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Alaska Daily Showrunner Tom McCarthy Hopes To Bring Respect Back To The Newsroom

In 2008, for 10 episodes on HBO's drama series "The Wire," Tom McCarthy portrays Scott Templeton, an ambitious reporter with The Baltimore Sun who dreams of someday penning stories for a larger publication. Over a decade later, McCarthy is the brains behind a new television journalist, one who unwittingly experiences the opposite trajectory.

ABC's "Alaska Daily," created by McCarthy, premiered in October 2022 and follows Eileen Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank), an investigative writer in New York who finds herself unemployed after a high-profile story doesn't exactly go her way. However, she soon receives an unlikely job offer — writing for an Anchorage, Alaska-based daily newspaper.

It's a huge life adjustment, with Eileen even experiencing panic attacks for the first time. The office of The Daily Alaskan is tiny and located in a strip mall, daylight is constant, and some of her co-workers don't see eye-to-eye when it comes to her drive to hold people, including law enforcement, accountable. Still, she becomes immersed in getting to the bottom of Alaska's epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women.

"Alaska Daily" certainly covers the topics of crime and corruption, but it's not the next "Law & Order" or "NCIS." Rather, McCarthy's goal is to showcase the importance of hyperlocal journalism and the respect that the writers behind it deserve. Smaller outlets are rapidly disappearing, with broadcast news and social media as primary sources for news consumption. But Eileen realizes that none of the big outlets care to cover these women's stories. Therefore, it's up to the local paper.

Local publications shed light on issues that major news outlets pass over

Much of "Alaska Daily" is inspired by the real-life Anchorage Daily News, which, along with the nonprofit ProPublica, dedicated two years to shedding light on sexual violence issues in Alaska — something reporters felt wasn't receiving the necessary media attention. On "Alaska Daily," Eileen Fitzgerald and colleague Rosalind "Roz" Friendly (Grace Dove) similarly attempt to seek justice for grieving loved ones who are given no answers or closure.

In an interview with The Paley Center for Media, Tom McCarthy shared that a show spotlighting the everyday lives of journalists, both in and out of the office, hasn't been done in a long time. He's aiming to "humanize" journalists and give audiences a sense of "who they are, what makes them tick and why they do the work that they do." For example, reporter Yuna Park (Ami Park) is deeply troubled over her story potentially ruining a man's life but feels obligated to tell her community about his corrupt dealings. McCarthy also wants "Alaska Daily" viewers to remember how vital small-town journalism is.

"Journalists are some of the most interesting people I know," he said. "They're incredibly curious, incredibly passionate. They care a lot about the people and the things they're writing about." McCarthy added, "Our country is so big and diverse. To lose that, we lose a very big part of who we are."

According to a report by The New York Times, newspapers have been on the decline for some time. Since 2005, over 2,500 have shut down, with that number continuing to climb. Still, if it weren't for the work of these reporters, vital stories — such as the Anchorage Daily News' revelation that 70 communities in Alaska lack law enforcement — would go untold.