Anchorage’s homegrown Howard Weaver remembered as a ‘national-caliber newsman’

Anchorage Daily News publisher Kay Fanning, left, and Howard Weaver, second from right, on May 3, 1976, when the ADN was awarded its first Pulitzer Prize. The newspaper’s office was then in downtown Anchorage. (Anchorage Daily News archive)

Former Anchorage Daily News editor Howard Weaver passed away last week from pancreatic cancer. He was 73 years old. 

Born and raised in Anchorage, Weaver led the Daily News for 15 years, helping the paper transform from a scrappy underdog on the verge of bankruptcy to a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner. The paper would later win another Pulitzer after surviving yet another bankruptcy

Homer-based writer Tom Kizzia worked with Weaver at the Daily News for more than a decade and wrote his obituary last week. Kizzia says he knew early on that Weaver was a high-caliber journalist. 


[Sign up for Alaska Public Media’s daily newsletter to get our top stories delivered to your inbox.]

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Tom Kizzia: You know, he was almost my age, but he seemed older. He seemed a lot wiser, and he felt like a national-caliber newsman here in Alaska. And so I was excited to meet him. But he was so kind and friendly that I didn’t feel at all intimidated once I started to visit with him. And he seemed very encouraging, he liked my writing, and so that was the beginning of that spell that he would cast on the people working for him, just by being himself, to just make you want to do your best work and proudly bring it to him and say, “Hey, see what I did?” and have him sort of pat you on the head. Not that he was at all condescending in that way. But we were eager to have him condescend to us. He was just so fun to work for.

Wesley Early: I know that the ’80s had a pretty big newspaper war between the Anchorage Daily News and the Anchorage Times. Can you talk about what went down there and what Howard’s role was?

TK: Oh, gee. Well that was such a saga. And, you know, that had happened in so many cities around the country, but most of the wars had died down. So this was kind of a late flareup in Alaska. And the Times was the old, conservative, establishment, prosperous newspaper, and the Anchorage Daily News had been the upstart paper started in the ’50s and was kind of the more liberal, just scrappier morning paper. It had almost died. There was a joint operating agreement where the Times was selling the ads for the Daily News, but only halfheartedly. And so the Daily News was fading away. And that was kind of what encouraged Howard to go off and start the Alaska Advocate and sort of prepare for the day in the late ’70s when the Daily News would fade away completely, and the Times would be the one paper. And so there would be a need for an alternative voice in Alaska.

Then when the McClatchy chain from Sacramento came in and bought the Daily News, suddenly there were resources. So that was when the Advocate folded and Howard and (company) moved over to the ADN. He became the top editor at the paper quite quickly. The Daily News had a bright product to sell to the community, and the community was changing. It was becoming more sophisticated, in that oil period, as a lot of people were moving up here.

He wanted us to go out and, you know, pick up the rocks and see what was underneath them. He wanted us to challenge the institutions and just do really good newspaper work. There was no sense of, “Oh, I better not do that or my boss might be upset.” It’d be more likely that the boss would be upset if you backed away from something that needed scrutiny. So, you know, he was just an inspiring leader through that period. He had this vision of the community newspaper as a tribal fire that the whole community could gather around and tell stories and share stories and develop a kind of common sense of who we are.

WE: I’m curious. What do you think made Howard such a great editor?

TK: Well, he was a great leader, you know. I mean, he had done it himself. He had won that Pulitzer, the investigative piece that he’d done on the Teamsters, and he was a good columnist. He had a good, pithy style. He understood good writing. But I think a lot of it was that he would attract creative people and then give them latitude to go out and do their best work, rather than being a kind of hands-on editor. When he sent me out to rural Alaska, he told me that if I was in a small village, I was supposed to be writing about life in rural Alaska, and if I found a good news story while I was in the villages, I was supposed to walk away and not cover it. That took a vision of, “Don’t think of this as a normal assignment where you’re trying to go out and cover a public hearing on an environmental impact statement. This is about real life.” And so he pointed me in a new direction and then let me go, and he did that with lots of reporters and photographers and others in lots of areas. So that’s why we all wanted to work and do our best work for him.

Wesley Early covers Anchorage life and city politics for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at and follow him on X at @wesley_early. Read more about Wesley here.

Previous articleAlaska’s Division of Public Assistance makes progress on food stamp backlog
Next articleJuneau police detain man after 3-hour downtown standoff linked to drug investigation