Alaska Dispatch editor Tony Hopfinger visits UAA for Q and A, discusses Miller event detainment

Tony Hopfinger presented a talk on Wednesday Oct. 20 entitled “Is the Alaska Dispatch the Future of Newspapers?”

Hopfinger, the editor of Alaska Dispatch, was detained on Oct. 17 during a town hall meeting at Central Middle School. Joe Miller, Republican candidate for the Alaska Senate, attended the meeting and was questioned heavily by Hopfinger. Miller’s bodyguards demanded that he discontinue his questioning, but after Hopfinger refused to stop and leave, he was detained by Miller’s bodyguards. He was released shortly after the police arrived, no charges were pressed.

The presentation held at UAA was meant to be a simple Q and A with students, but the discussion, by and large, focused on the Miller event.

Hopfinger approached Miller with a video camera after the meeting and proceeded to ask the Senatorial candidate if he had or had not done something wrong while working as lawyer for the Fairbanks North Star Bureau.

“I asked my question, ‘were you on the verge of getting fired at the Bureau,’” Hopfinger said. The information Hopfinger was seeking is the basis of Alaska Dispatch’s lawsuit against the Bureau.

Miller began to walk into the hallway of the school while Hopfinger followed, and once again Hopfinger asked the same question. Miller had not told Hopfinger to stop following him or to cease the questioning when Hopfinger posed a second question.

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“I asked him, ‘were you ever reprimanded by the bureau for politicking on their time, or with their resources,’” Hopfinger said.

Miller turned around, pushing through a crowd that had bottlenecked into the main hallway of the school. Hopfinger found himself blocked on all sides and before he knew it, he found himself in handcuffs.

The agents who had handcuffed and informed the reporter that he was arrested are part of the firm Drop Zone Security. At the time, Hopfinger was unsure who the individuals were that had detained him, but he did not resist, he stated

“Things had ramped up so quickly that if I tried to resist in anyway at that point I’d be thrown on the ground with a knee in my back,” Hopfinger said. “I don’t need that.”

Charges have not been pressed by Hopfinger, as of yet. The Senatorial debate Tuesday night at Snow City Café hosted by Alaska Dispatch was Hopfinger’s first priority, but now that the event has passed he is considering his legal options. The reporter is not contemplating legal action because he was hurt, he stated.

“It’s a freedom of the press issue,” Hopfinger stated. “If we (Alaska Dispatch) decide to pursue civil action against Drop Zone and/or Mr. Miller it will be on those grounds. We have to stand up for that; start holding our ground more.”

Students asked Hopfinger questions regarding Alaska Dispatch’s heated pursuit to expose any negative information that would impact the Miller campaign. Hopfinger disagreed, stating that the news site has had trouble with Murkowski’s staff as well. A Murkowski staffer had threatened not to speak with any reporters at Alaska Dispatch ever again after an unfavorable article was published. Despite this rebuttal, Hopfinger admitted that he himself is no longer capable of being objective about Miller’s campaign.

“I can be honest about that one. I don’t see that someone or his posse that stops the media doing their job is a good thing. That’s not a Republican or Democratic thing. That’s (freedom of speech) just what America is about,” Hopfinger said.

According to Hopfinger, Alaska Dispatch gets an average of 8,000 hits per day. The news site is currently averaging about 70,000 hits a day.