49 Voices: Victoria Petersen of Anchorage

Victoria Petersen of Anchorage (Photo by Wesley Early, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage)

This week we’re hearing from Victoria Petersen in Anchorage. Petersen is our intern this spring, and next week she’ll be launching the print version of her hyperlocal news blog, The Spenardian.

Listen now

PETERSEN: I was born and raised on Spenard, and I know that neighborhood very well, and I wanted to know my neighbors better and I wanted to know my place better. And I think the best way to do that is to completely immerse yourself in the neighborhood and report the stories you think are important for those people and let those people report on stories that are important to them as well. Giving them a medium to do that has been really satisfying.

It’s important for the people who live there, that they know what’s going on with their community council. Different resolutions that they’re passing, different things that are opening up or shutting in their neighborhood are things that people that live there are always gonna wanna know first.

The history is my favorite part about Spenard because it’s just wild. So the city of Anchorage was built as a railroad town to start building the railroad, developing Alaska and Spenard was just on the outskirts of that. They didn’t have the same liquor laws, or any laws really, in Spenard. So all the bootlegging that went on there… there’s tunnels to this day that still run under the streets of Spenard that were for bootlegging or… God knows what.

It’s a very interesting, secretive, kind of Wild West history that we have going on in Spenard.

I think, generally, people look down on it or think it’s a shady part of town. It’s Anchorage’s old red light district, and it’s always gonna be Anchorage’s red light district, but it’s not that anymore, necessarily. Not necessarily changing the way people think about the neighborhood, but inviting different perceptions of that, and showing them what is really going on.

I think it’s really a catalyst of community for… it’s a community effort, for sure. Because it’s not just me anymore; it’s other people helping. It’s hard, especially in this journalistic climate and this economic climate today. But, we have people that are really passionate about it and I do it out of my pocket, and I barely even sometimes. But it doesn’t matter because I love it, and I would do it for free forever because it’s just something I care about.