Alaska bloggers find themselves in Palin spotlight

The Baltimore Sun

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - AKMuckraker, anonymous left-leaning Anchorage blogger, was born on a Web site called "Mudflats." With yellow galoshes as her mascot, Muckraker started writing just before Mother's Day. A few people may have read her post, but no one left comments.

Then, a couple weeks ago, came Sen. John McCain's announcement that he'd picked Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate and it unleashed a torrential Googling frenzy unmatched in the history of Alaska media. And Muckraker, who has refused to identify herself except to say she's an East Coast transplant who's worked in the publishing field, was rocketed into the national conversation.

In a little over a week's time, Mudflats picked up nods in The Atlantic, the Chicago Tribune, Time, and Huffington Post. Her posts now routinely garner hundreds of comments.

An unquenchable hunger for local Palin information thrust Mudflats, along with a posse of other Alaska bloggers, into the big time.

Among the most-established in the far north blogosphere is Andrew Halcro, the former Republican state representative and unsuccessful candidate for governor against Palin. He said his site averaged thousands of visits a day before the big announcement.

He said he got a million that day.

There are high-profile pro-Palin blogs out there, but not many. Matt Moon, an alternate to the Republican National Convention from Alaska who has been blogging about Palin from the right on the site since the nomination, says bloggers have a tradition of going against the mainstream.

The left takes advantage of "netroots," using blogs and the Internet to organize and spread information. The right is more grassroots, he said, relying on on-the-ground infrastructure, face-to-face contact, talk radio and institutions such as churches.

In a time when local and national media outlets are shrinking because of financial woes, bloggers are stepping in, doing the investigating, said Linda Kellen Biegel, writer of "Celtic Diva's Blue Oasis." Before the Palin announcement, her site was getting a few hundred hits a day. Afterward it soon topped 5,000.

All the attention makes her think more critically about what she does. She's trying to be a fact-checker, vetting things said by Palin on the campaign trail.

One reporter from a major newspaper called, asking about Palin and "troopergate." Biegel gave the reporter a list of people she should call. Later she read the reporter's story and there were all the sources she'd suggested.

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