This past Friday, two news stories from Alaska were available to the main stream media; one of serious significance the other pure nonsense.
Nationally, the media paid a great deal of attention to the nonsense story while ignoring the serious one. The nonsense story made page one with circus banner headlines while the other one failed to make page one or even ROP (rest of paper).
The nonsense story told of 24,199 pages of printed-out e-mails that former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin either sent or received on her official state government account. The e-mails covered her first 21 months as governor, from December 2006 to September 2008. The remaining 10 months’ will be released at a later date.
News organizations had first requested the e-mails soon after Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) made Palin his surprise choice as a running mate in the 2008 presidential race.
The e-mails showed Palin corresponded with staff members about many requests for media interviews. One showed the media needed to know about the governor’s favorite poem, and if she believed that dinosaurs and humans coexisted on the earth.
Palin responded, “Arghhhh! I am so sorry that the office is swamped like this - Dinosaurs, even?” She promised to work on answers to some of the stupid questions, while agreeing with one staffers assessment that he was “dismayed” by the moronic media.
This nonsense story took about a thousand days of delay. The e-mails were distributed in a set of five 55-pound boxes, with sensitive information redacted. The copying fees came to $725.97 for each news outlet and The Washington Post claimed it would post the e-mails online.
The important story came as Alaska Public health officials warned everyone to avoid eating shellfish they harvest from the Southeastern tip of the state after high concentrations of a poison than can kill humans was found.
State officials said scientists monitoring algae blooms near Ketchikan discovered some of the world's highest-ever recorded levels of toxins that cause paralytic shellfish poisoning -- a potentially fatal ailment that can paralyse vital organs.
The most poisonous shellfish discovered were baby mussels at a dock in Ketchikan with toxin levels of more than 30,000 micrograms per hundred grams of shellfish meat. This is well over the 80-microgram levels considered toxic, according to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.
According to scientists at the University of Alaska, those levels are so high that a single mussel could kill several people.
State officials took immediate action and posted warnings on the region's beaches, docks, stores and other public places, while police issued warnings on marine radios, the department said.
Paralytic shellfish poisoning toxins are absorbed by certain shellfish from algae, and symptoms of poisoning start with tingling and numbness in the mouth, and can spread through the body. The high levels of toxins were linked to a proliferation of certain types of algae.
If only I had known in advance, I would have taken the time to secure five 55-pound boxes of these same shellfish for each of the news outlets on assignment in Anchorage. Staff members could have munched on them while reading the Palin e-mails. Then there would have been three stories coming out of Alaska on Saturday; one nonsense, one serious and one about the numerous job openings in voyeuristic news organizations.