Monday, July 27, 2009

KDLG News Director Eileen Goode Witch-Hunted Into Resigning After Criticizing Local Yokels In Dillingham, Alaska On Her Personal Blog

While Sarah Palin once said that America grows good people in its small towns, this is apparently not true of all small towns.

Particularly in Dillingham, Alaska.

According to Eileen Goode, the now-former news director of the local NPR affiliate KDLG 670AM (the station is actually owned and operated by the Dillingham City School District), the city of Dillingham is somewhat less than perfect. She had the audacity to expose some of those imperfections on her personal blog, ChillyHell. And she was none too diplomatic about it. Which is apparently the reason why she is now a FORMER news director, according to information posted on another of the Anchorage Daily News official blogs, entitled "The Village". The Village is edited by ADN's all-purpose reporter Kyle Hopkins, who also edits ADN's Alaska Politics blog and personally grew up in rural Alaska himself.

The Bristol Bay Times has also published a story on this issue.

The blog posts by Goode which generated the controversy were published several months ago, but many Dillingham residents didn’t know about them until an anonymous e-mail reached a list of people last week. The publicity triggered a flurry of about three dozen calls and e-mails to KDLG's general manager, Rob Carpenter. Most were critical of Goode, and some wanted her fired. All indications at this point are that Goode's resignation after two years on the job was voluntary, but undoubtedly the emerging witch-hunt mentality in the community propelled her decision. Goode herself reports that she’s been spit at and called several names, including racist and high-handed outsider, after the e-mail went around town. The fact that Goode has been called "racist" implies that she is White, although her race is not reported by any media source. Here are a couple of the posts triggering the most outrage:

-- Just before Thanksgiving, a 21-year-old girl, Kim McCambly, who was a highly-regarded local medic, froze to death on the tundra. Goode wrote that Dillingham residents, though many are related, aren’t “particularly inclined to watch out for the safety of their very intoxicated friends.”

-- In another entry posted last fall, Goode also wrote that she loves living in Dillingham because she is “treated as a respectable personage simply by dint of being sober, employed and totally uninterested in having sex with relatives or children."

In response to the outpouring of criticism, Goode posted an apology of sorts. Her rambling post of July 24th includes the following: “I am sorry if my tone offends, that is just my writing style, and … while I do like comedy based on exaggeration it is not to everyone’s taste and perhaps I should have thought more carefully about my very serious job before writing some less than serious postings. Good enough. What I am not sorry for is what I said, because I do not believe I am wrong.” Nonetheless, while she regrets the style, she does NOT regret the content, and courageously stands by the facts presented in her posts.

According to, Dillingham's 2008 population estimate is 2,468. The population is 60 percent Alaska Native, 34 percent White, and 9 percent identifying themselves as multi-racial.

But just because Eileen Goode's blog isn't politically correct doesn't mean it's not accurate. In May 2008, the Anchorage Daily News reported that a number of surveys indicated that alcohol and drug problems in the villages are a prime reason for people moving out of Bush Alaska. Survey respondents also spoke of lack of police, domestic violence, child abuse and suicide. In one survey, former rural residents were asked what would motivate them to return. Two-thirds responded that nothing could get them to go back.

Lack of police isn't that much of a problem in Dillingham, since they have their own police force. However, most Bush villages only have VPSOs (Village Public Safety Officers). These positions can be difficult to fill because VPSOs frequently do not receive effective support from community leaders, so they can be subject to abuse by local toughs. Even Native VPSOs can be subject to abuse, so it is not all racially-motivated. Discrimination by Natives against non-Natives in Bush villages, when it occurs, is both racially-motivated as well as driven by normal suspicion of Outsiders. But it's not universal; during my five-day stay in Iliamna back in 1995, I did not experience any discrimination from the Natives with whom I worked.

There are other problems as well. Right now there's a growing scandal over the failure of Alaska village organizations to pay withholding taxes to the IRS. The reported amount in arrears is $4.4 million. In 2008, a caribou hunt in Point Hope generated controversy when it was reported that 37 of the animals were just left to rot; Point Hope village elders dragged their feet in cooperating with Alaska State Troopers. And the practice of awarding no-bid contracts to Native corporations is triggering Congressional concern; Alaska Senators Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich are defending the practice.

The problems in Bush Alaska are complex and varied. But they won't be solved by shooting the messengers. The witch-hunting of Eileen Goode is deplorable and gives Dillingham a black eye.


  1. I'm curious Carl, how much time have you actually spent in the bush ?

    Have you ever lived off of the road system ?

    Do you consider a caucasian man who marries a native woman a race traitor ?

  2. "She had the audacity to expose some of those imperfections".
    You missed the point entirely. There are countless ways Eileen could have more effectively "exposed" troubles in Dillingham. What Eileen was doing instead was belittling these issues in a effort to create a clever blog. She failed. And the fact that she was was a journalist made it worse. Eileen has made no visible previous effort to address the troubles of Dillingham, and her blog should not be taken as any effort to do so.

  3. Author 5 days in one community does not give one a realistic sense of what it takes to live and thrive in bush Alaska. Small communities may function more as families do, for good and bad, but when an "outside" threat is perceived, there may be a tendency to come together against the threat. Also, in bush AK relationships, attitudes, and communication can be very subtle; very often big city folk are not accustomed to operating at that level, miss the cues and blunder badly unwittingly irritating folks and making enemies. The young woman who died was an EMT, a ray of sunshine to, dearly loved and respected by many. Many are still deeply grieving her death and Eileen's insensitive blog is one thing she did that was wrong. Goode's implication that many people are counsins because of incest was another total blunder. She failed to understand how the term cousin is used here, she failed to realise the area's history of large families and many legitimate and intertwining family connections. There is an ugly unfortunate side to the area too. Many are painfully aware and trying hard to change things or hold together the shreds of good in their life. It doesn't help for a newcomer to insensitively heap fresh salt on deep wounds and raw nerves while offering judgement but no help, solutions or sympathy.

  4. I was born in Anchorage in 1955 and spent most of my working life in helping fields. Even when I worked construction all over the state, we were helping change those communities for the better. I lived in many Bush communities. From 1984-89 I was a social worker and Alaska was second per capita in rape then. Incest and alcoholism in the villiages - some of my clients who ran to Anchorage to get away from their family - was our two biggest problems. I read the ADN every morning since I moved away to Florida to help my parents. Sorry it seems very little has changed in the Bush. Since in Florida, I have noticed there is much more spirituality in the indigenous peoples and their issues in walking their talk. While it cost Ellen her livlihood and her place in DGH, my hat is off to her for speaking bluntly and truthfully. What if Bill Maher, Rush Limbaugh or Bill Riley, or Jesse Jackson made these statements? Would there be such protest? The world of the week in Washington DC seems to be "stupidly" and that is how people that tell the truth often get treated as folks just can't take it in their face. Ellen, hold on - one door slams in your face because a bigger one is opening for you! Clairese Austin

  5. Not the sharpest tool in the shed, are you Carl?

  6. one doesn't need to look much past your headline to realize the error in your perception...local yokels? is that what people in the bush are to you? I'm sure people in the bush treated you nicely to your face, pacifism is tradition, however actual respect has to be earned and you will never understand that.

  7. Eileen has made no visible previous effort to address the troubles of Dillingham, and her blog should not be taken as any effort to do so.

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  8. The problem is simple, the natives in the bush,are the most over indulged,under worked group of people in Alaska. I don't have to work, I can sit in the village, breed, drink, raise hell. etc. They do not have to pay anything for health care, they have preference in hiring,for the most part they are not dependable. They are the biggest racist, that I have every met.This is after 9 years in Bethel and 15 in Dillingham.The bush is the worlds largest babysitting service..