This site
is one journalist's opinion of the daily struggle to shine a light in dark corners, to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, plus any other cliche that crosses my keyboard.
--
ARCHIVE
1Q04
2Q04
3Q04
4Q04
1Q05
 
Archive of the first quarter of 2004: | Burl Burlingame

1/1/04
| Free at last, free at last


Today was supposed to be Liberation Day. At least that's what I told myself a couple of months ago when we decided to sever our two-decades-plus relationship with Bank of Hawaii. But it turns out it's not that easy to simply switch from one bank to another. My father figures it would take himself a year to disentangle himself from BOH, so he's not even trying. We're just tired of mystery charges and post-debit accounting. I don't know if American Savings Bank is going to be any better. Check back in 20 years. At least ASB had operable ATMs on New Year's Day, while BOH did not.

Yes, the title Check6Honolulu means something. Particularly if you're a pilot, but it's good advice in any case. Here's a nice note received last night on the issue:

Hey Burl,
I'm sorry to see your newspaper wars site go, but I agree that Star-Bulletin has "won" and the focus should change. I hope you are able to channel the same enthusiasm and passion into the new site as you did to the old.
So, how about a name like -- BurlEsque?
I enjoy both your site and Ian Lind's site because it keeps me in touch with Hawaii and all that I miss there.
Aloha and Happy New Year,
John Hollon
(Honolulu Advertiser Executive Editor, 1994-1996)

1/2/04
| Such a rainy old town


I'm really getting tired of being damp all the time. We haven't seen a dry sky in Kailua for a month now. Even the dogs are going nuts, being housebound. And the house is criss-crossed with muddy pawprints that it's no use cleaning up until they can go outside without getting soaked. It's become difficult to get to and from work, as Hawaii drivers proceed either too cautiously or way too recklessly in the downpours. And the house is full of scurrying scouting ants. This was puzzling until I realized that meant the ground outside has become so thoroughly saturated with rainwater that underground creatures are scrambling for safety.

But it's a big month for space-exploration buffs. Spirit is due to bounce down on Mars late afternoon Saturday, Hawaii time. Follow-up rover Opportunity bounces down on Jan. 24. I'm not kidding about bouncing. For the final stage of descent, bladders like car airbags are deployed all around the module. Does E.K. Fernandez know about this?

1/5/04
| Let the sun shine in


It's the third sunny morning in a row. Now I miss the rain!
The images coming back from the surface of Mars are spectacular. OK, it's an overused word, particularly in this context. But it's been two decades and I'm hungry. The rover starts rolling in a week. You have to worry about such a frail little machine so far away. One reason NASA picked Gusev Crater is because there are apparent dust devil tracks everywhere, and it will be helpful for Spirit to examine scoured soil. But Spirit would be torn apart if a new dust devil comes along.
Starting today, foreign travelers enetering the U.S. will have electronic fingerprints and photos taken. It will supposedly only add a few seconds to travel time, plus add a wealth of tracking information on those pesky foreigners, such as those suspicious characters from the Bahamas. But several countries with visa agreements with the U.S. are exempt., such as Japan and Canada, and we know how devilish they are. What's the point of only partly implementing such a system? Treat everyone equally, I say. That is, tyreat everyone equally badly. Facial-recognition and iris scans are on the way.

1/6/04
| Thousands of words, no pictures


Here's a nice note from reader Frances O. I'll answer her questions to the best of my ability:

I was really sad on the day that I checked into your web site and found it was no longer there. I always enjoyed reading it and learning about what was happening on the inside of the Star Bulletin. I really love the newspaper and its people! I also enjoyed all of the stories about how you managed to top the Advertiser!
I was happy when I checked back today and found that you've updated your old site and are starting up a new one. Gosh, I had no idea of what could happen when lightning strikes. Spooky! I'm glad that all of you are safe.
The new website is looking good ... but for those non-aviation readers like me, please explain what "Check 6" means... Thanks!


Among pilots, particularly those who are comsumed with "situational awareness" like fighter pilots, it's a reminder to constantly monitor the 6 o'clock position, that is, directly behind the aircraft. You never know what's on your tail. So, translated bluntly, the title means Watch Your Ass, Honolulu!

I've had a nagging thought for almost 3 years... since the Star Bulletin and Advertiser went their separate ways. I know that Gannett has made it difficult for the Star Bulletin folks to have access to pre-separation photos that were taken and used in the paper. I also heard that at the end of three years, Gannett was planning to just dump the Star Bulletin's photos. Do you know if they still plan to do that? If yes, is there some way to prevent that? I would think there are a lot of photos that would be worth saving. Would an organization like the State Archives or something be interested in keeping them?
Thanks for all you've done all of these years. Keep up the great work! Have a great 2004!


You too, Frances!
The physical assets of the Star-Bulletin were awarded to Gannett under Rupert Phillips. All that David Black bought was the name of the newspaper, a committed staff and the goodwill of Star-Bulletin readers. These physical assets now owned by Gannett included hundreds of thousands of photographic prints in the joint library. The Gannett Advertiser, believing they also owned the copyright to these images, began using them illegally. While they may have the actual paper print, they do NOT own the copyright to the images.
Under the sales agreement, the Star-Bulletin is allowed access to their files for five years or so in order to copy these works. What the Star-Bulletin's new owners did not foresee was that Gannett would charge the newspaper about $45 an hour to access our own pictures, and shut out all other researchers completely. It's the highest archive-access fee on the planet.
At the end of the period, we will no longer have access, and Gannett will have tons of photographs they can never use. These pictures are an incredible record of modern Hawaii and should be preserved.
I agree with you that one solution would be to donate the pictures to a public institution like the Hawaii State Archives, where they can be used and researched by all of Hawaii's citizens. But that would be a move in the public interest, and Gannett is likely more interested in private profits.
And here's the worst front-page headline of the day, thanks to reader and Star Fleet Science Officer Katharine in Half Moon Bay. (If you don't automatically get a pdf, click on Page 1.) I should point out that the San Mateo Daily News' sister paper is the Burlingame Daily News. No relation!

1/7/04
| Ain't hardly nothin' there, atoll


A Continental Air Lines 777 enroute from Narita to Houston had an emergency letdown at Midway atoll this afternoon. Checking Google News, the Star-Bulletin broke the story well in advance of anyone else, thanks to a tip from Nancy Christenson.
The irony is that the Feds just cut off funding to operate Midway and other Pacific emergency landing sites. Doubly ironic -- Christenson queried Rep. Ed Case about the very subject a week ago, and Case said he was going to try to arrange contingency funding.
Blame the actuarial tables. Flying across the Pacific has become so safe and the aircraft so dependable that the odds are against an emergency landing site being needed. Of course, the minute you don't have it, you need it. The passengers marooned on Midway have no food, water or facilities. Luckily, it appears that repairs will be quickly made to the 777.
While flying across the Pacific in 1962 with the family, our aircraft went bust on Wake Island, and we got to spend several days on the lovely islet. I was 9 years old, but remember it as an adventure. My parents probably remember it differently.
The next generation of long-haul jets, such as the 777, can cross the Pacific in one hop, skipping Honolulu entirely. The folks planning Honolulu International's expansion in the 1990s completely forgot this little detail, and that's why the airport appears half-built. In the middle of construction, they realized there was nothing to expand it for. Well, duh.
When Pan Am pioneered air travel across the Pacific in the mid-'30s, these scatterings of remote islands suddenly became valuable pieces of real estate. If you think the White House and Halliburton are in cahoots in Iraq, that's nothing compared to the sweet arrangement Pan Am and the Feds enjoyed developing these atolls. Many of the original structures still remain. Hawaiian kids from Kamehameha Schools were even rushed to the South Seas as "colonists" beating Japan and Britain.
It just goes to show ya, ya can't fix it if it ain't broke. Emergency landing sites will eventually be used by somebody in trouble, because, frankly, shit happens. These passengers on Continental are lucky they got in before the runway was completely adandoned.

1/8/04
| So long Honolulu, hello Fresno?


Seems Gannett Advertiser Executive Editor Jim Kelly's job searches elsewhere have hit pay dirt. He's off to the Fresno Bee, a McClatchy paper. At least I assume it's the Bee; the Fresno Republican, although a very old paper, is an exercise in demagaugery. I never got an excuse to draw an unflattering caricature of Kelly, but I genuinely liked the guy. He played hardball and was up-front about it, with none of that sniveling sneaking generally attached to Gannett execs. There was no need to cartoon him; he 's a living caricature of a two-fisted, whey-faced Irish lout with a genuine instinct for news coverage. No word on the status of his squeeze, a columnist at the Advertiser.
Ran across this by accident looking up Fresno papers: MondoTimes.com, a media-resource site, has capsule critiques of newspapers across the country. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin is rated "Great" with "No bias," while the Gannett Advertiser is rated "Wretched," with "Liberal bias." Honolulu Weekly gets no rating at all. But all three publications are rated as "popular" among MondoTimes subscribers.

1/9/04
| Moments before the crime ...




Here's a frame detail from a QuickTimeVR movie I shot Thursday evening. I didn't know this was about to become a crime scene. The guys lounging against the portable building at the construction site on Iwilei Road in the background were drinking and yelling and shooting off fireworks. The homeless guy walking unsteadily across the road had something to say to them. To the right, out of the frame, Nancy Christenson is guarding the car and urging me to wrap it up. Minutes after we left, the homeless guy had been beaten unconscious, leaving a large pool of blood on the asphalt. We didn't find out about it until we saw the KITV 10 p.m. news.

1/10/04
| The Mars-Honolulu connection


I have to say that, as far as government websites go, NASA and JPL do a superb job. The current Mars Rover site courtesy JPL totally rocks. It's now my home page. And there's a Hawaii attachment. If the curator credit name for Michelle Viotti seems familiar, that because she's the niece of Gannett Advertiser ace reporter Vicki Viotti.

1/12/04
| Take-offs and let-downs


The third part of my Dole Derby series ran today, and that pretty much wraps up the Star-Bulletin's contibution to the centennial of powered flight. Interestingly, the government had an official logo to commemorate the event, but would not allow the Star-Bulletin to use it, as they deemed a newspaper to be a commercial enterprise. We couldn't even use it in our coverage of official events! But this site is certainly non-commercial, and I'll run it, as well as compare it to the Honolulu-based Pacific Aeropsace Museum logo:
All I can say is, Hmmm

1/13/04
| Hawaii's new face to the world




Rob Perez' Sunday examination of Vili the Warrior, the maniac mascot of the University of Hawai football team, got an uncredited rewrite by Associated Press and seized the attention of the world Monday, running in publications as far away as England. Mostly placed it under goofy news categories -- here are the headline links at ABC's news site that day: Hawaii warrior mascot said too aggressive / Woman charged after dumping hot fudge on ex-husband / Man drives long nail into co-worker's skull / Man plans to make nudist camp for Christians like Garden of Eden
Yep, Hawaii's on the map of world consciousness again.
You really can't buy publicity like this. I expect that Vili will be booked on Jay Leno any day now, since that show specialized in laughing at people instead of with them. And Vili's website is rocketing, (don't look at it on Netscape, however, without blinders!). It's part of his charm.
And he's criticised, basically, for aggressive clowning. Well, duh. It's football, for chrissakes. This is the team that changed its name from Rainbows to Warriors because of deep-rooted homosexual panic.
Corky, as usual, totally nailed it in his daily cartoon.
The above screenshot is sent out courtesy HawaiiNews' Ryan Ozawa, who was amused by the "context-sensitive" Google ads at right. At least it's better than the ads for helicopter tours next to stories about helicopter crashes, he notes. Testing the feature, we find it works fine on Internet Explorer in no-frames mode, but not within any other set-up.

1/14/04
| And, he goes topless as well!


Actually, the oddest thing about Vili The Warrior? Even though the University of Hawaii football team is so homophobic that they changed their name from Rainbows to Warriors, their male mascot wears make-up, a skirt and bracelets.
Apparently, nobody yet has punched any holes in any of Jack Kelley's reporting for Gannett's USA Today, just that he freaked out and did stupid things while being steamrollered by a major investigation. Guilty or not, the spookiest thing about the Kelley case is that it rides solely on an anonymous note receieved by Gannett editors. So, politicians, if you want to get rid of a troublesome reporter, make something up in an anonymous note and send it to an easily panicked editor. There are a lot of them out there.

1/15/04
| Stormy weather


We've been paying homeowners insurance for, like, two decades, and never had to file a claim. Now we've filed two within a month. The gale-force winds that whacked the islands yesterday ripped off about a third of the asphalt shingles on the west side of the house, peeled up the tarpaper beneath and allowed rain to seep into the attic and destroy a section of ceiling in the kitchen. That's pretty typical of the neighborhood. Every one of my neighbors' houses, on all four sides, were damaged, some quite a bit worse than ours.

1/16/04
| Arrowheads and pinheads


You'd think someone from Hawaii would be a little more sensitive to preserving native artifacts, but no. Hawaii resident David Peeler was one of those knuckleheads recently sentenced in Las Vegas for looting Indian artifacts from public and reservation lands. His defense? By picking up arrowheads I thought I was preserving them, not stealing them, Peeler said after the hearing. I didn't really know the law, but I knew from the guys I was with we were doing something we shouldn't have been doing. Peeler was the only defendant to apologioze to the tribes during the trial, and was sentenced to serve six months under house arrest, five years' probation and to pay $56,635 for his role in looting 10,000 artifacts from public lands.

1/17/04
| Gannett takes aim at another JOA


The Joint Operating Agreement between Gannett's Cincinnati Enquirer and E.W. Scripps' Cincinnati Post will be history in 2007. For contractural reasons, Gannett was forced to declare their intentions ahead of time, which gives the Post time to scramble. The working situation is identical to Honolulu, with one important difference -- Scripps isn't in Gannett's pocket. Unless there's a golf-course handshake we don't know about, Scripps can work at distancing itself from Gannett and setting up the infrastructure neccessary to go it alone. In the meantime, we hope the Post employees are carefully monitoring for sabotage. Interestingly, the Department of Justice continues to investigate the Seattle JOA mess.

1/21/04
| Tasmaniac Dean! Yeeeaaagggghhh!


Honestly, I tried to watch the president's State-of-the-Union speech, but my attention kept wandering away. It was as if JuniorBoy got his index cards mixed up and was reading statements at random, occasionally pausing to squint at us. More entertaining -- and revealing -- was Howard Dean's revved-up cheerleading the night of the Iowa caucus. It was Duddy Kravitz on a scary bender. It was all anyone talked about the next day. Yeah, Kerry was a surprise win, but didya see Dean go berserk? He sounded like the Warner Bros Tasmanian Devil character, while Juniorboy sounded like a chimp on 'ludes.

1/22/04
| Death from above


Serious business in Iraq. This Apache gun-camera footage is pretty scary.

1/24/04
| -- 30 -- Dave Donnelly -- 30 --


I wrote Dave Donnelly's obituary so many times that it became a running joke between us. That's because Dave had a few close calls and we wanted one in the bank. I'd call friends of Dave and say, If Dave were dying -- and I'm not saying that he is -- gimme a few words about how you felt about him ... Invariably, they'd respond, Is he really dead? I'm not talking unless he's really dead! Promise me he's dead! That would crack Dave up.
But now Dave's really dead. There's a 21-inch hole in the newspaper that will never again be filled with his three-dot "items," an immensly valuable part of the paper because it gave ink to all the little news that wouldn't fit in "real" stories. Dave took his responsibility to his public very seriously and was only out sick a couple of times in the the three decades he wrote for the Star-Bulletin.
I worked with him most of that time, and for the last couple of years edited and laid out his daily column. After his hip injury last year, it was a real struggle for him to file his piece every day, and you could tell just from the typos how hard it was to type. But he soldiered on.
Dave was a big, pink-cheeked Irish galoot with an eye for the ladies and a love of theater and the English language. He was an immensly entertaining fellow and I will miss him as a friend and a co-worker.
But Dave was also a link to an earlier, more immediate form of journalism, one in which the writer spoke directly to the reader, and there weren't middle-level editors, and graphics wonks and focus groups and spin merchants putting their thumbs in the pie. Because of his intimacy with his audience, built up over the years, Dave was a guest in every home the Honolulu Star-Bulletin was delivered to. Our readers haven't just lost someone who worked for them and watched out for them, they've lost a member of their extended family.
Although Dave's loss is personal, and I'm grieving in ways that aren't apparent yet, I'm also reflecting on the end of an era, a time when content mattered more than the package.

1/27/04
| Polly wants to kick Hitler's ass


I can't resist this story. Seems Churchill gave the bird to the Nazis -- and the bird is still with us, and salty as ever.

2/2/04
| Bad titty! Bad!


Well, no one's talking about Jacko, are they? At the Super Bowl, the reasonably normal Jackson, Janet, revealed a Grand Teton crowned by what appears to be a ninja throwing star, and you'd think the Fabled Lost Weapons of Mass Distraction had finally been unearthed. The TV pundits have been nattering like ayatollahs about the horror of it all. Smell hypocrisy? It's just a breast, guys -- get a grip! Oops, I mean ....

2/5/04
| Faugh-an-ballagh!


We lifted a glass or three for Himself, Dave Donnelly, at a wake at Murphys in the old Royal Saloon. The walls were covered with pictures of Dave's long tenure in Hawaii, and his love of the language and of performing were evident. My only notable accomplishment at the event, other than getting hammered, was to intoduce the ladies of the feature section to jalapeno poppers, which seemed to horrify them. It was a pretty good cross-section of aging Honolulu at the get-together -- just in the picture below, who do I see? Judge Burns, Editor Heckathorn, Attorney Portnoy,, Restaranteur Murphy, Prosecutor Carlisle, Announcer Teipel, Comedian Sage -- but holding it on a Thursday night, early, meant that many in the newsroom couldn't make it. Well, that's the harsh mistress of newspaper work.

2/7/04
| All the news you're cleared to hear


The Early Bird is the Pentagon's clipping service, an incredibly widely-read online publication that sifts through the news of the day and clips it for service folks worldwide. The idea is simply to let them know what's going on back home and get a flavor of what the national zeitgeist is. But it turns out the Pentagon has started managing the news for the troops, excising anything critical of the current administration. If your only source of news while you're in the trenches is Early Bird. you wouldn't know it's an election year...

2/8/04
| Happy 122nd, Honolulu Star-Bulletin!


Apparently unremarked by anyone -- this is where the newspaper misses columnist Dave Donnelly -- the Honolulu Star-Bulletin quietly entered its 122nd year of publication this week. The birthday is all the more remarkable because the newspaper was pronounced DOA four years ago, and yet has managed to outlast most of the Gannett Advertiser editors who thought they were going to administer the coup de grace.

2/9/04
| The pie chart tells the story


Like the rest of the world, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin was drowning in spam emails and it got ridiculous when the MyDoom virus was unleashed. We're now on a filter service called InterCept and it works quite well so far. It even shows you stats and pie charts of how you're doing. At left is my own office email as of today. BTW, of the 10 percent that appears to be legitimate, there's still some spam in there slipping through. Unless I really do need a mortgage for my penis enlargement.

2/16/04
| Outlook Depress


It hasn't been easy to update this site this last week -- one, I've been still busy doing home-repair triage, and two, my Outlook Express email program went kerflooey. Serves me right for relying on a Microsoft product. BTW, if you get a OE warning window saying "End of file has been reached," and the program quits or you, it can be fixed. It's an undocumented bug in OE. (Got it? Open OE holding down the Option key, then answer NO and then YES to the query windows. You'll wind up with an "optimized" datafile that works again, but your addressbook will be wiped.)

Rabid conservatives are so busy trying to link John Kerry up with a woman -- any woman! -- that a three-decade-old snapshot of Kerry has been doctored to show him standing next to "Hanoi Jane" Fonda. The photographer who shot the original is "horrified."

Speaking of conservatives and pictures, I wanted to draw a cartoon of Gov. Lingle press attache Russell Pang, but appently, he's never been photographed. That's true of most of the folks on the top floor at the capitol building. But his office did manage to retouch pictures of Lingle while she was in Iraq, apparently to remove a logo on her sweater.

Tony Marcano, ombudsman for the Sacramento Bee, had this to say about one-paper communties, which of course makes us think about the close call the Gannett Advertiser had in Honolulu: Papers in one-newspaper towns tend to go in one of two directions -- either they maintain the competitive drive that led to their survival, or they rest on their laurels and become little more than outlets for coupons and comic strips. Which is worth 50 cents?

2/20/04
| You may now kiss your, uh, other


The big story, in the long run, is likely to be the extraordinary semi-official act of civil disobedience currently taking place in San Francisco's city hall. Not since the civil rights demonstrations in Birmingham and the Washington anti-war rallies has there been such a flouting of customs felt by many to be cruel and wrong-headed. This is likely to be a turning point in a crucial test of civil rights and representational democracy and the press should not treat it as a joke.
What's likely to happen, of course, is that government will drop out of the religious-based marriage game and focus solely on civil unions. Advances in civil rights always run counter to current obsessive predjudices.

Is there some sort of bad mojo on Hawaii's roads these days? Never seen so many accidents and close calls and fatalities. Today I was almost swatted right off the road by a crazily braking semi-rig. And it's election year! Aren't we supposed to get the potholes filled?

And here's a nice note from ex-Star-Bulletin sportster Ron Moyer:
Hi Burl:
I stumbled upon "The Honolulu Newspaper War" while surfing the web this morning. I was a SB sportswriter from 1974-'82. and your accounts of the "War" brought back a lot of fond memories of people I worked with. The Star-Bulletin will always have a special place in my heart as will the guys in Star-Bulletin Sports past and present: Jim Hackleman, Bill Kwon, Dick Couch, Jim Easterwood, Rod Ohira, Paul Carvalho, Randy Cadiente, Dave Koga, Al Chase, the late Jack Wyatt.
I'm out of the newspaper business now, but I will always be a Star-Bulletin staffer. I never thought I would write my by-line again, but here it is for old-times sake:
By Ron Moyer
Star-Bulletin Writer
Aloha and Take Care

2/21/04
| Nice-lookin' newspaper, Drew!


Here's Drew Barrymore in the the current film "50 First Dates," set in Hawaii. There by her elbow is one of the film's primary props, a Sunday Star-Bulletin. The filmmakers needed a good-lookin' paper.

2/23/04
| Hot night in Chinatown


Nothing like a three-alarm blaze to entertain. This fire broke out in Chinatown right at sunset while I was shooting in the area. Apparently started in a porno bookstore called the Esquire --and our copy desk knew the address!

2/24/04
| This is no bull -- well, actually, it is


Occasional Star-Bulletin sports writer and song stylist Chris Dudley got gored by a bull last week at a rodeo on the Big Island. He took a horn right to the temple and spent a week in the hospital. Chris' nickname around the office is "Dangerboy," and now you know why.

3/1/04
| The firewall burns down


Another busy weekend trying to keep the rain off our heads in our own house -- high winds and deluge rains have returned. This is the worst Hawaiian winter anyone can remember. It's just about impossible to get a roofer to call you back, much less fix your roof. We're one of many houses in Kailua with blue tarps on the roof.

Gannett is going after Britain's Financial Times. The thing about big fish is that they must feed on little fish to survive, even if the little fish get wiped out.

The usual grumblings from the Gannett Advteriser continue ... about management hiring people with no experience for full-time positions while part-timers have experience -- it's supposedly against the CONTRACT, but oh well..---We were told not to whisper to each other while working.. and so on ...
More troublesome is their apparent dissolving of the ethical firewall between news and editorial. Saundra "Iron Nun" Keyes now vetts each editorial to make sure she personally agrees with it. Can't be much fun for OpEdHead Jerry Burris...

3/2/04
| News doesn't get any worse


A terrible day in the Star-Bulletin family. The 5-year-old daughter of one of our reporters drowned over the weekend in the rain run-off from storms. She was trying to rescue another child who had fallen in. I shan't give the name at this time, but I expect that the child's heroism won't go unnoticed.

3/8/04
| Monday morning quarterbacking


There may be nothing worse than the loss of a child. Charlotte Schaefers' death last week has put all, if not most, of us into a reflective mood, highlighted by the memorial and funeral services late in the week. And a bit of solidarity as well ... just in case mother Allison Schaefers wasn't eligible bereavement leave, a petition was put out by newsroom staff members, pledging days of their own vacation time to Allison. Virtually the whole staff pledged days. Luckily, the issue was resolved quickly.

Not surprisingly, one of the most-wearing aspects of Allison's ordeal has been dealing with the media. She found it exhausting. And some queries were simply appalling, like KGMB's request to interview her about parents who don't pay attention while their children are swimming, or the Gannett Advertiser reporter's assertion that a relief fund set up by the Star-Bulletin is a promotional stunt.

The Star-Bulletin's sports and graphics departments scored big in the Associated Sports Editor awards, becoming one of the top ten newspapers in the country so honored, and the only paper from Hawaii.

And while we're patting ourselves on the back, Honolulu magazine's annual "Best of" issue named the Honolulu Star-Bulletin the best newspaper in Hawaii.They used as their criteria the large number of SPJ awards we've received in ther past six years, 58 compared to the Gannett Advertiser's 37. But they devoted most of the space to how swell KGMB is, who have 34 awards.

And how weird is this? This is a QTVR I shot at Ramsay Gallery Friday night during the "ArtWalk" in Chinatown.

3/9/04
| Roadside distractions


Here's the scene of a historical site in Ewa Camp, the location of the first artesian well on the dry karst plains out there. The government has spent zillions opening up the area and building the best roads on the island. Old habits don't fade away, I guess -- Ewa is still the place where old cars go to die, and their bones lie bleaching in the sun.

3/10/04
| Reflections


So, there I was, a pretty wet-behind-the-ears newspaper photographer, when this traffic accident happens. It's farther on up the road -- all I see is a sudden, booming cloud of dust and ejecting from it, a wheel bouncing darkly over a guardrail. Must be a quarter mile up ahead, on Likelike Highway. With one hand I jerk the Domke bag open and pull out my camera, check the film counter, look at the failing light and determine there's maybe 15 minutes of light left. Otherwise, the Tri-X will have to be pushed, and it gets all grainy when you do that.
Will there be a picture? That's what I'm thinking.
At the scene I jerk my car off the road, shoulder-park and set off at a dead trot toward the tunnel entrance. It's obnious what happened -- two cars tried to occupy the same lane and one got squeezed out and slammed headlong into the tunnel portal. The car is accordianed. There's a crowd already gathered offering aid, and there's a guy on the ground and his face is slick-red with blood and I can see the white of his skull in his hairline and what I'm thinking is -- if I hail-mary the shot with a wide-angle, I'll get the injured guy centered in a swirl of helping hands. Hold the camera up, hovering over the scene ... Got to time it just right ...
This girl turns and she's got facial lacerations too and she screams at me.
What the hell do you think you're doing?
Good question.
My job, I stammer back. I start to mumble something about the public's right to know, yadda yadda yadda, but she's already turned back to her injured companion. I'm deeply embarrassed and defensive.
What the hell do you think you're doing?
But I get the shot and it's a good one and we run it on A-1.
What I remember, a quarter-century later, isn't the picture I took but the image of the girl yelling at me. It's still vivid. I don't blame her a bit, and if the roles were reversed I would likely do the same. This journalism gig is supposedly objective, but it never is. It's sometimes painful and wrenching, and since your mission is to occasionally intrude into people's lives, that pain can rub off. Just because you're objective in doing your job doesn't mean you don't have empathy with your subjects. It's a calling where it seems unprofessional to weep, but sometimes grief is the only reasonable response. The only human response. So tamp it down, sublimate, have a few too many drinks and appreciate the sun when it rises another day.
It's a little easier for photographers, because we can monkey around with equipment and keep a little glass window between ourselves and the subject. Photographers have to focus -- ha! -- and there are always technical issues in play. At the scene of a tragedy there aren't any retakes. We feel winded afterwards, like boxers.
Writers, now, they observe and ask questions and act as a conduit. It can be frightening and an emotional overload. Working mostly as writer these days, I find my hands start to tremble whenever the subject I'm interviewing is emotionally distraught. I have no choice but to power through it. It's not just a job, it's a duty, being the eyes and ears of our fellow citizens.
Star-Bulletin writer Allison Schaefers has certainly seen both sides this past week. Because of the tragic and heroic nature of daughter Charlotte's death, Allison has been bombarded with media demands. Despite a couple of thoughtless gaffes -- see below -- Allison has been genuinely moved by sheer empathy of the reporters who call her. She knows they have to do it, they know they have to do it. One of the hardest things a reporter has to do is talk to someone about the death of a loved one. What gets us through it is knowing it's a lot more painful for the subject, so we've got no call to complain.
And it's all media, even those in earnest competition. Allison has been particularly touched by the many kindnesses shown her by the staff of the Gannett Advertiser, where she once worked. They've treated her with dignity and respect and professionalism, and she appreciates it. In fact, it was a friend at the Advertiser who guided her, via cell phone, during the first horrifying minutes when she was rushing to the hospital.
Journalists are human beings, and the pain of the real world takes a toll. The trick is to do the job anyway, and deal with the psychological fallout later. There's a reason you don't see many older reporters doing the Police/Fire/Rescue beat -- the day that tragedy doesn't effect you is the day you ask to go to the copy desk.

3/12/04
| Did he walk away or run away?


Revolving door, musical chairs, whatever you want to call it, another editor at Honolulu Weekly has vamoosed. Chad Blair scuttled down the mooring line, now it's Robert Meyerowitz. It's causing quite a buzz in local chat groups. Says one preson, a tough learning curve here, but good grief...this is ridiculous. So what's up now? Another long search? More Robert Rees opinionated reportage? Here's my prediction: the Weekly will go down in 3...that's months. It will be sold to Gannett, gutted, turned into a shopper with a few features. Wanna bet?
Won't take it. Still a cash cow for publisher Laurie Carlson and an ego trip for Bob Rees, left.
But I've been wrong before ...

3/13/04
| Tugboat tug-of-war ...


The USS Hoga is the last surviving ship still afloat that was at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. It spent the day fighting fires, rescuing sailors and helping nose USS Nevada to safety. Several in Hawaii wish to preserve the vessel think of her as a workingman's memorial, not just of the Day of Infamy, but for all fire and rescue personnel.
Nearly a decade ago, the National Trust named USS Hoga as one of the top endangered historic sites in the United States. The Navy has kept her in rotting condition in Suisan Bay, but a couple of years ago decided to divest themselves of the boat and offered her to interested historic groups. Quite a few responded, including a group who wished to return her to Pearl Harbor as both an educational memorial and a potentially still-operable fireboat, in case some other terrible emergency arises.
The potential Hoga donor organizations have been put through the wringer in their applications, far more expense and paperwork than any other historic-ship donation in anyone's memory. Tens of thousands of dollars have been spent by all groups satisfying the Navy's increasingly arcane demands.
It would be worth it if the Navy could come to a decision, but apparently, they can't. The "absolute" deadline for applications passed more than a year ago, and the Navy has refused to make a (public) decision.
The Hawaii group, naturally, thinks it belongs here. Not only would placing the boat in Pearl Harbor qualify it as a National Historic Landmark, the state is short of usable fireboats, which is a security issue. The Republican governor of Hawaii, Linda Lingle, and the Democrat mayor of Honolulu, Jeremy Harris, have thrown full support and resources behind the project. Both houses of the Hawaii legislature passed bipartisan resolutions supporting the transfer.
Lingle even asked that the boat be deeded to Hawaii outright as a fireboat to address port-safety issues.
Curiously, even though Lingle has written the Secretary of the Navy several times asking about the status of the tugboat, SecNav has failed even to respond with a courtesy letter. This is a bizarre official lapse, unless there's some other agenda at work.
Unfortunately, there may be. The Hawaii group has been informed through back-door channels that the Navy is opposed to preserving this Pearl Harbor veteran at Pearl Harbor, and that the winner the tugboat is the President Clinton Library in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Public pressure is something the Navy always responds to, however ...

3/14/04
| Happy 3rd birthday!


Kind of hard to imagine Gannett publisher Mike Fisch entertaining the crowd this way -- well, in any way -- but that's our own publisher Frank Teskey showing Vili The Warrior how to shake his groove thang. Note that, even in a grass skirt, Teskey still wears a beeper. The event was the 3rd anniversary of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin's rebirth, a celebration of music and good humor on Ala Moana's center stage area. This act ought to go on the road! At least to Pearlridge and Windward Malls. Maybe even Kahala. The MidWeek ladies at left were handing out balloons and prizes, but the thing that really was snapped up were copies of the Sunday newspaper.
Comsidering we were supposed to be dead within six months, the newspaper's survival has confounded many. But it's really just a matter of giving citizens a choice.

3/16/04
| Mucho macho mascot


Seems the photo below freaked Ian Lind out. Seems Ian thinks that publisher Teskey's (and , not pictured, ad sale managers Dave Kennedy's) onstage appearance with Vili The Warrior was a months-in-planning orchestrated management rebuke of Rob Perez' reporting of the Vili controversy. Wow! I didn't know we were that organized! Like anyone in the audience at Ala Moana would make the connection. More interesting, Ian believes that an editorial that appeared a couple of days after Rob's article was also a thinly veiled management attack on Perez.
It wasn't. It simply disagreed with him and some of the people qouted in the story, and rather mildly, and noted there were Vili fans as well as detractors. People should be allowed to disagree. People should be allowed to think for themselves. Both the article and the editorial grew out of several letters to the editor that were received on the subject, and were written independently.
There's a "firewall" that's supposed to exist between News and OpEd at a paper, and where one reports, the other reflects. So far at least, Teskey has not dictated the content or thrust of an editorial, nor has anyone in Star-Bulletin management.
The situation is different at the Gannett Advertiser, where OpEd has been shifted to under Saundra Keyes' all-consuming authority.
As for myself, I don't care much about the UH mascot one way or another, except as how the macho "warrior" celebration is a psychological litmus test of how deep homophobia runs in school athletics. They are terrified of being thought of as "rainbows."
And how come no one is complaining about how UH hires a professional entertainer to be the mascot, a role traditionally given to a student? And whose pockets are the funds coming out of?

3/17/04
| Follow the money!


Maybe this is why the Gannett Advertiser's Marsha McFadden has been telling people the Tiser is understaffed and can't hop on stories right away -- Gannett needs the dough! Found at Footnoted.com: When Larry Miller, Gannett's (GCI) former CFO stepped down last year, the company didn't even put out a press release. Perhaps they didn't want to call attention to the fact that the company agreed to pay Miller $600,000 a year for life, an item buried in Gannett's recent proxy. Under the terms of the consulting contract, the agreement will automatically renew each July 1. The $600,000 is $40,000 more than Miller made when he was working full time at Gannett. It's also more than all but the two most senior Gannett executives made last year for their full-time jobs. The contract requires Miller, a 40 year Gannett veteran, to work part-time. But wait....there's more. Miller also received a $285,000 bonus last year and the company will continue to pay for his car and golf club membership. Posted by Michelle Leder

3/19/04
| Just the way Hearst did it


Editor Saundra Keyes riding herd on both news and opinion is nothing news at the Advertiser -- thery've been doing it that way since the 1800s. Here's a note from former Advertiser editor (and former Star-Bulletin consultant) Mike Middlesworth: I hate to burst your bubble, but both George Chaplin and Gerry Keir, the last two editors of The Advertiser in the Twigg-Smith reign, vetted the editorials every day and even wrote a number of them.
That was just the way it worked then and it's the way it works now. Griffin ran the editorial department and reported to Chaplin/Buchwach, and I ran the newsroom and also reported to Chaplin/Buchwach.

3/23/04
| Itemizing


Thanks to Ian's sharp eye and penchant for reading the fine print, we find that Rob Perez won the Honolulu Community-Media Council's Fletcher Knebel Award for his column "Raisng Cane." This award wasn't announced at the office, probably because it's moot -- Rob's column died some months ago.

We've lost a couple more people -- business writer Lynn Danninger is headed home to Australia for family issues, and news editor Steve Petranik is ditching us for a promised payraise at the Gannett Advertiser.

Following the item below about the tugboat Hoga on 3/13, the Advertiser did a story on the issue, written by the dynamic Will Hoover.

And I can't resist this picture:

3/25/04
| Moving on (again)


Two-fisted David Montesino, occasional Gannett Advertiser managing editor, is blowing this pop stand to become an A-1 designer at a paper in South Carolina. Or was it North Carolina? This could be considered a status demotion of sorts for the bright, creative and aggressive Montesino, but it beats having the very life sucked out of your soul. Montsino, you might recall, left town once before for a flirtation with a Tacoma paper that didn't pan out.

Today's goofy picture:


And in the theme of corporate censorship, here's a piece from the Ithica Times on how a long-time Gannett columnist was muzzled, likely because his columns were critical of the Bush administration. So much for balanced views. Technically, only the government can censor. Corporations can only silence, bully and intimidate.

And if any newspaper chains are looking to expand into fresh territory, here's the place to start.

3/26/04
| Arkansas to get Pearl Harbor vet


The Navy, ever unmindful of reminding citizens of the Day of Infamy, have decided to relocated the last surviving ship from the attack to Arkansas -- a move that is angering Pearl Harbor vets. But it's possible to ressurect the USS Nokomis as well.

3/28/04
| Cut 'n' paste ethics


I was once called on the carpet and accused of plagiarism by my editors. They had discovered that, in a story about the background of World War II, my list of Allied nations during the war was exactly the same and in the same order as a list in a book. I looked, and they were right. But it couldn't be helped -- both my list and the book's list were in alphabetical order. I pointed that out, but I was told that I should have run my list in a different order -- someone else had already done it alphabetically.
OK, it seems extreme, but that's the depth of the vetting process that's supposed to take place in editing. After all, journalism isn't writing, it's editing.
I find it difficult to understand how the big liars in the business -- Janet Cooke, Stephen Glass, Jayson Blair, Jack Kelley -- got away with it for so long. Smaller names get busted every day for plagiarism, primarily because they got caught cutting and pasting from someone else's story available on the Internet. The temptation of it that it's easy to do, but it's also a LOT easier to get caught. Just Google a phrase and see what turns up.
The latest embarrassment to the profession is USA Today's boy-wonder reporter Jack Kelley, who regularly wrote about narrow escapes from death while on the beat. Seems he made a lot of it up, as an investigative team is discovering. Gannett put so much faith in Kelley he would be loaned the corporate jet to globe-hop.
The word "faith" is key here. While the facts of Kelley's stories are just now being revealed, it was never any secret at USA Today that Kelley was also a fundamentalist Christian who tailored his reporting to suit his evangelical bent. He belonged to a private, fundamentalist cabal of starry-eyed journalist zealots called Gegrapha who believe that God is directing their every story, and that their reporting is the direct will of the Almighty. (Cal Thomas is a member, naturally.) Kelley's stories were thinly disguised sermons illustrating the correctness of worshiipping the One True God, and it ain't Allah. His narrow escapes from death? Many times God has spared me, Kelley prostletized, spinning the delusional incidents into parables.
A man's faith is his own business. But Kelley's unbridled zealotry colored his stories top to bottom and it was no secret. Just imagine if a USA Today employee were Muslim, and regularly sprinkled stories with bogus incidents that attacked Christians. But Kelley's rampant evangelism was all right with his Gannett editors -- they made him Employee of the Year in 2002.
Maybe he can get a job at Fox News.

3/30/04
| The Curse of the Banner!


That's what some bright person with a long memory noted on the bulletin board at work. Three years ago this month, as the "new" Star-Bulletin staff was evicted from the News Building, we marched down the street to our new home carrying what we could. Looking back at photos of the event, we see that Gordon Pang, Treena Shapiro and Steve Petranik were all carrying banners and proclaiming their loyalty. And now these three are the only ones to ditch us in mid-stream and scurry back to Papa Gannett!
2Q04


These pages are always under construction. Links to other sites do not necessarily represent endorsement by Pacific Electric Monograph.
These pages look best when viewed on my computer over at my house.
© 2003 Pacific Monograph