Mike Doogan responds to free speech by outing popular anonymous blogger

March 28, 2009 by  

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 bloggerAlaska 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].

Best wishes,

Mike

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.

–WKW

Comments

7 Responses to “Mike Doogan responds to free speech by outing popular anonymous blogger”

  1. Charles on March 30th, 2009 2:13 pm

    WKW said, “Simply put, Doogan’s decision was obtuse, mean, and quite possibly extremely damaging to AKM.”

    You forgot “possibly illegal and certainly un-American.”

    Because AKM allegedly conducts a business, if the business suffers, Mr. Doogam could find himself on the wrong end of a tort. From the looks of comments at AKM, there appear to be a lot of people willing to fund such a lawsuit. But even if that doesn’t happen, as EFF says:

    “Privacy rights are enshrined in our Constitution for a reason — a thriving democracy requires respect for individuals’ autonomy as well as anonymous speech and association. These rights must be balanced against legitimate concerns like law enforcement, but checks must be put in place to prevent abuse of government powers.”

  2. craig medred on March 30th, 2009 5:49 pm

    Bill:
    And we should admire the people who lack the courage to put their names to their opinions because?
    I ask this not lightly, having put my name publicly to controversial views for decades and having so often been threatened with bodily harm that I gave up paying any attention to such threats long ago.
    Somehow I find this whole anonymous, citizen-journalist bullshit just so much cowardice.
    But you know, I might be able to buy some of it if the author of Mudflats, having been caught out, had manned up (or is that womaned up) the way Joe Klein did when he got outed for “Primary Colors.”
    Instead she writes a bunch of crap about not wanting to be noticed. If you want to avoid being noticed, you sit in the corner and keep your mouth shut.
    You don’t put a bag over your head and start shouting yourself into the conversation. That’s just asking someone to pull the bag off.
    Lord knows, there aren’t many people with whom I’ve had more fights than Mike Doogen. He’s the jerk who ordered me back from Barrow when I wanted to write about what a farce the great Alaska “whale rescue” was all those years back.
    He was wrong then.
    He’s right now.
    I only hope he got the name right.
    Craig Medred

    P.S. Why is this the William K. Wolfrum Chronicles instead of the Bill Anonymous Chronicles, anyway?

  3. William K. Wolfrum on March 31st, 2009 4:31 am

    Craig,

    I must say that your comment smacks of privilege. I can’t say I’m overly impressed with the courage of a long-time journalist that has received a steady pay check and benefits for something that is their life’s work, while earning public praise that he obviously craves. And doing so in a state where he’s viewed as populist.

    That aside, your complaint seems to be that AKM didn’t run and hide when a politician unveiled her identity. Basically you are saying that since people now know who AKM is, she should shut up and know her place.

    As for AKM, her reasons for being anonymous never really came into play, as Doogan seemed less interested in that than in outing her. Are you actually unaware that in a nation of 300 million there is a small percentage of people out there who want to express themselves, but for job and/or personal reasons want to keep their identities hidden? We all have our own circumstances, and one must give up a job or put their lives at risk to speak freely, than free speech doesn’t exist.

    I use my own name because I long ago made the choice to be a journalist and have my name in print in one form or another for more than 20 years. And obviously I have my own cravings for attention. But I went into blogging understanding that it would make me extremely unattractive to the mainstream media. I’ve made about $80 doing what I love the past several years.

    But I have absolutely no complaints. My situation is unlike others and I’m able to do what it is I love. But that doesn’t give me a myopia about the facticity of others that want to speak out in a land of free speech. Because I don’t believe that public discourse should only be controlled by those with the ability to stand visibly on a soap box for all to see.

    Is giving up anonymity the price of free speech? Because as I see it, that would be the polar opposite of free speech. History is littered with those that have written under pseudonyms for a wide variety of reasons. Were the Bronte sisters “cowards” because they published under male names? Or perhaps they should have been outed by a local politician? What of Jonathan Swift, Daniel Defoe, Walter Scott, Jane Austen or others? Or is our time so enlightened that anonymity is unnecessary and we should all join the reality show of modern times?

    My life’s travels have made me extremely sympathetic toward Alaska and Alaskans, and I respect your work. But I must say your comment is little more than a string of logical fallacies apparently written by someone that has been in their own shoes so long they no longer have an ability to recognize that other shoes even exist. More than anything, I find it perplexing that a writer would side with a politician on outing a citizen. Because Doogan is a politician. While he’ll always be a journalist, the shoes he now fills are the ones he put on when elected to public office. And he was wrong.

    Regards and thanks for the comment,

    Bill

  4. William K. Wolfrum Chronicles » Blog Archive » In response to Craig Medred, Re: Mike Doogan on March 31st, 2009 4:38 am

    [...] From comments: [...]

  5. a lawyer from utah on April 20th, 2009 4:45 am

    mike doogan might be remembered long after he dies. for being an asshole.

  6. William K. Wolfrum Chronicles » Blog Archive » Blogger not using pseudonym calls Ed Whelan a “douchebag” on June 8th, 2009 5:19 am

    [...] There is a new trend going on amongst politicians and right-wingers lately that bodes poorly for bloggers – you see, when certain people like Mike Doogan get upset by an anonymous blogger, they then figure the best way to show the anonymous blogger up is by “outting” them. [...]

  7. Private on August 30th, 2009 11:41 am

    CRAIG MEDRED is a loser. He only has his worthless opinions to offer while observing those who do extraordinary things.

Feel free to leave a comment...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!





Enter 300x250 Banner Code Here
  • Details: Love never dies. Ok, everything dies. But this is still sweet.


WordPress SEO fine-tune by Meta SEO Pack from Poradnik Webmastera