A former reporter for the Alaska Dispatch News, Jeanette Lee Falsey quoted her former boss, ADN owner Alice Rogoff, theorizing about why she lost the newspaper: It was a political conspiracy.
In a thorough account that appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review on Nov. 10, Falsey tells the history of how Alaska’s largest newspaper careened toward bankruptcy due to reckless spending, incompetent ownership, and a loss of community support, and was ultimately saved by a family of riverboat operators from Fairbanks.
But that’s not how Rogoff sees it.
Falsey asked Rogoff why she thought the newspaper went into bankruptcy. The heiress from the East who just two years ago hosted President Barack Obama at her Campbell Lake home, said the Binkley family of Fairbanks and Ron Duncan, president of GCI, ‘worked in concert’ to force her to sell the ADN, with GCI starting the cascade of events with a simple eviction notice due to over $1 million in unpaid rent.
I believe the Binkleys and GCI together decided to force me to sell and the only recourse I had was to go into bankruptcy. I think at the end of the day it was probably political. The management of GCI wanted to see the paper in the hands of people with conservative state politics. There is a sizable group of business people in Anchorage who believe the role of a newspaper is boosterism. Ron Duncan is one of that group. Time will tell whether the Binkleys are as well. – Alice Rogoff
Rogoff is married to one of the richest men in America, but events of the last year point to a reality that she may not have access to his fortune, except through a limited marital agreement that could foreshadow a legal separation.
Ryan Binkley, the new co-publisher (with Jason Evans) whose father invested $1 million — for openers — to keep the paper from folding in September, said that’s just not true: “I don’t understand. Why did she think this? Nobody forced her to do anything,” he told the reporter. John Binkley, Ryan’s father, had already unsuccessfully tried to purchase the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, and the family has an interest in keeping Alaska newspapers alive.
Falsey writes how the paper was deep in the red on the day Rogoff filed for bankruptcy: “ADN was occupying the GCI building, where the press was, without a lease; almost $3 million in bills had gone unpaid, including two months of employee insurance premiums and rent at the Arctic Boulevard and GCI buildings; Rogoff owed $10 million to Northrim Bank; half a payroll period was in danger of going unpaid for lack of cash; and losses were averaging $25,000 a day. There were also the lawsuits brought by contractors, the paper supplier, [Tony] Hopfinger and GCI.”
“We didn’t buy the paper for political reasons,” Ryan Binkley told Falsey. “We already tried to buy our hometown paper because we think it’s a viable industry. There’s no political motivation for us.”