Howard Weaver, Who Helped an Alaska Newspaper Win 3 Pulitzers, Dies at 73

Howard Weaver, a self-described “poor kid from a shabby neighborhood,” was 24 years old and terrified when he was assigned by the floundering Anchorage Daily News to expose a rapacious chapter of the Teamsters union that was corruptly profiting from Alaska’s oil pipeline boom.

“Any way you sliced it,” he recalled, “the odds were against us, a mismatch of Goliathian proportions.”

But Mr. Weaver was hungry. Hungry enough that after months of investigative reporting, he and his colleagues exposed “a complex maze of political, economic and social power,” which, they wrote, “challenges at times both mighty industry and state government itself.”

Three weeks before The Daily News declared that it was on the brink of bankruptcy, the scrappy newspaper with a circulation of about 13,000 was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for public service in 1976 for its reporting on Teamsters Local 959. It was the smallest paper and the first in Alaska to win the coveted medal.

The Daily News survived, and Mr. Weaver eventually became its editor. In 1989, he mobilized almost half the paper’s 75-member news staff to investigate the twin plagues of alcoholism and suicide among Native Alaskans. The resulting nine-part series, “A People in Peril,” documented how “among a growing percentage of Alaska Natives, life has become equal parts violence, disintegration and despair,” and traced the cause to “the constant assault of Western institutions, Western diseases and Western economies” that were “destroying the fabric of Native life.”

The Daily News won a second Pulitzer for public service for that series — a remarkable feat for any newspaper, especially a small-town one.


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