November 29, 2009

Round-in-circles with staff writer Craig Medred.

For the last couple of days I have been corresponding with Mr. Craig Medred, staff writer for the Alaska Dispatch. This is the gentleman who used my research out-of-context in an article he wrote and published about Sarah Palin's book, Going Rogue. I wrote a response to his article on November 26, 2009. I published that same response here on this blog the following day, November 27, 2009. Mr. Medred apparently does not see that what he did was wrong. He refuses to write a "correction" or apologize to me. The following is the text starting with his first response to me and proceeds from there.

(Note: I went ahead and corrected capitalization's in his emails for better ease in reading -Jeff)

From: Craig Medred, November 27, 2009.
I read the entire account on your website, along with the old newspaper a week ago. and the quote we used was pulled from that website, which I linked to in hopes you could sell a few books.

Now....what's there doesn't appear to be the same. Did it change recently? Is there another website pirating clicks looking for your book, which might account for the link in the dispatch story not working?

Whichever, though, doesn't really matter. water under the bridge. the real question I have is this: how exactly would you suggest we reword the dispatch story for future editions to suit your belief?

"Soapy Smith died in a struggle over a gun with either Frank Reid or Jesse Murphy?" "Soapy Smith is now thought to have died in a struggle over a gun with Jesse Murphy after a confrontation with Frank Reid, who was later blamed for Smith's death?"

Some other variation? We're just trying to get the story right instead of presenting it as a Skagway version of the "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral."

From: Jeff Smith, November 27, 2009.
Dear, Mr. Medred.
Although I do very much appreciate the fact that you linked your story to my website, so that it might help sales, the misrepresentation of my content is what I am more interested in. The facts about how my great-grandfather actually died has been an on-going mystery that had its start in 1898. In my 24-year research endeavor I have successfully uncovered enough first-hand evidence to clearly show Frank Reid was not the man who actually killed Soapy Smith, although it has been passed down that way for over one-hundred years.

You mention changes in my website. The only changes I have made in the last six months have been to the page advertising the book. The pages showing the history of the gunfight have not been changed that I can recall. The mystery and evidence about the gunfight have been known in my family for several decades so this is nothing new that would require changes in the website.

You ask,
"The real question i have is this: how exactly would you suggest we reword the dispatch story for future editions to suit your belief?"
You were kind enough to send some examples but to be honest I am far too busy to write that portion of the story for you. The only thing I can suggest is to carefully read the website. It is vague so even better would be to find a copy of the book, which is well footnoted in regards to "my beliefs."

I did rather enjoy your last comment. "We're just trying to get the story right instead of presenting it as a Skagway version of the "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral."

In truth, it was better than the "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral." I don't pretend Soapy was one of the "good guys." But reality is that he died a very brave death. While in his saloon he was handed a note basically telling him that the vigilantes were having a meeting at the end of the Juneau Company Wharf. He draped a rifle over his shoulder and walked six blocks with about seven of his men in tow. At the entrance to the wharf four vigilante guards could be seen 60 feet into the wharf making sure Soapy did not interrupt the meeting that was deciding his fate. He told his men to stay put and approached the four men alone. Whether you like him or hate him you have to agree that facing those four men alone was one-hell-of-a-brave act. It cost him his life.

From: Craig Medred, November 27, 2009.
Don't take this harshly, but I'd have to save brave or crazy. Every account I've ever read of what happened has Soapy going to confront a group of people plotting against him.

As a factual matter, that's a bold act. As to motive, well, it was either brave or crazy or both. But it certainly doesn't appear Soapy went down the wharf planning to get in a gunfight. If you're planning on going to a gunfight, you don't leave your backup behind and walk in alone. That wouldn't be brave or crazy; that would be stupid. Nothing I've ever read painted Soapy as stupid. And yet every account of his death seems to have him going into this confrontation alone. In reading your accounts, I have to wonder if anyone really wanted to get into a gunfight at all. The Public Safety committee [the Citizens Committee -J.S.] might have been plotting against Soapy, but they weren't exactly headed down the street to get him. And Soapy, as you note, left his posse behind.

The whole things seems a lot like what, unfortunately, happens here in Anchorage on an all too regular basis these days. Some armed people get in a pushing match. Somebody loses their temper and pulls a gun, and somebody gets shot. It may be that the more Alaska changes the more it stays the same.

I'm sorry that you feel your content was misrepresented. I linked to your sight hoping people interested in Soapy might go there and find out more about an interesting guy in an interesting place. I am sorry if in trying to quickly summarize the shooting in Skagway I relied too much on what has sort of come to be the official version of events. How about we just agree to blame the "Skaguay News" for all of this. Damn media couldn't get it right then either!


From: Jeff Smith, November 28, 2009.
Dear, Mr. Medred.
My book illustrates numerous instances throughout my great-grandfather's life in which he exhibited great amounts of bravery. Whether he was in the right or wrong when applying that wondrous human trait is irrelevant.

It is apparent by Soapy's actions on the night of the shootout on Juneau Wharf that he was not interested in shooting it out with the vigilantes. What the intentions of the four guards were is unknown and can't really be assumed by their actions, or lack thereof.

You write that you are sorry that "I feel the content was misrepresented." There is absolutely no question that you misrepresented my content, by taking content out-of-context thus changing how readers view my conclusions. By leaving out key portions from my website and book contents regarding the gunfight you in essence, have people believing that I conclude that Frank Reid shot and killed my great-grandfather. This is simply not true. Had you included my information correctly your argument that Sarah Palin was wrong about Soapy Smith and the shootout with vigilantes would be incorrect.

The solution? I ask that you write up an official correction of error which would include an apology to me for not taking the time to read my website. It would have taken very little effort on your part to do so. In fact, if you go to my website home page you will see a link in large letters that reads "MURDERED: Click for more information" which takes you directly to the information you needed. You were willing to read the 1898 Skaguay News for information and that is commendable, however you did not quote the newspaper, you quoted me, not taking a few minutes to read what my content actually said.

From: Craig Medred, November 28, 2009.
Dear Mr. Smith:
Are you familiar with the history of the explorer Frederick Cook? In 1903 he undertook what might have been the most extraordinary expedition ever launched in this state, an overland circumnavigation of the McKinley massif. It was an incredible feat that nearly killed him. Later, he made an attempt to become the first to climb McKinley and failed, but claimed he had made the summit. As evidence, he provided a photo of himself there. It turned out to be bogus. It has only become more bogus over time, but a group of his heir's hold to the claim he made the summit. This is sad because instead of Cook being celebrated for what he did do in Alaska, he is now -- because of all the focus placed on the McKinley fiasco -- dismissed by almost everyone as a crackpot and a phony. This despite the fact that in my years in Alaska I doubt I've met a but a more or two who could do what Cook said. Which brings me back to this exchange on which we have now spent too much time. I asked you for some draft language you might find acceptable to summarize fairly the difference between the historical record and what you believe really happened. Instead you've decided we should have this fruitless argument about whether I misrepresented "your content." In fact, I quoted word for word from "your content" because I thought you did a nice job of summarizing the accepted historical account as to what happened between Soapy Smith and Frank Reid. You believe that historical account is wrong. You have a different version of what happened. I found it interesting, which is the reason I linked to your site so that people interested in more than just the accepted historical account could go there and read your take on this thing.

I think you make an interesting argument that Soapy was, as you put it, "murdered." I will also so say, flat out, I don't buy it. When you take a gun and go looking for trouble and you get it, well, that ain't murder, and no Alaska prosecutor, even today, would try to prosecute it as such.

Soapy didn't walk into an ambush. He didn't even go down to the Juneau dock to meet some people who'd called him to a shoot out. He went down for a confrontation. He got it. It obviously went beyond what he expected, and he got shot. All that is known. The rest involves a fair part of conjecture from many angles, the chief ones being the reliability of the witnesses at the time and you now. I'm not even going to begin to try to sort that out, although you have convinced me of one thing that is wrong. That claim of "vigilantes," where did that come from? These guys might have been on the verge of becoming vigilantes -- "one who takes or advocates the taking of law enforcement into one's own hands" -- but there is no indication they were such when Soapy got shot. As "The Skaguay News" reported, they met to "devise ways and means of ridding the city of lawless elements." Those ways of means might easily include lawful means, which is exactly the opposite of the "taking of law enforcement into one hands." They might have decided to call in the military, or form a city government to hire police. So what I'm going to do is rewrite the Dispatch entry to say what follows, and ask Tony to remove from the website all links to you or any of your material:

"Jefferson Soapy Smith did not die" in a shoot out with a vigilante gang." He was shot in self defense by surveyor Frank Reid, according to a coroner's inquest at the time. "The Skaguay News" reported that Reid and some community leaders were meeting to discuss what should be done about Smith and other supposed outlaws in Skagway. Smith marched down to the Juneau dock to confront the men at that meeting. He was packing his rifle. He and Reid got into a struggle over the rifle. Shots were fired. Smith was killed. Reid was wounded and died later. Smith's great grandson has since argued that there is evidence to indicate that Smith was not shot in self-defense by Reid, but murdered by another man at the meeting. But the official record stands."

And now I'm done with this. I honest to God thought I was doing you a favor in trying to plug your website, let you get your version of the story out there, and maybe sell some books. Instead you want to go on about my misrepresenting your website and demand official apologies. Would I have linked to your website if it was my intention to misrepresent it? I've never made any claims to be the brightest guy in Alaska, but I'm not that big of a moron.

As I said, I quoted -- accurately I might add -- from "your content" a concise summary of what has come to be the accepted historical account. And then I linked, so people could see your somewhat different take on things. Obviously, that offended you. For that, I am truly and deeply sorry. But the rest of this is a crock, and the claim that I did not take "a few minutes to read my content" is just flat-out wrong. I read it. It is interesting. And unless one is a speed reader, which I am not, it takes more than a few minutes. Now, with all of that said, I'm also willing to say this: You might be right about someone other than Reid shooting Soapy. You might even be right about Soapy being tempted (lured would be to strong of a word given the evidence) to confront a meeting where someone was likely to shoot him. It is possible you could make a case for manslaughter. And if you were to get a some sort of legal entity to hold a hearing to consider overturning the findings of the original jury at the coroner's inquest, I would love to attend it as a reporter. In fact, if you were even to get a mock jury to look at this -- as was done with Cook at UAF back in 1996 -- I'd be happy to attend and report on that.

As I said, I find some of your information concerning the possibility someone other than Reid shot Smith interesting, but murder? I don't think so, even if that claim were being made by an impartial investigator. Maybe manslaughter, but not murder. But you're not an impartial observer. Be reasonable sir, you have a dog in the hunt.

Now, if I have misspelled anything or used any words wrong in this missive, please forgive me for that, too. It has been a long day, and I have reached the point where I don't have either the time or the energy to proof read another e-mail about this matter. I'd suggest we could agree on one thing -- that your great grandfather was an interesting fellow -- but your behavior has led me to believe you'd probably chose to disagree with me on that, too.

Good luck with the book,


I did not bother responding to everything he said. It would obviously fall on deaf ears. Oh how I wanted to write more...but here is what I sent.

From: Jeff Smith, November 29, 2009.
Dear, Mr. Medred.
Yes, you linked to my website. I thanked you in the beginning and I thank you again now. However, that does not wipe the slate clean from taking my research "out-of-context" for your personal agenda, and then not correct it. By doing so every person who reads what you wrote, regarding my research, will come away thinking I believe what you wrongly wrote. I do not understand how you cannot see what you did wrong?

Your exact words:

"Here's the account from the author of 'Alias Soapy Smith: The Life and Death of a Scoundrel': "Apparently Soapy made an attempt to strike Reid with the barrel of (a) rifle, but Reid raised his left arm and the rifle barrel cut Reid's arm. Reid was able to grab the barrel with his left hand and forced it away from his body. As the two men fought for control of the rifle, Reid pulled out a pistol and began to fire. At that same instant, Soapy jerked his rifle back towards Reid and returned fire. When the shooting had ceased, Soapy Smith was dead and Frank Reid lay badly wounded." There was no shootout with any gang, but the fight with Reid did start after Smith went to confront a group of vigilantes who were meeting to decide how to shut down his corrupt Skagway businesses."

ANYONE reading that will come away with the mistaken impression that my beliefs, my book, and my website state that Frank Reid was the only shooter and that no other members of the vigilante guards were involved. This may be ok with you but it is certainly not ok with me. Most any professional newspapers in the nation would opt to print a correction and an apology. You on the other hand wish to punish me. You sir are not a professional and you give the newspaper you work for a bad name.



  1. Jeff - I think Medred sucks, always have, always will. That said, I came to this post looking to re-affirm my belief that he's a terrible writer with an always-skewed agenda. I still think he has an agenda with Palin and some of his research is good, and some is not. With your great-grand father he mixed two versions of a similar story and won't admit it. More reason not to like him. BUT. He is trying to make an effort to fix the mistake and you're picking apart every single word. While this is obviously an extremely important piece of your life, as would be expected for someone with such a direct connection to a big piece of Alaska History, Chill out. Medred offered to make a change to the story and agree to disagree. He wants to move on and you should move on too. I know I'm moving on, this exchange between you two was not as interesting as I'd hope. Just a pissing match between two old dogs. Good luck.

  2. Dear Anonymous - I don't recall telling him NOT to fix his error. Actually, I wasn't picking a part every word as you say, I was responding to things that he wrote. For some reason he became more confused with each email.

    Was his mistake important? Yes, as a historian and writer I have found through experience that mistakes like that have a tendency to follow one around for many years. The fact that he mis-quoted me about information that has taken me 24 year to complete can be a touch irritating.

    He did finally make changes. He thought he was retaliating against me but if you read my final message to him you will see that he did what I wanted him to do from the very start.

  3. If you're going to correct someone's grammar, be accurate.

    You wrote, "(Note: I went ahead and corrected capitalization's in his emails for better ease in reading -Jeff)." However, "capitalization" would not have an apostrophe. It needs to be a simple plural.

    You wrote, "This is the gentleman who used my research out-of-context in an article he wrote and published about Sarah Palin's book, Going Rogue." However, "out of context" should not be held together with hyphens. This would only need hyphens if it were being used as one idea to describe a noun that comes after it. For example, "easy-going young lady."

    In contrast, when the descriptive words follow the noun, no hyphens are used. Thus, it would be "young lady who is easy going." Or, you might talk about a "well-read gentleman" (the noun "gentleman" follows the adjectives) But, when the noun comes first, no hyphens are used: "the gentleman is well read."

    So, your sentence should state, "This is the gentleman who used my research out of context in an article he wrote and published about Sarah Palin's book, Going Rogue." Or, you could change the order of the words so that the noun "research" comes last: "This is the gentleman who used my out-of-context research in an article he wrote and published about Sarah Palin's book, Going Rogue."

    For most clarity, you might say, "This is the gentleman who took my research out of context and used in an article he wrote and published about Sarah Palin's book, Going Rogue."

  4. Hello, Anonymous.
    Thank you very much for the corrections. As with my historical research I am always willing to learn and improve myself. I never said I was an expert in grammar, lol. All I did in Mr, Medred's statements to me was correct the lack of capitals and attempted to figure out where paragraphs ended and new ones began so that my viewers could read them easier.


Thank you for leaving your comment and/or question on my blog. I always read, and will answer all questions left here. Please know that they are greatly appreciated. -Jeff Smith