KTOO says goodbye to Rashah McChesney

Reporter Rashah McChesney in Unalakleet in 2019, where she was reporting on contaminated sites in rural Alaska. (Photo courtesy of Rashah McChesney)

Friday, March 11, is Rashah McChesney’s last day with KTOO. She’s brought so much memorable reporting to our airwaves over the past six years. More recently, she’s shaped almost everything you hear out of the newsroom as our daily news editor.

Rashah started at KTOO working for Alaska’s Energy Desk in 2016. Her focus was on energy policy. She was intimidating in how much she knew about the ins and outs of Alaska’s oil industry. She was also deeply sourced and seemed to have every lawmaker and commissioner on speed dial.

For the “Midnight Oil” podcast, she drove the haul road with one of the first female truck drivers to work on the Trans-Alaska pipeline.

She joined former Gov. Bill Walker’s trade mission to China.

She went on a reporting trip to the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta for an investigation into contaminated sites — mostly schools — that no one was responsible for cleaning up. And in addition to award-winning stories on that, she came back with this unforgettable profile of a teacher in the village of Tuntutuliak.

Alice Fitka in her classroom on Wednesday, April 3, in Tuntutuliak, Alaska. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/Alaska’s Energy Desk)

In late 2019, Rashah became the daily news editor for the local newsroom at KTOO. Shortly after taking on this new role — on a Sunday in December — Juneau police shot and killed a man on Cinema Drive in the valley. Rashah went to the scene immediately and started talking to neighbors and friends who had witnessed what happened.

“Many stood on their porches quietly talking, watching their children run along a nearby ditch where bits of bright yellow crime scene tape fluttered in the wind,” she narrates in the story. “Some shook and cried when they talked about what had happened. Many didn’t want to talk on-the-record about Kelly Michael Stephens, better known as Rabbit. But, a handful of people — including Georgianna Joseph — did. They rolled up their sleeves, pulled up their shirts and showed off tattoos that Stephens had done.”

We have a picture of one of those tattoos hanging in the hallway at the KTOO studio. Because people inherently trust Rashah, they warm up to her immediately. Enough to speak into her microphone about their trauma. Enough to roll up their sleeves and pull up their shirts to show themselves to her.

Residents and visitors at the Chinook apartment complex in the Mendenhall Valley show tattoos they were given by Kelly "Rabbit" Stephens on Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019 in Juneau, Alaska. Many said they didn't want their identities known for fear of reprisal. Stephens was killed during an early-morning altercation with Juneau Police. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/KTOO)
Residents and visitors at the Chinook apartment complex in the Mendenhall Valley show tattoos they were given by Kelly “Rabbit” Stephens on Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019 in Juneau, Alaska. Many said they didn’t want their identities known for fear of reprisal. Stephens was killed during an early-morning altercation with Juneau Police. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/KTOO)

Also, she can sing. Which led to this story about a choir that formed during lockdown in Juneau — a choir that practiced entirely from their cars parked around downtown.

Join us in thanking Rashah for her years of service to Juneau and Alaska. She’s taking those same skills and sensibilities to Alabama to serve as an editor for the Gulf States newsroom.

We’ll miss you, Rashah.

Jennifer Pemberton

Managing Editor, KTOO

I bring stories from the community into the KTOO newsroom so that all of our reporting matters. I want to hear my community’s struggles and its wins reflected in our coverage. Does our reporting reflect your experience in Juneau?

Like what you just read? KTOO news stories are member supported. Support your community news source today. Donate to KTOO.
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