Mike Doogan responds to free speech by outing popular anonymous blogger
March 28, 2009 by William K. Wolfrum
One of the positive parts of living a fairly well-traveled life is that you meet a wide variety of people. For me, my days in Alaska were full of interesting characters both good and bad. Mike Doogan was one of the good ones.
At the time I met Doogan, I was the editor of The Northern Light, the newspaper of the University of Alaska Anchorage. He wrote a column about what I was planning for the paper and my views on journalism. Afterwards, we kept in touch, and even hung out for a little bit in Skagway, where I was doing a summer internship at the Skagway News and where he was working on a story. Overall, I must say that Doogan was a very good influence on my writing, as well as my confidence.
Which is why I’m quite disappointed at Doogan’s latest move. You see, years after I left Alaska, Doogan was elected to the Alaska State Assembly as a Democrat. Recently, Doogan sent out a newsletter to his constituents. In this newsletter, Doogan outed a prominent anonymous blogger – Alaska Muckracker (AKM) – who was instrumental in pointing to Sarah Palin’s flaws as a vice-presidential candidate in the 2008 election. Here’s what Doogan wrote:
The identity of the person who writes the liberal Democratic Mudflats blog has been secret since the blog began, protected by the Anchorage Daily News, among others. My own theory about the public process is you can say what you want, as long as you are willing to stand behind it using your real name. So I was interested to learn that the woman who writes the blog is Anchorage resident [redacted].
Doogan had warned AKM that he was about to out her identity. Here’s what AKM had to say regarding the matter:
It said in my “About” page that I choose to remain anonymous. I didn’t tell anyone why. I might be a state employee. I might not want my children to get grief at school. I might be fleeing from an ex-partner who was abusive and would rather he not know where I am. My family might not want to talk to me anymore. I might alienate my best friend. Maybe I don’t feel like having a brick thrown through my window. My spouse might work for the Palin administration. Maybe I’d just rather people not know where I live or where I work. Or none of those things may be true. None of my readers, nor Mike Doogan had any idea what my personal circumstances might be.
Simply put, Doogan’s decision was obtuse, mean, and quite possibly extremely damaging to AKM. While I have always written under my own name, I fully understand and support bloggers who chose to remain anonymous. It’s not all of us that are willing or able to put our own names in the public sphere. As a writer, it’s not an issue for myself. But there are a lot of citizen voices out there who want to speak out, and do so at risk of losing their job and more.
Mike Doogan is a wonderful writer and interesting man. But his attack on the free speech of others – which he apparently now thinks is some type of vital move for a state politician, shows that like many that have come from print pasts, the train has left him behind and he’s grasping at straws, trying to protect an inefficient newspaper industry that is toppling as we speak.
Doogan once told me an interesting story: He was attending a seminar with Russian journalists, not long after the fall of the Soviet Union. When asked to speak, Doogan looked at the Russian journalists and said: “Everything that’s happened in the last 30 years is news to you.”
Years after that seminar, the same can now be said of him. The game has changed and continues to change. And it’s all news to Mike Doogan.