public perception of the Iditarod is largely based on media reports originating
in Alaska. These reports are nearly always biased in favor of the Iditarod.
Iditarod wants to control the media:
plan is to control the media,' [Susan] Lucas said."
Susan Lucas is the general manager of KTUU-TV. She is talking about Stan
Hooley, the Executive Director of the Iditarod Trail Committee.
- Mike Campbell, Anchorage Daily News, March 1, 2011
newspapers handle the subject of the Iditarod cautiously and almost always
without criticism, because the Iditarod is a big business and is popular
among many Alaskans:
basks in two weeks of tourism publicity that money can't buy."
- "Children's book returns Iditarod to its public-health roots," Fairbanks
News-Miner, updated 1998
article on website.
causes a yearly spurt of activity, increased airplane traffic and excitement
to areas otherwise quiet and dormant during the long Alaskan winter....The
race is an educational opportunity and an economic stimulus to these small
- The Iditarod Trail Committee website
Do many Alaska media outlets and Alaska businesses sponsor the Iditarod?
Alaska media outlets have sponsored the race, including Alaska Magazine,
Alaska Newspapers (which owned eight newspapers in small Alaskan cities),
Alaska Public Radio Network, The Anchorage Daily News, and KENI
Radio. The Anchorage Daily News received a prominent link from
the official Iditarod website and gave a reciprocal link to the official
Iditarod website. Sponsorships and web links compromise the media's ability
to provide objective race coverage. The
Anchorage Daily News continues to sponsor the Iditarod. It is owned by
the McClatchy Company.
second tier of major sponsors pay a minimum of $50,000 each and the group
this year includes...the Anchorage Daily News...."
Robert Howk, Alaska Journal of Commerce, February 9, 2004
IDITAROD SPONSORSHIP LEVELS
MAJOR SPONSOR: $50,000
The Anchorage Daily News paid $50,000 for this level of sponsorship in
Iditarod sponsorship levels and entitlements, February, 2006
multitude of other Alaska businesses from various sectors of the economy
also sponsor the race. A large percentage of an Alaska media organization's
revenue depends upon the advertising dollars of these businesses. With
such a broad base of support for the race among businesses and readers,
it is difficult for any media outlet to criticize the race, regardless
of how many dogs are killed and injured. In fact, the leading newspapers
have occasionally portrayed the race as a joyous event for the dogs.
Daily News profits from its pro-race stand:
The Anchorage Daily News sells businesses advertising space in
its special Iditarod section with links to the ads on the newspaper's
main Iditarod webpage. Businesses can also buy links to their homepages
on the newspaper's many Iditarod webpages.
The newspaper sells pro-Iditarod books in its online Anchorage Daily
News store. There are book picture links to the store are on all of
its Iditarod webpages.
- Sled Dog Action Coalition
- Anchorage Daily News website
strategies with a pro-Iditarod spin have included:
Emphasizing upbeat images of sled dogs:
Vern) Halter tenderly tended his dogs' feet Monday, rubbing in the oily
liquid and talking to the dogs. One husky raised its head and seemed
to give Halter a grin."
- Jolie Lewis, Fairbanks News-Miner, undated
1991 article on website
on her straw bed in the sunshine...the husky named Wesley wiggled on
her back and stretched open her legs...."
-Doug O'Harra, Anchorage Daily News, March
2. Holding responsible parties free of guilt in
was like [the dog] was breathing real hard and five seconds later he
was dead. People die that way too. There's nothing you can do about
- Brian O' Donoghue, Fairbanks News-Miner, undated 1997 article
on web site
"[Musher] Joy said she sat...and reflected on the things beyond human
control while her dogs rested.... She spent much of the day riding behind
her dogs on the trail, thinking about the same thing, concluding death
is a sad but inevitable companion, whether on the Iditarod (trail) or
- Musher Joy after the death of her dog, Trim, in the Iditarod
- Doug O'Harra, Anchorage Daily News, March 20, 1998
3. Describing the apparent sadness of mushers and
race officials when a dog dies:
reporter advised mushers to give press interviews soon after the death
of a dog, because not providing comments to the press until hours or
days after a dog death made them seem cold and uncaring.
"It is awful. The whole thing came down hard on me. It was really hard
for me to continue...."
- Joe Lanier speaking of the two dogs in his team that died Doug O'Harra,
Anchorage Daily News, March 27, 1998
Iditarod officials were shaken by [Trim's] death. Up until Wednesday
night they thought they were on the verge of what appears near (sic)
impossible--an Iditarod race without a dog death."
- Doug O'Harra, Anchorage Daily News, March
4. Commending the dog care provided by mushers and
thought the vet corps were exceptionally helpful. They're starting to
develop the trust of the mushers. That makes it better for the dogs."
- Rick Swenson, a musher who killed his dog by forcing him to run through
waist-deep water and ice
- Craig Medred and Doug O'Harra, Anchorage Daily News, March
"[Veterinarian] Starks praised [musher] Brooks' response to the dog's
collapse---and his overall care of the team. 'He took good care of him,'
Stark said. 'He is a good kid.'"
- Doug O'Harra, Anchorage Daily News, March
5. Using non-veterinarians as sources of veterinary
information in their articles:
said there was no evidence undiagnosed heart problems are the cause
of the trail's inexplicable casualties."
- Musher Susan Butcher providing veterinary analysis
- Fairbanks News-Miner, undated 1997 article
Hyping bonds between dogs and mushers:
Rob Moore: "Now the mushers
do say their dogs are treated very well. And, I read that they have these
romantic statements about the strong bond between musher and dog. But
can there be a strong bond? And, can there be proper treatment in these
kennels or between them and these dogs that they're breeding to race in
this one race? Ethel, I'll direct that to you."
Ethel Christensen: "It's
all media hype. I mean, you can't have anything negative in the media
about the Iditarod. And it's all hype. I'm sorry but it's just not true.
But, don't get me wrong. I love mushing. I love the recreational mushing
and there's of good people that are mushers out there, but the race is
not humane. It's inhumane and I don't see how they could possibly bond
with all their dogs."
[From the Sled Dog Action
Coalition: Iditarod mushers routinely have kennels of 90 to 200 dogs.]
Ethel Christensen is the Executive Director of the Alaska SPCA
- Rob Moore hosts Animal Voices, a radio show in Toronto, Canada.
- This interview was done on February 28, 2006
Some reporters encourage readers to see the dogs as star human athletes:
runners, long-distance skiers and long-distance bicycle racers face the
same problem as lead dogs."
Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, March 10, 1998
...the team of huskies kicked out the power right to the end, the disciplined
expression of marathon runners on their canine faces and their eyes locked
on the finish line...."
Jolie Lewis, Fairbanks News-Miner, March 18, 1998
dogs had little doubt. The veterans among them knew the finish line was
close and kept pulling."
Doug O'Harra and Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, March 18,
don't report horrific ways Iditarod dogs live:
Dr. Paula Kislak: "The other thing besides
social interaction, and dogs definitely are pack animals and they do well
and would normally chose to live in a social grouping, is that they're
also very clean animals, which is why we're able as humans to house-break
them, because we take advantage of their natural fastidious tendencies
to not want to soil the area that they live in their "cave." So when they're
tethered on four foot tethers and that's the extent of the distance they
can go, the area becomes completely soiled with fecal contamination and
urine, stench, and ammonia. And it's just a mess. And the dogs are forced
to live in this, which is also completely contrary to their nature. And
that's the type of thing that the newspapers don't see or report as well.
And that's day to day to day, year after year after year. It's just bad."
Dr. Paula Kislak, DVM, is president of the Association of Veterinarians
for Animal Rights
- She made these remarks in an interview with Janice Blue, the host of
Go Vegan Texas (KPFT), on February 27, 2006
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