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OPINION: Stardust unnecessary addition to releases on important Alaska issues

May 17th, 2013 | Carey Restino Print this article   Email this article  

In the course of any given week, thousands of emails come through the news office, many of them press releases promoting this event or that. It's how we get a good portion of our story ideas, and I'm certainly going to be the last one to find fault in the service the PR engine provides to news agencies. The squeaky wheel gets grease, after all.

But once in a while, it feels like the engine has gone into hyperdrive. Such was the case when a press release came across from the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association that headlined "Deadliest Catch Captain Joins the Call to Protect the World's Most Valuable Wild Salmon Fishery - Bristol Bay, Alaska."

What? Not that I have anything against the show - it's an interesting gaze into a world that was once only viewed by those who participated in it. And I have no doubt that the vast majority of those in the fishing industry - with or without cameras roaming their vessels - are concerned about anything that might do harm to their livelihood.

But really, why roll this superstar of the fishing world out as the spokesman for of the wild salmon fishery?

Using celebrities to promote causes is a practice with deep roots in America, but I'm not sure it fits all that well in Alaska. Take, for example, Alaska's take on much of the Greenpeace action. Many people who are passionate about environmental issues still have a very difficult time aligning themselves with someone who uses Zena the Warrior Princess as its poster child for anti-drilling awareness campaigns. And then there's the march by a group of Greenpeace advocates to plant a flag on the North Pole in an effort to save the Arctic. An admirable goal, many would say, but why drag along unprepared movie stars like Ezra Miller?

I suppose it's that old law of supply and demand. If what people pay attention to are the actions and opinions of people who appear in our movies and TV programs, then who can blame agencies from turning toward willing stars to support their causes. Or maybe the cause should stand on its own.

What's interesting about the Bristol Bay release is that it had plenty of teeth all on its own. The release was unveiling a report, authored by independent researchers at the University of Alaska Institute of Social and Economic Research, which outlined the economic importance of the Bristol Bay salmon industry. The study found that the commercial sockeye salmon fishery is the most valuable wild salmon fishery in the world and creates one-sixth of the total value of all American seafood exports. That's huge, and was completely hidden by the reference to a Deadliest Catch star, who just served as a distraction.

Likewise, the issues that one might assume Greenpeace really wants to highlight with its attention-getting tactics get lost in the drama of the risky boardings of drill rigs and the ensuing legal battles. What was Greenpeace marching to the North Pole for? Something to do with preserving the Arctic? Did anyone get the point?

I suspect quite a few Alaskans feel this way. We're not really interested in 2-year-old temper-tantrum approaches to presenting issues of importance. Those with a stake in these issues might do well to express their desire that agencies instead just get to the point, without sugar-coating it in super-star fairy dust.


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