Public Relations, Development, & Nonprofit Storytelling

From 2010 to 2019, I wrote articles and designed the layout for KNOM Radio Mission’s “The Nome Static,” a 13-issues-a-year print and online publication that allows supporters across the country to stay connected with the latest at KNOM and the Western Alaska communities it serves.

Each article of each “Static” issue is a combination of local news and examples of how donor support for KNOM makes a difference for rural, sub-Arctic communities. Often, as is the case with most of the samples below, the articles summarize or contextualize (for readers outside of rural Alaska) longer-form reporting by KNOM reporters or producers.

I wrote more than one hundred issues of the “Static,” with about 4-6 articles per issue. Below is a small sampling of pieces from my final years with KNOM.

Broken sea ice along the Bering Sea coast, Nome, Alaska, March 2019
Broken sea ice along the Bering Sea coast, Nome, Alaska, March 2019.

‘We Want to Live Here’
October 2, 2019

  • For those who would say “you can never go home again,” the descendants of those who once lived in Solomon, Alaska, would beg to differ. Reaching beyond state boundaries, a community is coalescing among children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren of those who once made the remote village a cherished residence. It’s a mini-diaspora of sorts, coming back home. For this reunited community, the challenges ahead are twofold: rediscover (and repair) the home of their ancestors, and relearn the language that was once forbidden there.

Dancing for Days
October 1, 2019

  • Traditional Alaska Native music is richly woven into the fabric of daily and civic life in the sub-Arctic. Active drumming and dancing ensembles perform often at community events, at which people of all ages and backgrounds are routinely invited to dance or otherwise participate. This (literal) drumbeat of millennia-old culture comes to a joyous climax with the handful of music festivals held each year in communities like Wales, Alaska, where, each autumn, the Kingikmiut Dance Festival is a place of “happy reunions, fellowship, community-building, and song late into the night.”

Time in a Bottle
September 4, 2019

  • Most Western Alaskans can’t see Russia from their houses (although a few actually can), but they do keep tabs on goings-on across the Date Line. One resident of Shishmaref, Alaska, even received a time capsule of sorts from five decades past: a classic message-in-a-bottle from 1969.

Too Little Ice, Too Much Snow
April 4, 2019

  • The remote communities of sub-Arctic, northwestern Alaska are on the front lines of climate change. In the winter of 2019, Nome and environs experienced a surprising abundance of snow combined with a near-shocking lack of sea ice. The solid sea ice upon which Alaska Native communities have depended for centuries — for regional transportation, subsistence hunting, and so much more — never materialized.

Shelter from the Cold
February 6, 2019

  • Many are surprised to learn that a place with typical wintertime lows around -20° F has a community of people experiencing homelessness. But even rural, sub-Arctic towns struggle with this issue, and in Nome, it’s addressed in a very rural, sub-Arctic fashion: by the local community rallying to support its local shelter.

Culture While Incarcerated
February 6, 2019

  • In Alaska, there’s a high rate of recidivism (those incarcerated, released, and then incarcerated again). In an attempt to lower the rate, Nome’s correctional center is trying a fresh approach to inmate care, taking cues from Alaska Native culture, as well as from another Arctic region, Norway.

Good News in the Air
December 5, 2018

  • You know how I said earlier that most Alaskans can’t see Russia from their houses? In Diomede, Alaska, you actually can — because it’s just a few miles away, across the Bering Strait and the International Date Line. Even by Alaska standards, Diomede is extremely remote, and for years, that’s meant that air travel to and from the island community has been highly unreliable. It’s been a near rite-of-passage for Western Alaska visitors to be unexpectedly waylaid in Diomede for days, even weeks, if the weather turns foul and planes or helicopters can’t fly. Until late 2018, the village was the only place in the United States not to be covered under the FAA’s Essential Air Service program. But now, finally, they’re covered, and more reliable flight schedules may be the result.

A Crisis of Overcrowding
November 1, 2018

  • Among the myriad problems faced by remote Western Alaska communities is an insufficient supply of housing. This is but one of countless examples of sub-Arctic communities grappling with more extreme iterations of problems already familiar to their continental U.S. counterparts.

‘You Are Not Done Yet’
August 31, 2018

  • By sub-Arctic standards, the winter of 2018 was no winter at all. Sea ice around the remote community of Savoonga, Alaska, never reached the thickness or distance from shore that has been typical for centuries, and upon which traditional, subsistence activities depend. Local elder Delbert Pungowiyi says it was but the latest in a series of environmental crises to hit his hometown. “For years,” Delbert says, “weather patterns have been changing, and now… we’re starting to see the Arctic experience disasters.” Even into his elder years, Delbert sees in these crises a call to action: to advocate for the needs of his community, so that his children and grandchildren can still practice the subsistence lifestyle in which he was raised.

Ilisaqativut: ‘We All Learn Together’
July 31, 2018

  • The effort to revive Alaska Native languages, like the traditional Bering Strait language of Inupiaq, is happening at a grassroots level all across the state, including at the Nome hospital, where employees are becoming students — and, soon enough, teachers, too. Among the delights of learning Inupiaq, the students discover, is the language’s unique intricacy when describing concepts like “here” and “there” — nuances that make sense when you consider the wide open landscape of the sub-Arctic.

Anticipating a Future Arctic
April 27, 2018

  • One of the predominant narratives in news about Western Alaska is the tension between traditional Alaska Native lifestyles and the encroachment of modern ways of life: between “8-to-5 jobs” and subsistence, as one community leader describes it. For many, the most realistic path forward is to find a balance between the two. But as external forces continue to disrupt life in the sub-Arctic, how will any such balance shift in the decades ahead? One Nome conference brought together community leaders to grapple with these difficult hypotheticals.

Listening to the Bering Sea
March 29, 2018

  • As a changing climate brings disruption to Alaska’s Bering Sea and all of those who live in its vicinity — marine mammals and humans, alike — one way to keep tabs on those changes is by listening… to the sea itself.

Not a Drop to Drink
November 1, 2017

  • An often-overlooked challenge of life in rural Alaska is its lack of infrastructure. Because of their extreme isolation, most rural communities aren’t connected to larger power, sewer/water, and/or telecommunications grids — and this tends to mean that, when outages or other utility problems occur, they’re more severe or more protracted. That was the case in the summer of 2017 for two Western Alaska towns.

Melting the ‘Ice Curtain’
Sep. 1, 2017

  • In the late 1980s, as the “Iron Curtain” was falling in Europe with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, another artificial boundary was coming to an end halfway around the world. The “Ice Curtain” had long bifurcated a region, easternmost Russia and westernmost Alaska, with shared linguistic and cultural roots. Three decades after a landmark “friendship flight” from Alaska to Russia, its participants still remembered vividly the overwhelming joy they felt at reconnecting with a region that had, for so long, been so close and yet so removed.


Leave a Reply