Column: An Insider’s Tale of the Birth of the Alaska State Legislature’s Weekly Press Availabilities (KTVA.com exclusive)
Surprisingly, the Alaska Legislature didn’t always meet regularly with the press
My new status, and an incident no one could ignore, combined for a breakthrough on the relationship between the legislature and the Capitol press corps.
In talking to a spitting-mad House Speaker Brian Porter the next day (his comments about Knowles cannot be published), I got tentative agreement that we’d try something new in 2002. Senate President Halford, by then the most-adroit member of the legislature, agreed, as well.
Flash forward to January 2002. The House Republicans were the first to dip their toe in the water. At that initial availability, no cameras were allowed, and Porter quipped that he was taking a chance on me. But it went without incident, and soon all four caucuses were holding them weekly, with cameras.
And so they have since, with one notable exception: During the two years that Ben Stevens was Senate president, in 2005-2006, the Republican majority in the upper chamber did not hold availabilities. Readers may draw their own conclusions, but this was the Murkowski era of PPT, the gas line contract and defined contributions in the PERS and TRS systems.
Aside from that, viewers of Gavel to Gavel consistently have been able to observe lawmakers dealing with reporters on the major issues at the Capitol, week after week during session. I’m told the availabilities always have been among the most viewed segments broadcast by KTOO-TV.
CBS 11 Senior Enterprise Reporter Bill McAllister was president of the Alaska Capital Correspondents Association from 2001 to 2005. He also served as a board member of the national group Capitolbeat from 2003 to 2006, and was co-chair of the group’s annual convention in Seattle in 2005.