Created by Tom McCarthy, ABC’s ‘Alaska Daily’ is a drama series that follows Eileen Fitzgerald, a celebrated investigative journalist from New York, who leaves her job after a major debacle. Determined to begin afresh, she moves to Anchorage, Alaska, and joins Daily Alaskan, the daily metro newspaper. Soon, Eileen stumbles upon the alarming number of missing or murdered Indigenous women cases in the city and decides to investigate further. Her colleague, Roz Friendly, helps her, and together, they set out to release reports on the crisis.
Featuring nuanced performances by actors like Hilary Swank, Jeff Perry, Grace Dove, Meredith Holzman, and Matt Malloy, the show explores a socially relevant issue in a very realistic manner. Moreover, the authentic portrayal of a newspaper office and the Indigenous community in Alaska makes the audience wonder if ‘Alaska Daily’ is inspired by actual incidents and people. If you, too, wish to know the same, we come bearing answers!
Is Alaska Daily a True Story?
No, ‘Alaska Daily’ is not based on a true story. Instead, it has been adapted from a script written by Tom McCarthy and Kyle Hopkins, a journalist with Anchorage Daily News (ADN), a daily metro newspaper in Alaska. Despite being fictional, the show draws heavily from real life, especially from Hopkins’ ‘Lawless‘ series of investigative reports between 2018 and 2020, as part of a project by ADN and ProPublica. The series covered harrowing accounts of sexual assault survivors in Alaska who failed to receive any assistance from the police.
Highlighting the weak points of the justice system, Kyle’s investigative pieces were an eye opener; ‘Lawless’ was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 2020. The reports caught the notice of Tom McCarthy, who was keen to tell the story of a local newsroom. In a September 2022 preview with The Paley Center for Media, he elaborated on his idea of placing a New York journalist in a local news organization.
“I felt like the thing I didn’t really get to explore was the personal lives of journalists, get to know who they are…And especially, I would say, in the last 10 years, the sort of rhetoric and vitriol directed specifically at journalists has really been amped up. And I think, incredibly unfairly and quite on purpose. You know, why not reduce the power of the press? It makes a lot of things easier, including corruption, small and wide scale,” said McCarthy.
The filmmaker continued, “So I thought, man, what’s something I could do if I had an opportunity to make a TV show? And I thought, wouldn’t it be interesting to really get to know who these journalists are, specifically involved in local journalism? … Can I humanize journalists? Can I get a sense of who they are and what makes them tick, and why they do the work they do?” To add depth to his story, he worked closely with Hopkins and ADN to develop the concept.
Thus, McCarthy picked up a few of the themes covered in ‘Lawless’ and built the show’s narrative around them. This includes the legal injustices faced by the Indigenous community in Alaska, specifically the shocking percentage of unsolved cases of missing and murdered women. The creator and his team intricately studied the ADN employees and their newsroom, taking notes for the show’s physical setting and character types.
Albeit, while ‘Alaska Daily’ may resemble actual reporters and true crime cases, it is primarily fictional and builds its own world without any real-life references. The show aims to send a poignant message about the failure of the legal system to aid victims, especially from Indigenous communities. Furthermore, it is a tribute to the relentless efforts of local news organizations and journalists in giving a platform to unheard voices in society.
Read More: Where is ABC’s Alaska Daily Filmed?