By CRAIG MEDRED
The story behind the story of the presumed death of former Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium CEO Andy Teuber now in the news is looking more and more like the plot line for an episode of the long-running TV franchise”Law and Order:”
A newlywed, 20-something, personal assistant ends up in a sexual relationship with a 50-something boss paid an outrageous $1 million per year to run a “non-profit corporation.” The newlywed is soon a divorcee.
The million-dollar man, meanwhile, turns his back on her to marry someone else, and the company for which she is working decides she isn’t such a great employee and proposes to cut her salary from $89,000 per year to $60,000.
She quits and writes a scathing letter to the company’s board saying she was coerced into sex with the boss. He immediately resigns. Her letter is given to the state’s largest and most influential newspaper.
Pandering to the #MeToo movement, the newspaper embraces her narrative and runs with it, ignoring the divorce and the pay cut, which might suggest to some readers possible motives for her to screw the boss big time.
His reputation in tatters, he takes off in his helicopter to retreat to his old hometown on an island in the Gulf of Alaska, crashes and disappears. Suicide? An accident fueled by emotional trauma?
Nobody knows, but a right-leaning news website in competition with the state’s left-leaning newspaper headlines “‘He said, she said’: Was this a case of journalistic murder?”
All that’s missing here is the suggestion that Teuber’s death was neither an accident nor suicide, but a murder. And a good screenwriter wouldn’t have any problem inserting into the story characters and/or entities who might want him dead.
I won’t do that because this website is dedicated to journalism, not fiction, though the two seem to get harder to tell apart by the day. That said, it’s obvious Law and Order could have used this for an episode, and John Grisham might have managed a whole book.
If you’re the ANTHC facing all this stuff hitting the fan, the best thing you could hope for is that the former chief executive officers dies and just sorts of fades away. Better that than the possibility accusations against him spark a bunch of people to start asking questions about the young woman’s suggestion of past sexual harassment or abuse within the consortium.
Or even questions about the fat salary paid the dead man. ANTHC pay has come under enough fire in the past.
But ANTHC is not the subject here. The subject is the story behind the story behind the story, which is about journalism.
In the old school, there was a fact-finding rule called the “sniff test.” It was a pretty simple rule.
If somebody said something that just didn’t jive with normal actions, behaviors or customs, a journalist had a responsibility to check out the claim. Teuber accuser Savanah Evans, 27, made one such claim.
“Evans and her attorney, Jana Weltzin, said they were not aware that Teuber was engaged or had gotten married,” the Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica, a New York-based news organization engaged in a business relationship with the Alaska newspaper. reported after being delivered a copy of Evans’ letter to the ANTHC.