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Most news organizations miss out on Palin email dump

Alex DeMarban

The final dump of Sarah Palin emails must have landed with a resounding thud in Juneau on Thursday, with the media mob that once hung on her every word no where in sight as 17,000 emails were released by the state.

Instead, it sounds like The Associated Press had the lonely job to itself.

Was that because the media didn't hear about it?

According to Bill Dedman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist with msnbc.com, key media outlets that had been following delays related to the email release after another big dump last summer, but weren't notified that the emails would be available Thursday. Had he known, Dedman would have arranged to have someone in Juneau to pick up the emails.  

Some news outlets made the lack of attention on Thursday sound like the end of Sarah-mania as we know it, perhaps because she’s said she’s not running for president  this year. A headline in the Atlantic Wire may have framed it most fittingly: "No one wants to read Sarah Palin's emails anymore," it blared.

But the quiet day doesn't signify a lack of interest, said Dedman. Taken aback by the news, he said he learned today from a state spokeswoman that Alaska's former attorney general John Burns had sent an email Jan. 3 approving a release extension to Feb. 20 because the state was struggling to document so many emails. But the notification apparently didn't reach most intended recipients, including major news organizations such as his.  

"It seems as though some sort of snafu occurred," he said. "There's no reason to think there's a conspiracy. They handed them out to the AP, which is like giving them to the whole world."

What state officials handed out is a CD, unlike last time, when journalists were given boxes containing 25,000 pages of emails. Dedman said he requested a CD be mailed his way and it should be arriving soon, apparently at no cost.  

The silence in the Alaska capital on Thursday comes in stark contrast to the frenzy last June, when journalists flocked to Juneau for the first big dump in what they hoped would be an illuminating peek into Palin’s political and personal secrets -- and foibles.

And then they read the emails. And there wasn't much there. Today's story sounds much the same.  

Thursday's emails cover Palin's last 10 months in office before her stunning resignation in July 2009.  The emails seem to paint a portrait of a passionate governor many Alaskans remembered, just like the first batch of emails, covering her time as governor through September 2008.

She was on task, fighting for a trans-Alaska gas line and irked at the ethical complaints flowing her way. Of course, it's fair to note that email readers may never have the true picture, based on the large number of emails redacted for reasons such as attorney-client privilege and privacy.   

More will likely follow, but below are some highlights from today's dump, as reported by The Associated Press.  

• Palin emailed an aide to "push hard to get gasline tweet language today. We MUST give Alaskans their deserved updates on the project." The email to Katryn Morgan on June 4, 2009, came days before TransCanada Corp. and Exxon Mobil Corp. announced they would begin working together in hope of creating a gasline.

• A series of emails from March 24, 2009, had Palin steaming over the ethics complaints filed against her. She wrote Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell: "These are the things that waste my time and money, and the state's time and money."

• An ethical complaint over a possible conflict of interest because Palin wore Arctic Cat outdoor gear to the Tesoro Iron Dog snwomachine race yielded this colorful quip: "Yes, I wore Arctic Cat snow gear at a snow machine event, because it was cold outside. And by the way, today I am wearing Alaska's own Paige Adams' jeans and Alaska's Romney Dodd-Ortland hand-painted clogs. When will I see the ethics charge for wearing these? Now how much will this blogger's asinine political grandstanding cost all of us in time and money today?"

About 2,500 Palin-related emails were originally released in February of 2010 in a collaborative effort involving MSNBC.com and the company Crivella West, a research company which used analytical tools to organize the documents and locate information of interest. Included were emails from Sarah, her husband, Todd, and top Palin staff.

Last year's big release in Juneau followed. All those emails can be found and electronically searched here.

Dedman said he's not sure if the latest batch of emails will also be electronically archived, since he just learned of the release today.

Contact Alex DeMarban at alex(at)alaskadispatch.com