Lori Townsend, Alaska Public Media

Lori Townsend, Alaska Public Media
Lori Townsend is the news director and senior host for Alaska Public Media. You can send her news tips and program ideas for Talk of Alaska and Alaska Insight at ltownsend@alaskapublic.org or call 907-550-8452.
A train goes over a creek in a mountainous area

Talk of Alaska: The Alaska Railroad turns 100

In July of 1923 the last spike signaling the completion of the railroad from Seward to Fairbanks was pounded into place in Nenana by President Warren G Harding. 100 years later, the Alaska railroad is unique in the nation as the only remaining rail service to carry both passengers and freight. We discuss the history and future plans for the Alaska Railroad and its centennial celebration on this Talk of Alaska.

Talk of Alaska: Neal Fried and the history of Alaska’s economy

After nearly 45 years at the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, state economist Neal Fried is retiring. Over his long career in the state, Fried has built up an in-depth understanding of the booms and busts of Alaska’s economy. What stands out to him from his decades of looking at the unique economy of Alaska and what does he think about the future? We ask Neal Fried those questions and more on this Talk of Alaska.

Talk of Alaska: Broadband in Rural Alaska

No online banking, no Amazon orders, no internet classes. A broken fiber optic cable buried far below the Beaufort Sea ice, north of Oliktok Point has brought internet service for a wide swath of Arctic communities to dial up speed or a complete halt. Repairs are still weeks away. How are schools, local governments and businesses coping with the lack of reliable online commerce? How much redundancy is there in the system now and will federal funds make it more robust and reliable? We discuss the need for modern communication connections in the far north, on this Talk of Alaska
two women sit at a desk

Talk of Alaska: Celebrating Juneteenth and looking ahead

Juneteenth celebrates the emancipation of Black Americans from more than 400 years of slavery. The magnitude of those centuries of imprisonment, forced labor and brutal treatment continue to affect all Americans today. However, there has been tremendous growth and progress for Black people in our country and state. We discuss the great strides made, despite resistance, and the work yet to be done on this Talk of Alaska.
Unalaska's library

Talk of Alaska: Summer reading with Alaskan authors

Alaskans like to pack in as much fun as possible during our gloriously long summer days and extended bouts of backyard, beach, boat and campsite time is made all the better when you have a great book to relax with. Readers know how books create magical doorways into other worlds and other worldviews that enhance your imagination in ways that scrolling online will never match. If you want to stick to home grown books, Alaska has many great authors and a wide range of selections from thrillers to romance to science. We’ll talk with Alaska writers and librarians to hear about their book recommendations on this Talk of Alaska.

Talk of Alaska: Supports for active duty service members and veterans

The transition from active duty service to civilian life can be challenging for anyone in the military. For those who have survived combat and carry that trauma, it can be much more difficult to blend back into family and community life. Some veterans isolate and Alaska has one of the highest percentages of veterans of any state. What programs best help service members and vets adjust? What works to help veterans feel connected and less alone? We’ll discuss new approaches available to veterans and active duty members to help them lead happier, healthier lives on this Talk of Alaska.
a line of toy cars and trucks on the ground

Talk of Alaska: The child care crisis

For working families across Alaska, the challenge of finding affordable, quality childcare is not new, but during the pandemic, the already limited capacity for childcare was further restricted. The lack of available help is spiking the costs of care and forcing parents to make difficult decisions about whether to keep jobs or even stay in the state. Is there any relief on the horizon from either state or federal policymakers? We discuss the crisis in childcare on this Talk of Alaska.

Talk of Alaska: The 2023 wildfire season

People without an idea of where they would sleep, stay safe, cook or have access to bathroom facilities or running water, were made to leave the Sullivan Arena. Many of them will have no choice but to camp in area parks in the city. Why did the Sullivan close and what is the plan to address the needs of those who are without housing before next winter? We’ll talk with city leaders to find out on this Talk of Alaska.

Talk of Alaska: After the Sullivan

People without an idea of where they would sleep, stay safe, cook or have access to bathroom facilities or running water, were made to leave the Sullivan Arena. Many of them will have no choice but to camp in area parks in the city. Why did the Sullivan close and what is the plan to address the needs of those who are without housing before next winter? We’ll talk with city leaders to find out on this Talk of Alaska.

Talk of Alaska: The budget, PFD, and new revenue ideas

Will legislators find consensus on a budget by mid-May that the Governor will also agree to? We discuss the ideas for Alaska’s fiscal future on this Talk of Alaska.
Jesse Kiehl and clean water advocates

Talk of Alaska: New proposed PFAS regulations

We discuss the way forward for eradicating PFAS contamination from Alaska’s water and soil on this Talk of Alaska

Talk of Alaska: Representative Mary Peltola

Mary Peltola has been Alaska’s sole U.S. Congresswoman since last September when she won a special election, and although the legislative work that gets done in Congress may at times feel distant and far removed from the daily lives of Alaskans, the decisions made in Washington DC directly affect Alaska’s future. Some recent measures regarding energy, roads and the debate over which projects to prioritize has once again put a spotlight on Alaskan issues. What are the current legislative priorities of Alaska’s single representative? Congresswoman Mary Peltola joins us on this Talk of Alaska.

Talk of Alaska: Tips for Spring Gardening

Across the state, even in the snowiest places, the signs of spring are starting to appear. Crocus and tulips are already emerging in some areas and gardeners are poring over seed catalogs, dreaming of growing their own food and beautifying their yards with flowers and other plants. It’s an exciting time for people who like to dig in the dirt. We discuss what’s new for growing and harvesting in your backyard, on this Talk of Alaska.

Talk of Alaska: The Southeast troll fishery lawsuit

Alaska’s Southeast commercial salmon troll fleet is the target of a federal lawsuit that alleges the fishery threatens the chinook salmon food stock of endangered orca whales off the coast of Washington. The suit was brought against the federal government but seeks to shut down the 30 million dollar fishery this summer. Critics say it will decimate the livelihoods of Southeast troll fishermen and suggest other causes are depleting the whale’s food supply. We discuss the fight over fish and who has the right to them on this Talk of Alaska.
A map of the Willow development on Alaska's North Slope

Talk of Alaska: The Willow Project

The Biden administration has approved ConocoPhillips Willow project in the National Petroleum Reserve. Oil drilling proponents see it as a win for domestic energy production but some climate and indigenous activists call it a climate bomb that runs counter to President Biden’s commitment to addressing climate change. We’ll discuss the Willow decision on this Talk of Alaska.
People create an aisle for a passing dog team.

Talk of Alaska: The Future of Mushing

The Iditarod. Alaska’s iconic race is more than 50 years old. Fewer teams took off for Nome in 2023 than in any other year. Are the number of competitors down because of the added expense of inflation or is there something else at play? What does the future hold for long distance racing and sled dog racing overall? Race veterans discuss what’s on the horizon for dog drivers and their teams on this Talk of Alaska.
a Juneau land lot

Talk of Alaska: Lawsuits challenging tribal sovereignty

Lawsuits challenging tribal sovereignty at both the state and federal level could have big implications for the future ability of tribes to exercise authority over tribal citizens and land. The state is suing over a land into trust application and The U.S. Supreme court is reviewing challenges to the Indian Child Welfare Act or ICWA that claim the law is discriminatory. What could these decisions mean for the future of tribal autonomy? We’ll discuss it on this Talk of Alaska.
A tan and redish building under a gray sky

Talk of Alaska: Updates to Alaska’s Sexual Assault Laws

Alaska has long ranked at or near the top in the nation for rates of violence and sexual assault. Over the summer of 2022, lawmakers updated Alaska’s sexual assault laws, including a new definition of what defines consent. The law went into effect on January 1st, 2023. Why did it take decades to update the statutes and how might the changes affect prosecutions? Better legal tools to prevent assaults and help survivors is our discussion on this Talk of Alaska.
a woman poses for a photo, in a blue jacket

Talk of Alaska: Senator Lisa Murkowski

At the very end of 2022, Congress passed the massive $1.7 trillion spending package. The bill includes language to fund new projects around the state, transfer land to the University of Alaska and much more.
A large truck drives through a heavy snowfall.

Talk of Alaska: Preparing for Extreme Weather

How will more intense storms affect Alaska in the next decade and how can state and local governments use data to plan and budget for keeping people safe? We discuss adapting for an extreme weather future on this Talk of Alaska.