The story thus far ...

The story of the Alaska Newspaper War has long demanded to be written.

As I characterize it in
Write Hard, Die Free it is a classic quest narrative, “a remarkable 20-year adventure played out in sharp black-and-white contrasts: good guys and bad guys, honest versus self-interested journalism, underdogs and bullies. Before it was over we’d whipped the bigger, richer establishment newspaper only to see it sold to an oil man whose industry buddies rallied around to help him [squash us], but couldn’t quite.”

Yet despite the story’s obvious appeal and my privileged vantage point as a central character, I didn’t set out to write it.

For starters I was uncertain what form my particular rendition of the story should take. I’d been urged to write a personal memoir — How I Escaped From Muldoon, perhaps — but was unsure how much value that would offer readers. (I also wasn’t inclined to retrace my childhood traumas and triumphs in autobiographical detail.)

Another option was to write it as a history, instead: to remove myself from the narrative and examine events with scholarly detachment, balance and reserve. This quickly proved impossible as well as unrewarding.

I have chosen instead to write what I’m calling a “journalism memoir,” focused not on my interior landscapes so much as some signal moments in the struggle over truth telling in Alaska. During more than 20 years in the battles I climbed from foot solider to Field Marshal, from insurgent to incumbent, from underdog to victor — but I was always in the fight.

Writing from first-person perspective allows me to enrich the story with personal recollections, observations and judgments that are not available anywhere else. Whether you find them agreeable or not, there’s no denying that the way I felt about these issues mattered in the course of the war.

I’ve handled the facts as accurately as I can, buttressed by extensive documentation and numerous interviews; this is a fair and honest effort. You should remember, though, that it is an insider’s story, not a post-mortem. I’m anything but an impartial observer.

Many, many stories are left untold in this relatively short volume. At a granular level there is also a melange of triumphs, outrages and peculiarities involving scores of noteworthy journalists, both at the Daily News and Anchorage Times. Almost none of those rich stories are in Write Hard, Die Free, which tries to focus on the quest more than the crusaders.

These stories ought to be told. I hope they are and I’ll help anybody who makes an honest effort to do so.

For now, my task is the final preparation of the book for publication and release, set for the spring of 2012. We hope to launch it with an event in Anchorage (perhaps at the time of the annual Journalism Week convocation) and then carry the message elsewhere in the state as well.

There will also be a eBook edition available about the same time. I want to use this website and various social media to supplement and support the book as well, perhaps by posting additional documents and certainly by engaging in conversation with interested readers.

I’m readying an email list for those who want to be notified about publication and other book events. To sign up just click the “Contact Me” button at the bottom of this page or email directly to howard.weaver[at]gmail.com and ask for “Book News.”

I’m also happy to get questions or suggestions along the way at the same address.

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