among 15 Pulitzer Prize categories awarded for journalism this year. Without a doubt, this is a feather in the cap for the newspaper, which has seen better days. It’s like winning a Grammy or an Oscar. These are your peers telling you that you’ve done the best work in America during the past year.

Reporting for “Lawless” was led by undeniably talented Kyle Hopkins, and included contributions from many ADN staff members, all of whom get to own a Pulitzer medallion for touching any part of the series.

The project was funded by  ProPublica, which calls itself an “independent nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism with moral force. We dig deep into important issues, shining a light on abuses of power and betrayals of public trust — and we stick with those issues as long as it takes to hold power to account.”

Indeed. In 2020, ProPublica is an anti-conservative news organization. It’s not just liberal or progressive, but is committed to leftist cause journalism, and has been funded by the most left-leaning foundations in America, such as the George Soros’ Open Society, The Sandler Foundation.

What ProPublica specializes in is “cause journalism” that it defines as “independent investigations.” A scan of the group’s chosen journalistic endeavors shows that it is the house organ for the Democratic Party, at best.

In May of 2015, a scan of the ProPublica top headlines show a smattering of stories about a variety of topics, some of them having to do with water distribution in the West. These were during the Obama years:

But by November, 2016, the stories strongly focused on criticism of the recently elected President Donald Trump:

  • “How Journalists Need to Begin Imagining the Unimaginable.”
  • “In An Ugly Election Result, Hate Surges Online.”
  • “Surprise: Trump’s Adviser on Wall Street Regulations is a Longtime Swamp-Dweller.”

From November, 2016 point on, ProPublica has focused its muscle on discrediting the president.

But with cash to award compliant newspapers, it expands its reach beyond its own website. And during the past decade, as newspapers have seen both circulation and revenues decline and their share of the news market continuing to fall, they have found takers.

Newspaper circulation in 2016, the year Trump was elected, dropped to levels not seen since World War II.

Revenues have plummeted for newspapers, even before the Wuhan coronavirus destroyed their advertisers. The newsroom layoffs picked up steam and there was no investment in projects like the ones that win Pulitzers. Now, it’s just about survival.

For newspapers to compete for the Pulitzer Prize in the future, readers can expect more alliances with foundations that have a cause to champion.

The original phrase on the Pulitzer Medallion of “disinterested,” meaning objective journalism that is not beholden to any entity, is merely a vestigial concept, as newspapers make these alliances that influence their coverage and cripple their independence. In the fraternity of journalism, financial friendships such as these create undeniable relationships of a common purpose.

The danger for any traditional newsroom today is that the business model that has supported their product is no longer viable. And yet, liberal foundation funding is a Siren’s call to their own hastened destruction.

Read the list of funders of the ProPublica organization at


  1. Now that Kyle Hopkins is famous and fashionable, is there any chance he can be convinced to leave the State? Maybe to New York? Boston? San Francisco? Please?

  2. Just another home run for MRAK and Suzanne, the leader of TRUTH and CLARITY.
    Throw a few dollars at anything and one can probably buy it at a discount price.

    When will the first medallion hit E-Bay?

    Let the liberals commence the diatribe.

  3. I followed this series. I emailed the reporters that put this series together. I gave them names and numbers for people that aren’t part of the management problem for VPSO program. I gave them solutions.

    None of us ever heard a thing from the reporters. That’s why you have the half baked pitty potty series that wins a golden turd.

    There’s solutions, just nobody wants to do them. Workable solutions cut into the free money that flows into organizations like AVCP’S ( Alaska Village Council President s) VPSO programs, Tribal Court and numerous other grant programs.

    In the majority of the 56 Villages on the YK Delta, the problem is there’s no accountability for the free money. Take for example, AG Barr releases $10 Million. Days later AVCP posts a new executive position for $160K, in Bethel, on Facebook. Naturally my comment was ” did this money come from the$10 million for tribal protection?”

    Five minutes later that job posting was never to be seen again.

    Which brings me to AG Barr. I tried to get an invite to the meeting in Bethel. I called and Sen. Sullivan office and they informed me it wasn’t open to the public. In other words, he locked himself in a room with the very organizations that screwed up the VPSO program for thirty years.

    The end results are that the vast majority of the that money will stay in Bethel to be ate up as administrative overhead and my friends will attend more funerals for little girls like my friend Ida.

    The solution is really simple, but it takes money from AVCP, heaven forbid.

    30 odd Alaska State Troopers sleeping in Bethel, solves no problems. They are 100% reactivate. They are in a village to investigate a crime that’s already happened, or handcuff and transport someone for a crime and caught by a TPO, tribal.

    That same 10 million, turning back the hands of time, could of fixed up all the Villages National Guard buildings. Most Villages had a local guard. I begged and pleaded with then Governor Murkowski to allow a joint usage between the Guard and Troopers, before the State gave up possession, back to the Feds. Gov. Murkowski found a ton of merit in what I was angling for. The problem was government. Two departments didn’t want to coexist sharing costs in a budget item. So instead of having a really nice set of buildings that served more than one purpose, new Senator Murkowski gave them to the Villages.

    End result, Troopers still sleep on the floor in the local school and VPSO have no desire to move to a new Village to live in a clap board shack with a honey bucket.

    The golden turd award really should be shared by all the overpaid executives, government and non-profit alike.

    No boots on the ground, no territory is safe. It’s really that simple.

  4. I never bothered to read their sponsored content.

    Trash with a spin.

    The problem in the villages is villager,s and suggesting that in ADN’s comment section got me banned several times. I do feel a soft spot in my heart for women of the villages, though. The young man who had political aspirations and who recently made the news for allegedly raping village girls is a prime example of one of their future leaders plucked from a moral and talent pool that is far too shallow.

  5. We’re surprised by this Pulitzer? This is exactly what happens when a group funds a “study” … the study produces the expected results. Or else.

    I give you Global Warming as an example. What do the models say? *cough* What do you WANT them to say?


  6. “Rural Alaska is a place deeply committed to tribal sovereignty…”
    I would say that “tribal” sovereignty was transformed into “corporate” monopolies which is currently limiting the distribution of CARES act funding to the citizens of rural Alaska.

  7. I’m interested in the source material for this statement.

    “A year later, few if any village officers have been hired, and there is no accountability for the federal expenditure.”

    Care to reveal your research and cite the sources for the allegation?

    • Bill, they cut some of that funding because there were no applicants for the jobs. They are down to hiring felons to keep the peace. What’s wrong with this picture?

  8. All of these prizes are left wing propaganda popularity contests now. Maybe there was a time when the Nobel or Pulitzer or anything else was awarded on merit? If so, it’s long before my time..

    • Exhibit A in support of this statement may be the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to former President Barack Obama in 2009.

      Exhibit B is the award of the Presidential Medal of Freedom “with distinction” to then Vice President Joe Biden by then President Barack Obama in 2016.

  9. Try eliminating law enforcement in Anchorage (or anywhere else, for that matter) and see what the results are. This is not a problem that is unique to native villages, but it is tragic that it is allowed to happen there.
    This screed smacks of sour grapes and tendentiousness.
    I await the day when MRAK gets a nomination for a Pulitzer. I’m not holding my breath.

    • Tendentious because the writer takes a stance against besottedness, child rape and sexually motivated violence in such density that it skews Alaska’s numbers in a huge way?

      How would you do it, Greg?

      • Tendentious in the sense that besottedness, child rape, and sexually motivated violence is tolerated in the villages in such density that it skews AK’s number but are kept lidded in ANC and the Mat-Su and Fairbanks by a concentration of law enforcement resources that are non existent in the villages.
        As I said, try eliminating law enforcement in Anchorage for a year or ten, and see what happens. My guess is that we would be just as besotted, rapish, and violent as the villages.
        And yet, we deny them even rudimentary law enforcement and then belittle them for the lack thereof. That’s not only tendentious, it’s racist.
        I refuse to accept that a Pulitzer for exposing this inhumane situation, even if supported by ProPublica, is anywhere near as tendentious as an attempt to discredit it. That is ideology trying to trump human decency.
        We white folk took their land, exploited it and them, gave it back to them in a form that is entirely foreign to their cultural systems (i.e., Native Corporations and a money based, business economy) and way of life, exploited that form to our own gain and at their cultural loss, and then despise them because they don’t accept our destruction of their way of life as a great gift to them. And after we have taken everything from them, we blame them for their desperation.
        Once again, my wits faint.

        • “We white folk took their land” blah blah blah…

          Help us understand where you’re going with this. The question was “how would you do it” and your response is a self effacing white guilt sob story. Now would be a good time to pull on the big girl panties and consider the options before your wits faint entirely.

          In every culture throughout history the solution was always the same; conquer and assimilate. In the mid-1800’s a kinder, gentler approach was taken wherein the conquerer would round up the vanquished and march them off to a remote and valueless dump where they could live without bothering anyone.

          Never before had the concept of artificially propping up a dying culture by giving them their own fat white banker been considered much less the option of providing a hunter gatherer society a long stream of cash that they didn’t actually have to earn. By roughly 1900 the Alaska native population was regarded as a indigenous population that had largely been reduced to making carved trinkets for tourists and they were doing that for what? That would be money. The liked it and wanted it well before a long stream of it began landing in their laps for free.

          Of the only two options that had ever been employed neither could be used in this instance. Stateside tribes at the time had established a rich legacy of living in abject poverty and any of them would’ve jumped at the chance to have their own fat white money machine.

          You may have much to feel guilty about but certainly you can come up w/ something more interesting and appropriate than white guilt, eh? Maybe it would help if you started your own reparations program and the next time you see a person of a color other than your own you could just spot ’em a c note and say you were sorry for being an emasculated white male.

          The question again was ‘how would you do it’?

          Man up here and tell us. And while you’re at it let’s all be fair and recognize that another culture isn’t responsible for policing village miscreants and another culture didn’t introduce besottedness, child rape or rampant sexual violence against women to native men. Those problems in the villages aren’t new and you don’t learn respect for women from police officers.

          • Simple. If we are going to impose our white dominant society upon them, give them the tools to figure out how to make it work. At a minimum, that would include law enforcement and sufficient resources to develop a society that doesn’t require them to adapt to the world in which we have placed them where they are being held hostage by their dependency on our largess.
            Up till now, we’ve tossed a pittance their way, told them they are a conquered race, and suggested it’s their problem now, not ours.
            It’s always been this way with native societies. We treat them like incompetent children. Is it no wonder they behave that way?
            Keep in mind that we are talking about people who have lived successfully for thousands of years in one of the most hostile environments on the planet. It seems obvious that they knew what they were doing and had a way of solving the unique social and environmental problems they encountered.
            Then, we came along.
            We might be what is considered successful by our standards, but when things get down to basic existence in the Arctic, I would like to have these guys and their historical knowledge on my side.

  10. “intergenerational rape camps’.

    Descriptive, poetic, and a statement that give one pause. Excellent wordsmithing that gets to the very heart of the issue. I read your article this morning and found myself pondering it later in the day while driving down the road. Rarely does that happen.

    Nicely done.

  11. Missing link is that alcohol problems are plugging up the Alaska legal system and eating up funds to dealing with the fallout. Alcohol should be taxed to pay for the problems it creates. It should be tax payer neutral.

  12. A lot of stuff happens in the villages because the law doesn’t allow us to deal with our own troublemakers. Were there even a one day per year window in which nobody would get prosecuted for dealing with our troublemakers, there wouldn’t be any more of them.
    There wasn’t any that lasted very long in the old days, before the Europeans arrived. Now we can’t punish our own, and we’ve had over 500 years of experience of how the Europeans handle matters.
    We’re between a rock and a hard place. We can’t take action without going to prison for it, and whenever we call for the troopers, the net result is one of our own in prison, never able to get a good job afterwards, when a really thorough butt-whipping, or even the potential of one, would do more lasting good.

    • You’re delusional. The problem is likely to be, the heroin dealer has a parent on the council, the homebrewer is on the council, in short no one wants to put the iluq in jail.

      The other problem is nobody wants the hassel and stress of being a cop that doesn’t pay enough to barely pay your bills.

      Tribal Court is code for, protection of nepotism.

    • Oh, dear me. There you go again with that preposterous posturing of yours, Joey, imagining that you and those who share your DNA are victims of White Western society rather than the beneficiaries you so obviously are.

      Fact is, your ancestors were likely nomadic, stone-age hunter-gatherers with short lives and a very narrow family tree until very recently and need I really remind you that it was none other than White folks who’d introduced the wheel, literacy, fire and fire making devices, modern medicine with attendant enhanced lifespans and qualities of life, spectacles, the rifle, fiberglass and aluminum boats with outboard motors, snow machines, airplanes, permanent abodes, Pilot Bread, artificial light, Carhartts, computers, corporations, photography, and the lion’s share of the rest of the niceties enjoyed by Natives today?

      You never did answer my questions before, Joey, so I’ll just ask them once again: exactly how much do you think you’re owed and how long is it going to take for you to quit crying in your beer and move on without your hand out?

    • My apologies for not getting back to you four sooner but I was busy opening up the campground I’m hosting again this year.
      TROUSER: “intergenerational rape camps’. Of the entire article, why did that in particular strike your fancy?
      AUNT: “a very narrow family tree.” Now that is a downright clever way to accuse a whole peoples of habitually marrying their close relatives.
      WILLY: “Tribal Court is code for, protection of nepotism.” That’s one of the many problems that could be cured if there was but one day a year of amnesty.
      MONK: Yes, I spent the money mostly getting my toy-hauler turned mini-home ready for winter. I fully insulated it and it takes only a micro wood stove to stay toasty at 20 below. The tribe has offered me low cost housing, but some family may need it more than me.

  13. OTOH, the ADN is in good company, the woman who penned the fraudulent 1619 series on the Revolutionary War (it was fought to protect slavery according to her) got a Pulitzer too. Cheers –

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