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Alaska Journalist Bob Tkacz Found Dead

By | May 30, 2014 - 4:10 pm

Reporter Bob Tkacz interviews U.S. Sen. Mark Begich following the senator’s annual address to the Alaska Legislature, March 3, 2014. (Photo by Skip Gray/Gavel Alaska)

Reporter Bob Tkacz interviews U.S. Sen. Mark Begich following the senator’s annual address to the Alaska Legislature, March 3, 2014. (Photo by Skip Gray/Gavel Alaska)

Veteran Alaska journalist Bob Tkacz has died. He was 61.

With his gravelly voice and dogged interviewing style, Tkacz was a fixture in the state capital press corps for more than 20 years.

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Tkacz peppered his share of Alaska politicians with a seemingly endless line of questions. Former Administration Commissioner Becky Hultberg was press secretary under former Gov. Frank Murkowski.

“Bob really liked to get under people’s skin if he could, and he’d kind of know when he did and he’d keep poking, keep going,” Hultberg says.

But she says she always respected the job Tkacz was trying to do. She doesn’t remember the issue, but says there was one exchange in particular where she tried to step in to prevent the governor from saying something he might regret.

“Ultimately, I was physically trying to maneuver my body between the governor and the podium to try to get the governor out of the room,” she recalls. “Because Bob had really accomplished what he wanted to accomplish, which was getting the governor riled up, and when people are upset they tend to be very quotable and not always in a good way.”

Former APRN Juneau Correspondent Dave Donaldson began covering the Alaska Legislature about the same time as Tkacz. They worked near each in the Capitol press room for 21 years. Though they were friends, Donaldson says even fellow reporters sometimes got fed up with Tkacz’s aggressive style.

Bob would not let go, and he would go forever,” Donaldson says. “And yeah, it did get a little annoying every once in a while. But the fact is that he came closer to really doing the job that we all ought to be doing than a lot of people who say, ‘Okay, thank you,’ and hang up.”

In September 1991, Tkacz was beaten and stabbed in an apparent mugging in Juneau. A New York Times story about the incident is still one of the first search results when you Google his name. Donaldson remembers visiting him in the hospital.

“He couldn’t talk, so he was trying to draw notes,” he says. “And he finally got it across to me that the reason I was there was to call his publisher and say that he’d be late for deadline.”

Tkacz worked or freelanced for several Alaska media outlets, including KTOO. In recent years, he wrote for Alaska Legislative Digest and the Alaska Journal of Commerce. His stories also appeared in national and international publications.

In 1994, he started his own subscription news service, Laws for the SEA, about the commercial fishing and seafood industry. Donaldson says that was the endeavor in which Tkacz took the most pride.

“He was kind enough when I retired that he gave me an honorary subscription, so I could keep reading them, and it really was good stuff,” Donaldson says.

In recent years, Tkacz traveled to Asia several times to report on how countries in the region are involved with Alaska’s seafood industry. Legislative Digest co-publisher Tim Bradner says he was passionate about the issue.

“The fact that so many of our seafood exports go to Asia, he just became interested in the market over there and what was happening to it and how that affected Alaska,” Bradner says.

Besides working as a reporter, Tkacz also did maintenance work at Jordan Creek Center, an office building in Juneau. He lived alone on his boat in Aurora Harbor, and often spent his free time at Augustus Brown Swimming Pool. He also was a volunteer DJ on KTOO’s sister station, KRNN, where he did a jazz show.

Juneau police say they responded to a report of a death at Tkacz’s downtown office Tuesday and found his body. The death is not considered suspicious. His body was initially taken to Alaskan Memorial Park Mortuary & Crematory then sent to the state medical examiner’s office in Anchorage for an autopsy.

Tkacz was originally from Ohio, where friends say he still has family. Services are pending.

Original post:

Longtime Alaska freelance journalist Bob Tkacz has died. He was 61.

Juneau police say they responded to a report of a death at Tkacz’s downtown office Tuesday morning and found his body. The death is not considered suspicious. The body was initially taken to Alaskan Memorial Park Mortuary & Crematory then sent to the state medical examiner’s office in Anchorage for an autopsy.

Tkacz was a fixture in the state capital press corps for years. His gravelly voice and dogged interviewing style needled a number of Alaska politicians. He had his own subscription news service, Laws for the SEA, which covered the commercial fishing and seafood industry. He also wrote for Tim and Mike Bradner’s Legislative Digest in recent years. He’d been published in the Alaska Journal of Commerce and once worked for KTOO.

In 1991, Tkacz was stabbed in an apparent mugging in Juneau that was highly publicized. A New York Times story about the incident is one of the top results when you Google his name.

His LinkedIn profile says Tkacz went to Ohio University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Newspaper and Magazine Editing. He lived on a boat in Aurora Harbor, and was a volunteer jazz DJ on KTOO’s sister station, KRNN.

Friends say he has family in Ohio. Services are pending.

You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via email, podcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @aprn.

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