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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 of the second quarter of 2004: | Burl Burlingame

| Raising the roof

Yesterday, I printed something on my old Apple Laserwriter at home. It felt like progress. This little step was the last one in reassembling the tangled little network of computers and periperals fried in December's lightning strike on the house. The room that had a hole blown in the floor and burned through the wall has been repaired and painted -- it's now the nicest room in the house! -- and the home "entertainment" area is up and operating. Ian had a funny piece last week about having to buy and deal with a new stereo receiver. He isn't kidding. Unless you're buying everything new, getting old components to work with modern ones can be a nightmare. Even our destroyed DVD player, which was only about nine months old, was hopelessly outmoded. Now if I could just find a USB-connectable CDRW burner that will attach to an old iMac, that would be swell. Apparently they aren't made any more.
And today or tomorrow, our roofers are supposed to arrive and start repair on the badly damaged roof, after four months of leaks and wet floors and walls. You really can't do much home repair until the roof is completed, and just getting a roofer to return calls has been a nightmare. Sucks, man.

| Losses and conundrums

Two more special guys passed away this weekend -- my friends Eddie Medeiros and Dick Fiske. Eddie was possible the nicest man I've ever known, and an honest car mechanic. They don't grow 'em like Eddie any more. A couple of months ago he was diagnosed with cancer and given not long to live, and he didn't. Dick Fiske was the Marine bugler aboard the USS West Virginia during the Pearl Harbor attack, and I got to know him well during my duties as a Pearl Harbor historian. I was lucky enough to write about him back when the newspaper was interested in having me do writing, and Dick taught me a lot about the power of forgiveness and redemption -- and also in fighting for what you believe in.

It's fascinating to compare the Star-Bulletin and Gannett Advertiser stories about exactly the same source material -- the University of Hawaii Board of Regents' evaluation of university president Evan Dobelle. The Star-Bulletin story reported the good and bad aspects of the report, while the Advertiser focused exclusively on the negative, making the regents look like vindictive knuckleheads. Since the Advertiser is an underwriter of UH events, perhaps there's an axe being ground rather thin.

Funny whose name pops up where you least expect it. In a whiny piece about the men-only Augusta National golf tournament and perceived journalistic bias covering it, examples are given of pots calling the kettle black. And we discover that Gannett head Doug McCorkindale is also a member of a males-only golf club even while USA Today chastises Augusta's policy.

| Best in the West

The annual Best in the West newspaper awards are beginning to filter out, and we've heard about two won by the Honolulu Star-Bulletin -- one for the University of Hawaii "comic book" and the other for the in-depth "ice" project last year. Say the judges: "This creative entry shows a lot of guts and workmanship, not to mention great draftsmanship. It is a an excellent integration of news with comic book aspects without one taking away from the other. Those involved in this project really thought outside of the box. It is an innovative way of attempting to reach young readers. Excellent work."
And also: "The Star-Bulletin provided deep reporting on an issue that had received plenty of coverage over the years - the use of crystal methamphetamine. The paper provided personal stories that showed the effect of the drug on families and communities. It uncovered systemic failures by police, courts and prisons to gauge the level of use. It's depth of reporting is even more impressive given that it was forced to move its publication date up after the government organized a summit on the issue. This was an important effort that forced authorities to begin taking steps to address a state crisis."
No word yet on how the Advertiser did.

And here's a follo on McCorkindale's men-only golf club membership.

| And the winner is ...

| Mo' money

There should, of course, be a standing headline for this -- Gannett made more money last quarter than before, thanks to advertising gains and squeezing more farthings out of their British holdings. Bush and the war has been good to Gannett.

| The Pearl Harbor Syndrome

The ongoing 9/11 hearings remind me a lot of the Pearl Harbor hearings in 1944 to 1946 --- yeah, they took that long -- in that Congress is determined to find someone to blame for the disaster. Sure, going over things will help us be better prepared in the future, but again -- like Pearl Harbor -- they're trying to fix causation on people rather than on the system. It's a peculiarly American style to blame ourselves rtather than credit the enemy. You want reasons? Here's two: (1) The enemy did a good job of planning the action and carrying it out, and (2) shit happens.

| The Pearl Harbor Syndrome, Part Deux

A couple of days ago I compared the current 9/11 hearings to the Pearl Harbor hearings held at the close of World War II. And a couple of days ago, Georgia Democrat Senator and presidential ass-polisher Zell Miller, taking the floor of the Senate, waxed flatulent about unity in these troubled times, saying such a hearing would never have happened over Pearl Harbor: Tragically, these hearings have proved to be a very divisive diversion for this country. Tragically, they have devoured valuable time looking backward instead of looking forward. Can you imagine handling the attack on Pearl Harbor this way? Can you imagine Congress, the media, and the public standing for this kind of political gamesmanship and finger-pointing after that day of infamy in 1941?
Some partisans tried that ploy, but they were soon quieted by the patriots who understood how important it was to get on with the war and take the battle to America's enemies and not dwell on what FDR knew, when. You see, back then the highest priority was to win a war, not to win an election. That is what made them the greatest generation ....

I guess Sen. Miller needs to read the 32-volume Pearl Harbor hearings transcript --- it's available online -- where he might be surprised by the partianship of the questioning. At the time, the Republicans were trying to pin the blame for the attack on the Democrats -- and not on the Japanese.

| USA Today takes a hit at the top

Gannett's internal investigation of USA Today fabricator Jack Kelley wrapped things up last week, but Gannett is sitting on their report. An indication of how serious the editorial lapses may be are indicated by today's abrupt resignation of USA Today editor Karen Jurgensen, who has been with the paper since it was founded in 1982. She's cleaning out her desk on the eve of the annual convention of the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

| USA Today goes public with its shame

After some pressure, and with some personal testimony excised, Gannett's flagship paper made the internal report it commisioned on Jack Kelley public. It describes, among other problems, "a culture of fear .... alive and sick in the News section." Keep in mind that Jack Kelley is no Jayson Blair, toiling away at the bowels of the paper. Kelley was a widely promoted Gannett superstar whose Christian fundamentalist mania colored his stories, to the point where no one is sure whether he made them up -- or hallucinated them in religious fervor.

Closer to home, the Gannett Advertiser is being given away for free at Jack in the Box. But over at Burger King, both papers are being sold. Way to go, Burger King! Have it your way, indeed.

Oh! The perils of live TV! The other night, Sharon Chen on KHNL (I think) was doing a stand-up out in a busy street, signed off abruptly --- and suddenly began jerking about and howling Shit! Shit! Shit! Yep, it got broadcast. A few minutes later, anchor Howard Dashefsky, goggle-eyed, mumbled something about a near-accident that affected the broadcast, but didn't go into specifics...

| Gannett Advertiser ready to diversify

The big press in Kapolei is almost done, and Gannett Pacific will shift its priorities from the Advertiser to becoming a job printer. The first "new" Advertiser is scheduled to roll off the press on Aug. 16, with a special "vendor's section" printed on Aug. 22. The G-men have been running a house ad promising that the paper will anticipate much excitement and particularly high readership that day. They are claiming a readership rate that, if true -- big if! -- has every other person in Hawaii poring over the Advertiser and then putting the papers away as precious keepsakes. These editions are being pitched as "commemoratives" with the idea that Hawaii is breathless with excitement over the Advertiser improving its production facilities. Want to join that excitement and help Gannett ship money out of Hawaii? A double-truck is going for $39,000, full pages for $20,000, plus another 25% if you want the back page of a section. They also promise that ad buyers have "advertorial" access to the news pages. After that, presumably, the ad rates will drop to their usual giveaway levels. If they were smart or civic-minded, they'd do it to benefit local charities, but no, it's all about sticking it to Hawaii businesses.

More top heads rolling at USA Today. Managing Editor Hal Ritter and Executive Editor Brian Gallagher have been shown the door.

| Lightning continues to strike

The weekend was spent battling more sudden leaks that burst open in the house, ranging from drips in formerlly dry undersink connections to weeping in-the-wall bathroom fixtures to disposal and washer hoses splitting open. That's something like a dozen leaks (that I know about) since the house was struck by lightning last December. I'm developing a theory -- the electrical connections to this old house were grounded to the plumbing system, and the sudden bolt fractured or fried the old-fashioned plumbers putty at many of thre connections. Or created a dissimilar-metal "battery" where copper meets steel or brass, creating a gradual acidic discharge....

Up above is a new feature. SAY WHAT? will feature actual quotes by the people in charge.

| More voters removed from the rolls

The image the people in charge prefer you not see in an election year. Maytag Aviation loadmaster Tami Silico and her husband were fired for shooting pictures of their outbound cargo from Kuwait. If you're annoyed at Maytag, let them know.

A mea culpa week for the Gannett Advertiser. They had a couple of bad goofs last week and launched into a frenzy of self-recrimination and sackcloth-rending when a couple of corrections would have sufficed. Editor Saundra Keyes' over-the-top self-flagillation set a new standard for grovelling to readers. But then the culture at Gannett right now is to over-react, thanks to their Jack Kelley embarrassment. Keyes is likely just trying to hang on to her head while executive heads are rolling at USA Today.
A mainland reader and former Gannettoid offers this insight:
I know you are following the doings at USAT, and because I am a recovering Gannetoid, I offer my two cents as I did a few years ago.
The USAT editors described by co-workers as indifferent, haughty, arbitary, and manipulative made me think of my old days with the G-men, with no particular fervor. They are precisely the sort of editors that Gannett rewards and grooms.
Though to be fair, no one you'd actually ever hold in high regard ever lusted after elevation to the USAT. I once thought it odd that so few Gannett editors were busting their tails to get to the mountain. But the longer I stayed, I realized that many folks realize that everything wrong with Gannett in general was wrong at USAT in specific.
There was very little "Gee one day I hope to be a section editor at USAT." there, and they come back with stories of how happy we all should be not to be there.
The rumor mill has Silverman from Detroit is No. 1 on list. I work with a former Detroiter who says he will fit right in - overbearing, micro manager who plays favorites and generally is regarded as a dick.

| From the president's desk

The White House is balking at releasing documents related to the war on terrorism, or the "war on terror" -- or, as the president puts it, "the war on trrrrrrrr" -- claiming national security issues, or executive privilege, blah blah blah. Turns out the president has been doodling on them. To see Bush's copy of the Bin Laden memo, click here.

| The party's over

Oddly, in these turbulent times, I was inordinatly interested in how the annual White House Correspondents Dinner went over the weekend. It appears to be more of the usual behind-the-Beltway backslapping. Even so, I always look forward to Wonkette's woozy repotage.

| Housecleaning

'Bout time I cleaned up this site. The Archives will be kept by quarters instead of months, which reflects my newly downsized work ethic. Also some "buttons" have been created for the links at left ... Poison Kitchen will return someday, when the site's back up...

After three exciting months taking orders at the Fresno Bee, Jim Kelly is moving back to Honolulu to take over editorship of Pacific Business News. Publisher Larry Fuller is also an ex-Gannett Advertiser honcho. Maybe Fresno didn't appeal to the Brewmeister! At any rate, if anyone's keeping track, there are virtually no Gannett Advertiser managers still standing from when they declared war on two-newspaper towns.

| More Best

The Star-Bulletin scored another Best of the West award -- in competition against bigger, richer papers -- with a third place in General Interest Column Writing for Rob Perez' "Raising Cane." No, he wasn't selected because of the name of the column! judge Greg Kane, columnist for the Baltimore Sun, wrote. Perez made it for doing columns exposing the perks of government officials to the hardships of common folks to petty corruption by taxi cab dispatchers. This is what journalism is all about, isn't it? Alas, Rob no longer is able to write this column.
The Gannett Advertiser won no awards in Best of the West.

There's a settlement in the Catherine Toth labor arbitration case at the Gannett Advertiser, but details are sketchy. We hear she's going back to work, but there may be a probation period. Whether the probation is for her or the Gannett paper, we have no idea.

Last week there was an awards luncheon for high-school journalists and both papers had goodies for the kids. The Gannett Advertiser had sexy calculators and CD visor wallets and clear plastic rulers, all with their logo gleamingly imprinted on them, while the Star-Bulletin had ... well, we had a ballpoint pen to give away. Although I'd like to claim it was a REALLY NICE ballpoint pen, the Mount Everest of ballpoint giveaways, that would not be true. It's a perfectly pleasant ballpoint pen, that's all. But the Star-Bulletin is providing student internships, while the Gannett paper likely isn't. So there.

The Gannett paper in Nashville is drawing reader flak. Seems they're censoring "Doonesbury" on "moral" grounds, while happily taking in money from ads promoting strip clubs. These ads do not offend me, but hypocrisy in the form of hiding behind morality as a justification for censorship does, sniffs a reader. "Doonesbury" does not bring in revenue, lady. Get real.

| More shelf space needed

The Star-Bulletin has now run out of shelves to dsiplay all our awards. At the Hawaii Publishers Association Pa'i awards yesterday, Star-Bulletin/MidWeek took home 22 awards (with seven Firsts) while Gannett Advertiser/Island Weekly gathered 16 (six Firsts). Interestingly, the Star-Bulletin story about the awards mentions the Advertiser' total, while the Advertiser story only talks about themself. Not mentioned is that they have a much larger staff with resources to burn, and they also out-enter us in these contests -- for every Star-Bulletin entry, there are three or four Advertiser entries, because, well, because they can afford it. (Also, the Star-Bulletin story online has links to the winning entries, something we started in Honolulu Newspaper War a couple of years ago) Still, the Advertiser staff can be proud -- they came in far ahead of Honolulu Weekly.

| War of the women

One of the emerging themes of the conflict in Iraq will be the role women are playing in combat. Last year, the heroine of the hour was Pfc. Jessica Lynch, this year it's Reservist Lynndie England, who was called "dirtbag of the week" on Saturday Night Live and is rapidly overtaking Eva Braun in the bad-press department. Both England and Lynch has surprisingly similar backgrounds, but we won't be seeing any book and movie deals for England.

And here you can listen to Dubya's 4/14 speech, stripped of all "non-essential bits" by a radio station. Leader of the Free World!

| Faux News -- fairly unbalanced

Still, Faux News has an interesting item about a post-9/11 evidence coverup -- it seems a group of FAA flight controllers were debriefed after the event, but an FAA technocrat shredded the tape so no one would ever hear it.

| Nuisance suit

A Gannett newspaper in Florida, from McCorkingdale on down, is being sued for "false, extreme and outrageous" published statements by a disbarred lawyer. Does this mean she can't represent herself?

| Lady sings the red, white and blues

The computer upon which I crank up this near-daily screed is in the shop for a tune-up and lube job. I1ll try to do updates the old-fashioned way -- by writing code in simpletext ... might get funky, tho!
During an interview with an Arizona disk jockey, singer Linda Ronstadt said in an aside, "The politics are very conservative here and I'm not conservative. I'm having a hard time sometimes convincing people that we need to vote for a new president." Faux News jumped all over her, calling her "radical Ronstadt" and slugging the segment "Ronstadt's Rant" and referring to her as a "waning star who hasn1t had a hit in 20 years" and then casting her as a "Hollywood liberal just like everyone else in Hollywood; they're like lemmings." This wasn't during O'Reilly, even -- it was during the regular newscast. The only stock film footage they used of her was when she was overweight and singing mariachi music. Fairly unbalanced? She didn't say anything some members of Congress haven't said.
Speaking of lady artists, the great Alanis Morissette has a new tune out.

| Second-class Hawaii

I am, like, so mad. Massachusetts now has legalized gay marriage. We could have had it in Hawaii FIRST except for those boneheads who sabotaged the effort here. Now it1s Massachusetts getting all those cash-rich gays with good taste flocking there, pumping up the New England economy. They could have been swarming to Hawaii instead, filling the hotels, buying meals, splurging on local crafts, making us rich. People who hate gays are taking dollars out of our pockets.

| Yo! Yo! Yo! Dog!

Jasmine's gone, boo freakin' hoo. Actually, it's a little bit of a relief to have Hawaii's sweetheart voted away from "American Idol." The tension was getting unbearable. And after having La Toya and Jennifer get the chop, obviously, anything was possible. As a TV guy at the Star-Bulletin, I felt obligated to watch "American Idol," particularly since the Hawaii kids were doing so well. What I didn't expect was to get swept up in it. It's absolutely perfect television, doing the sort of thing only TV can deliver, creating a kind of communal experience coast-to-coast that is immediate and satisfying, with enough political maneurvering and personality quirks and sheer luck to quarterback it endlessly the next day. I also get no sense of competition between the contestants this year. They're genuinely sad when one has to leave, and genuinely happy that the lucky ones get to stay. In an age when phoniness rules, it's damned refreshing to see such honesty on the little screen. Oddly, what "Idol" reminds me most of is baseball -- here are some talented kids working at the top of their game with fans and supporters rooting them on, and yet it's pure luck, pluck and determination settling the outcome. So much of what you see on TV is depressing these days ...

| Bring back Kenneth Starr!

Where are those illicit-sex-crazed Republicans these days? The big buzz in Washington isn't about priisoner abuse, it's about a blogger known as Washingtonienne, a staffer in Ohio Republican Sen. Mike DeWine's office, who supplemented her $25K salary by renting her sweet patootie out to Bush administration officials -- some of who have kinky habits as revealed in her webblog. DeWine fired her yesterday, while Wonkette is trying to get her a literary agent. If Washingtonienne were an intern at the Clinton White House, there would be zillion-dollar investigation.

| A night with the ladies

Wonkette and Washingtonienne pictured together! And Washingtonienne was also interviewed in today's Washington Post, along with another picture. This is ever so much more fun than MidEast Policy Review.

| Welcome to the 'Tard Zone

Ever have one of those days when you're halfway convinced you woke up in an alternate universe, on the square Bizarro world perhaps, because nobody seems to have common sense anymore? Today I drove to the airport to pick up my parents. Previously it had been a snap -- drive up, jump out help them into the car, throw the bags in the trunk and drive off, 30 seconds tops. They need a little help because they're elderly and doddering, and my mother has beginning Alzheimer's, which mainly means she can lose track of what's going on.
But that's a simple pick-up is no longer possible in a world where the lowest bidder controls airport security. Apparently getting out of your car to help your mother get in is considered parking, and airport guards get in your way and scream at you if you're not actually behind the wheel. At one point I got Mom in the car and they made her get back out again because her bags didn't get in first. I had to leave her alone in the handicapped zone and make a circuit all the way around the airport again, praying she'd still be there when I got back. What should have taken 30 seconds took 15 minutes. Doesn't seem either efficient or safe.
And then I dropped them off at their house and made a drive-through at a Mililani fast-food place. The kid at the order window took my money, made change, told me to go to the next window and slammed the window shut. Except -- there was no next window. Eventually, the kid came outside, gave me my bag and told me I was holding things up. I'm just old enough to go harrumph!
A couple of days ago a MidWeek photographer set up an elaborate picture with several people for a story. The Advertiser reporter covering it saw the set-up and ordered the subjects not to move until she could get an Advertiser photographer down there to horn in on MidWeek's set-up.
Who rules in Google online returns? The Star-Bulletin website beats the snot out of the Gannett Advertiser. Go here to check it out.
I was on the mainland once during cicada season. It's like a B-movie horror show. Be thankful we don't have them here. I still prefer them to B-52 cockaroaches tho.

| Shallow end of the pool

About a century ago, I was working as a student intern for Rep. Richard Garcia, in the then-new state capitol building, when, on impulse, I knelt down and looked under the overhangs of the building's reflective pool and discovered stalactites. Seems the lime was washing out of the building's mortar and creating little white icicles. Garcia worried that it might hurt the fish living in the pond. Yeah, the pond had fish then. I'm just reminded of that because the New York Times just ran a story exposing the ponds as an algae-choked mess. Several, including Ian, are freaked out about that. But where would the Times have picked up such a lead? Perhaps by checking the ongoing public question in the current Star-Bulletin Brainstorm series.
I spent a good part of today in the bushes on the North Shore, beginning a survey of historic Haleiwa Field. There's a group of folks who would like to see it become a national historic site, which it certainly qualifies as, given its crucial role in the attack on Pearl Harbor. More than that, it would be nice to have a cleared-out area in Haleiwa for public events. Even though entry isn't easy, there are quite a number of permanent residents squatting in tents and shelters on the property. Here's a look-around at a revetment area.

| So long to the Titanic

We'll analyze the subtext of this Gannett Advertiser memo from publisher Mike Fisch tomorrow, but for now, simply enjoy the thinly veiled rage evident between the lines: Several high level resignations have been received today which are effective immediately. Dennis Francis, General Manager of the Advertiser since 1998 tendered his resignation to take the position of President of Oahu Publications and Publisher of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. David Black aggressively recruited Dennis and offered him a package worth more than a million dollars to help them try to defeat us in the marketplace. Dennis felt the money was worth making the change from the winning team to the losing team. Dennis has left effective immediately to assume that role. Glenn Zuelis, our Classified Director will join Dennis at the Star-Bulletin in a sales-management role. He too will leave immediately. Marge Inn Francis our long time Credit Manager and wife of Dennis Francis has been put on paid leave until we can determine her status. Obviously these are not planned changes. I will be making further organizational announcements regarding these changes soon. Beginning today Bill Bogert, Richard Fuke, Roger Forness and Miki Sugikawa will report directly to me. As always we will continue to provide our customers quality products and service, focusing on their needs and not the day to day actions of our competitors ...

| Another coup for David Black

Raise your hand if you saw this coming. The cowbell in the editor's office rings but rarely, and each time it heralds an important newsroom meeting. Our new publisher is Dennis Francis, who yesterday was General Manager of the Gannett Advertiser, plus we scored Glenn Zuehls, former Gannett Classified Director, plus -- apparently -- more to come. As near as I can tell, the Gannett Advertiser has not reported on this business news. Maybe they will when Fisch's head rolls down the street.
So. Worthy adversaries are now comrades in arms.

| Friday follow-up

George Tenet of the CIA resigned yesterday. We hear he's going to work for David Black.

Uh-oh! Thanks to some concerned folks at the Gannett Advertiser -- "We'll see how smug you are when it's time for contract renegotiations and Dennis Francis is sitting across the table from your Guild reps!" and "That Dennis Francis guy drives a new car every month!" and "Good riddance! We recruited away Ken Berry from YOU! Who's laughing now?"-- some portions of the Tizer's small stories on their top-level defections have come our way. Good quotes from publisher Fisch: "We can understand why the Star-Bulletin would want to recruit from our ranks," said Advertiser Publisher Mike Fisch in announcing Francis' resignation. "However, as every good business person knows, a successful company isn't based on one or two individuals, but rather on its product quality, customer service and results ... I'm therefore confident The Advertiser will continue to be the best-read newspaper in Hawai'i in terms of audited net paid circulation, readership and results for advertiser investment." Alas, the Gannett paper hasn't put this news online, nor is it reported in Gannett's own services, which might mean Fisch's spin is meant only for local consumption. (Oops, I guess it's online NOW)

And here's a campaign commercial unlikely to approved of by President George W. Bush.

| Aloha Mr. President

President Ronald Reagan died this day, and while I never much liked his presidency, I kind of liked the man, and the reactions around the country seem to echo that impression. At the Star-Bulletin, the Associated Press feed went down while we were trying to put the story together. And the difference between the two Sunday papers' A-1 heds was interesting. The Star-Bulletin's said "Mourning in America" and the Advertiser's said "U.S. loses an icon."

| Happy birthday, Mary

My wife Mary Poole has a birthday today, and I normally don't embarrass her in public, but this year she's turning 50! We started dating when she was a teenager, and she still looks the same to me ...

| Press-ing matters

We're hearing stories about new publisher Dennis Francis from former co-workers up the street. Oh, such stories! Trouble is, they tend to cancel each other out. Seems Francis is either totally Mr. Way-Cool Dude or a Fiendish Monster Who Walks Among Us.

Kay Ghean, chair of the Maui Republican party, has been sending out an essay praising President Reagan. But she spells his name "Regan" throughout. Sigh. And there's something else Hawaii Republicans do that's so annoying that it must be on purpose -- they always refer to the other guys as the "Hawaii Democrat Party" when there ain't no such animal. It's "Democratic Party of Hawaii." Now if the Democrats would stop being such wusses and start correcting embarrassing errors like this, maybe voters would pay attention to them.

You like the big white border around the Gannett Advertiser redesign? Don't get used to it. The Tiser will start trimming those edges when the paper goes on the new press later this summer. It's part of a nation-wide effort to standardize newsprint sizes, and that's a good thing -- saves trees. You can count on Gannett to pay attention to the consumables. Remember when they attempted to prevent the Star-Bulletin from buying newsprint rolls? And when they laid in a big supply when trying to provoke a strike? As for the redesign, it makes a more readable paper, and that's always good for citizens. Gannett believes that Hawaii is breathless with excitement awaiting their new press production. Reagan died? So? Here's real news -- In July, Sunday sections, including Business, Travel and Island Life, will be published on the new presses, it bleats in an informational graphic in a double-truck layout talking about it, which was certainly force-read by whimpering production students in J-clases statewide. Photos! You'll see more of them in any number of sizes and shapes! The Gannett Advertiser is still sort of ham-handed at balancing images and type color. Maybe they have different layout people working on various bits of the pages and by the time someone sees the whole page, it's too late. Now, if they'd just pay attention to removing widows at the top of columns ...

We hear the Gannett Advertiser guild contract, long awaited thanks to some niggling over details by management over there, will finally be available online soon. We'll link as soon as that happens.

And Honolulu Weekly is working on a new "Newspaper War" story ...

| Ron and Ray

The endless, stultifying coverage of Ronald Reagan lying in state has completely seized cable news by the throat -- finally, the White House is allowing a picture of a flag-draped casket! -- and Ray Charles has had the bad luck to die while all eyes are on Reagan. The greatest R? practitioner of the 20th century won't get the praise he's due. At any rate, pundits galore are crediting Reagan for conquering Communism with his sunny optimism. Actually, Reagan, the Hollywood actor, knew the power of the image. Whenever he'd spend time on the ranch, Reagan would go chopping wood with a posse of photographers along. You'd see the leader of the Free World shirtless and sweating, grimacing, fish-belly white, shiny and flabby, swinging an axe with a crazed, blank look. It was like the "Friday the 13th" horror-movie monster was in charge of the country. What could be scarier? Gorbachev chugging vodka? Clinton smoking a cigar?

| Dead Reagan Summertour 2004 rolls on

| Funny boy

The Star-Bulletin's own Charley Memminger was honored by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists for being the best humor writer in a paper of less than 100,000 circulation. We'll get that circulation up, Charley.

| For whom Dobelle toils

University president Evan Dobelle got his walking papers from a unamimous UH Board of Regents last night. Amusingly, the Google ad version of the Star-Bulletin online story has catchlines like "You're Fired": Ouch and Terminination Legal Help. The regents must have been very unhappy with Dobelle, and that's no surprise, but it will be interesting to see what they give as their "just cause" rationale. I've talked to Dobelle several times and he's certainly a bright guy. He never quite shook his I'm-here-to-help-you-rubes attitude however, which is particularly patronizing in the wake of his spectacularly dumb decision to support Mazie Hirono in the gubernatorial election. Not only was it politically inappropriate and naive, Hirono didn't need some East Coast sharpie on her side. The backfire could be heard for miles.

| Road rage

It's getting so bad on Oahu's roads these days that driving is a real chore ? just getting from here to there is an adventure. This week, large portions of Nimitz Highway, the airport viaduct, Moanalua Freeway, Likelike Highway and access to H-3 were all closed down so that work crews could supposedly work. If so, why don't they ever finish? Why not complete one job before screwing up another section of road? Here in Kailua, both the Hamakua and Kalaheo sewer installations are taking years -- years! -- to install relatively short stretches of sewer. We ain't building the pyramids, guys. Laying a sewer line is not a lifetime career. The contractor on the Kalaheo stretch, Westcon Microtunneling, was supposed to have competed the project three months ago. Who do they think they are, Halliburton? Someone's getting ripped off. The Kalaheo project even has its own website with links to news stories, although, curiously, all the links are to Gannett Advertiser stories, one of which notes that the tunnels are 500 feet deep. No wonder it's taking so long. And one of the things that's causing delays in finishing the new sewer line is -- get this! -- sewer line breaks.

| Awards season

Congratulations to the Honolulu Advertiser for finally beating the Star-Bulletin in sheer number of SPJ awards, 12 first-places for them to 10 for us. All that extra effort to produce results is finally paying off for them. Curiously, the judges decided that no awards at all were to be given -- to anybody! -- in key areas like political reporting and arts and entertainment writing. The Star-Bulletin story, naturally, focuses on winning the big public-service award while the Advertiser version zeroes in on the numbers.

| News from the universe

See what we miss when all eyes are on Reagan getting planted? This is one of the first pictures ever taken of Phoebe, one of the many moons of Saturn, and it was transmitted during Reagan's funeral. It's from the Cassini-Huygens robot mission that just arrived in Saturn's neck of the universe and the results so far have been spectacular. Now, about those black rings around Uranus ...

| Here comes de judge!

OK, so I was hanging out at the annual "Taste of Honolulu" fundraiser and got drafted to be be a judge in an "American Idol"-type singing contest, along with voice instructor Kale Imua and City Prosecutor Peter Carlyle. Luckily, one contestant was leagues ahead of the others. But the headline above refers not to myself but to a hangin' judge (snicker) in Oklahoma who has run afoul of the short arm of the law.
Also saw Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" and it's quite entertaining. I can report that Democrats talk back to the movie screen more than Republicans do (but that Republicans are more likely to make cell-phone calls in a theater). How effective is it as a piece of superior agitprop? Judging by the hysteria among the neocons, pretty damn effective. Dick Cheney might even tell Michael Moore to go do something with himself that's physically unlikely. Did it have anything to do with Fox News? Did Cheney tell Leahy to go Fox himself?

| Dead Reagan Summertour 2004!


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