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Alaska newspaper pioneer gains following on Facebook

Posted: January 20, 2013 - 8:57pm  |  Updated: January 20, 2013 - 9:01pm

EAGLE RIVER (AP) — An Alaska newspaper pioneer has taken his extensive database of knowledge about the 49th state online.

Lee Jordan, who founded the Chugiak-Eagle River Star newspaper in 1971, started a Facebook page last month called “Ask Lee About Alaska,” which he hopes will become a way for those curious about anything Alaska to find answers.

“I’m not sure what sparked it, but something happened to trigger the idea that people would have an interest in things related to Alaska,” he said recently.

The way it works is simple. Just find Jordan’s page on the popular social networking site (www.facebook.com/groups/askleeaboutalaska) and ask away. Jordan said if he doesn’t know the answer off the top of his head, he can usually track it down.

“I’ve had to research a few of them,” he said.

Jordan started the page on Dec. 4, and by Jan. 8 it had already attracted 359 members. So far, most of the questions he’s been asked have been from locals wondering about Chugiak-Eagle River history. Questions have ranged from the origins of local street names to the story behind “The Chacon,” a large wooden boat that sits alongside the Old Glenn Highway and was brought to the community by Til Wallace.

Although he’s more than happy to answer questions about his adopted hometown, the longtime Chugiak resident said his original intent was to inform people from Outside about Alaska’s history.

“I just wanted to brag about the place I live,” he said.

Jordan is hoping the page will begin to generate more interest from people in the Lower 48 as the Iditarod draws near. He’s also contacted educational groups about ways to use his expertise in classrooms nationwide.

There are few people as uniquely qualified as Jordan, 82, to talk about Alaska history. He first arrived in the territory in 1947 on assignment with the Army. He never left.

In 1958, Jordan was working as a typesetter at the Anchorage Times when word arrived that Alaska had been admitted as the 49th state in the union. He personally set the six-inch type on the iconic “WE’RE IN” headline — using a saw to turn a comma into an apostrophe for the giant header.

In addition to founding and editing the Star (which he sold to Morris Communications in 2000), Jordan was also elected mayor of the short-lived Chugiak-Eagle River Borough in 1975 and has written several books, including “Starlight Memories,” a collection of Star editorials; “The Eagle Return to Yukla Valley,” an updated history of Chugiak-Eagle River; and the memoir, “Reflections of a Reluctant Alaskan.” He has lived in Chugiak since 1962, and remains active in the community, serving as booster club president for the Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks Alaska Baseball League team.

“I guess I don’t have enough hats to wear,” he joked about his new online venture.

Jordan said he checks the new Facebook page two or three times a day. Although he admits he’s not terribly tech savvy (“I had to have somebody help me set it up,” he said), Jordan admitted he’s become hooked on the online resource.

“I connect with a lot of people I haven’t talked with in a long time,” he said.

As a longtime newsman, Jordan said he’s amazed at the ways technology has changed journalism in the past two decades.

“It’s really amazing the transition and the impact the Internet has had,” he said.

Jordan said he hopes more people — especially students from Outside — will use the Facebook page as a way to learn more about Alaska. The more questions he gets, he said, the more fun he has trying to find the answers.

“It keeps my mind alive,” he said.

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