‘Dark Winter Nights’ sheds light on Alaskan experiences

The Lower 48’s collective view of Alaska has become rather warped over the years, barraged by a variety of reality television shows and appearances by the likes of Sarah Palin and Charlo Greene. Ranging from “Alaskan Bush People” to “Deadliest Catch,” Alaskan stories have become heavily filtered by the media.

Journalism professor Robert Prince recognized this, and decided to rectify the situation by creating “Dark Winter Nights,” a podcast, radio program, and live show where real Alaskans tell real Alaskan stories.

“There’s a lot of reality TV shows that just make things up that. They create this caricature of Alaska that they think audiences in the lower 48 and around the world want to see. There’s enough fascinating stuff happening here already. We don’t need to make stuff up,” said Prince.

The live shows first began in April of 2014, drawing just a few hundred people. In November of the same year, their second show’s audience had grown exponentially, packing Pioneer Park. Their largest show was in 2015 and attracted nearly a thousand people.

Although the show took a hiatus while Prince was on sabbatical, he is now back in Alaska and getting things moving once more. Podcasts are being uploaded regularly, and a live show is currently planned for April 2018.

“My long-term goal is to take us on the road,” Prince said. “The world is fascinated with Alaska, obviously, but I feel like Alaska needs to take control of its story and its identity and not let TV producers from L.A. decide what Alaska is like.”

Although the program has been a “labor of love,” Prince hopes to expand the program soon, and has been working with international podcasts in an effort to expand the audience of the show.

Prince is always looking for more stories, so any Alaskan who thinks that they may have a worthy Alaskana story to share can visit the show’s website and submit their tale for judgement.

Some examples of these stories include close encounters with the animals here in Alaska, such as Ray Smith’s story of driving into town behind a pack of wolves as told in the most recent episode of the podcast.

“I get right up behind them and I tap the horn a little bit, it didn’t even faze them. They didn’t turn around and look at me, they didn’t do anything, they just stayed right in my lane,” said Smith. “And I want to add by the way, they were all in the southbound lane, none of them were over there in the northbound lane. I guess they read their manual, but I don’t know.”

“The Dark Winter Nights” team votes on each submitted story, and decides which ones will work best on the radio, podcast, and/or in their lives shows.

“It has to be a story that would impress other Alaskans, because we feel that if the story impresses Alaskans, it’s going to blow away people in the Lower 48,” says Prince.

“It’s been a ton of fun to get up in front of all those Alaskans and share these awesome stories that would otherwise just not be told,” he continued.

Those who wish to listen to the Dark Winter Nights podcasts can visit http://darkwinternights.com/, and keep an eye peeled for the upcoming live show through their Facebook page or email newsletter.

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