What should the book jacket say?
I’ve taken a couple of runs at this and thought I’d see what you thought. You’ll see two rather different approaches. For lack of better characterization, I’d call the first one more a serious description and the second more focused on selling potential readers on the book.
I, of course, would love to convince a lot of readers that Write Hard, Die Free is an entertaining book they’re likely to enjoy. But I also think there’s reason to think the first approach might intrigue a different kind of potential reader, perhaps especially those whose interest isn’t primarily Alaska.
What do you think:
My first version:
The history a newspaper and a blueprint
for tomorrow’s journalism
Write Hard, Die Free is the memoir of an era—a time when Alaska struggled to define its modern personality and two fiercely competitive newspapers fought for the right to tell that story. Though populated with a dozen characters worthy of Jack London or Robert Service, the real hero of this story is the quest for honest journalism in the face of opposition from politicians, advertisers and the oil industry.
The Anchorage Daily News should not have been able defeat the Anchorage Times, its older, richer, more successful rival. In telling how it did, longtime editor Howard Weaver also describes a distinctive style and philosophy that anticipated much about today’s journalism. The book offers a blueprint for producing tomorrow’s news discovered on the battlefields of a legendary newspaper war.
The paper’s distinctive playbook recognized that readers were the only lasting friends of it’s ferocious truth-telling style: advertisers, politicians and even publishers would sometimes flinch, but a loyal growing readership supported the newsroom and sustained the business.
This proved true even when a coalition of major oil companies launched a covert effort to boost their reliable allies at the Times, leading to one of the most unpredictable David and Goliath endings in newspaper history.
My second version:
The ultimate insider tells all about
the Great Alaska Newspaper War
Across two crucial decades of the battle for Alaska’s future, Howard Weaver “climbed from foot solider to field marshal, from insurgent to incumbent, from underdog to victor” but never left the fight. Along the way he partied with small time hoodlums and big time politicians, crossed swords with Big Oil and Big Labor and piloted the Anchorage Daily News to the most unlikely David and Goliath upset in American journalism history.
The future of the young state of Alaska was still a closely fought contest in the 1970s and 1980s when Weaver and a cadre of talented young journalists began uncovering the union wrongdoing, oil company duplicity and political corruption that had long been left to fester out of sight. Along the way they would twice win journalism’s biggest prize—the Pulitzer Gold Medal for Public Service—and one of America’s last classic newspaper wars.
Alaska-born, Weaver cared passionately and fought fiercely in every political struggle of the era, from oil development to Native sovereignty, from park land designations to environmental activism. He also found time to explore the night clubs and after hours card rooms of Anchorage’s demimonde, where people like Freddy the Fix and Put Your Hat On Brown were earning spots in the knaves gallery of the last frontier.
The Anchorage Daily News pulled no punches in telling Alaska’s story, and Weaver has pulled none in telling his own here.