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April 2000

The Year of
Stalemate and Sitzkrieg
Falsehoods, Lies and Dammed Lies

Dispatches from the Front by Burl Burlingame
4/5/00 Gannett's latest annual report filed with the the SEC reported that the newspaper division had record earnings of $1.3 billion during the year, up 16%. Newspaper earnings were aided by lower newsprint prices which averaged 12% less than 1998. This is interesting, considering that one of the key expenses claimed by Gannett in their "losses" of operating the Star-Bulletin was the price of newsprint.
4/7/00 Donrey Media's acquired "to serve as an in-depth community site for current and former Hawaii residents," a trail blazed by the website years ago. Donrey also owns the Hilo Tribune Herald and West Hawaii Today newspapers and is a viciously anti-labor organization. Donrey's anti-labor attack dog is Alan Marx, the same attorney now representing Liberty Newspapers in Gannett's attempt to kill the Star-Bulletin. Small world! You mean there isn't a big pool of anti-labor lawyers to choose from?
4/12/00 The Honolulu Star-Bulletin badly beat Gannett's Honolulu Advertiser in the annual Hawaii Publisher Association awards for quality of product, taking 21 trophies to Gannett's nine. It's particularly sweet since these awards were judged elsewhere, by independent parties, who were unaware of the public sentiment supporting the Star-Bulletin.
4/13/00 Legally mandated bargaining continued on the employees' contracts with Gannett management, which will expire in early June. Gannett's chief negotiator John Jaske, fresh from overseeing Gannett's humiliating debacle in Detroit, where Judge Thomas R. Wilks was so appalled by the behavior of Jaske and other Gannett executives that he made note of it in his 113-page decision against Gannett. "Jaske's demeanor, as is his courtroom presence, was stark, cold, emotionless," Wilks wrote. "Jaske tended to evade and obfuscate ... with respect to the DNA joint bargaining strategy - (R)egarding Guild negotiations, he resorted to gross exaggeration."
In Honolulu, Jaske uses the same tactics. A new wrinkle is Gannett's sudden assault on the contract language involving
reuse and syndication. This includes the archived materials in, virtually all of which was created by Guild employees.
Gannett has argued in court that the Star-Bulletin has no assets and therefore would be difficult to sell -- while also attempting to grab the newspaper's "intellectual property" assets because they are considered so commercially vital.
4/14/00 Gannett's Honolulu Advertiser unveiled their first front-page advertisement. They've decided to enter the year 2000 by going back to 1900!
4/16/00 Gannett's Honolulu Advertiser takes advantage of their Sunday circulation to Star-Bulletin readers to print thinly disguised propaganda purportedly taking a beat on life in the Star-Bulletin newsroom. The piece paints a picture that is out of context and dishonest. It allows Gannett exec Michael Fisch to claim he's taking "the high road" while tainting the community leaders, tens of thousands of Save Our Star-Bulletin supporters, the State Attorney General and the U.S. Justice Department as a politically motivated fringe group -- a characterization as imperious as it is insulting.
Questions mounted after the story appeared. What is there about the story that deserves front-page space? Where is the news value? Why was the story assigned now? Did they expect a slow news week, or did Gannett have some motivation for assigning such a story now? Was the motivation to further weaken the Star-Bulletin and its staff?
Is the real story whether or not Gannett has admitted that it violated the injunction by switching about 4000 Star-Bulletin subscribers to the Advertiser? And there was no mention of the 1,100 daily Advertisers that are being paid for with NIE funds and distributed free in the UH dorms.
The story also gives the impression that remaining Star-Bulletin staffers are dispirited millionaires, that Gannett's strategy of sabotaging Star-Bulletin distribution and production is a natural process, that Star-Bulletin subscribers simply "shrugged" when discovering their newspaper was being killed, that subscribers were actually given a choice between the two newspapers and that many staffers have already abandoned the newspaper to its fate.
In fact, the three ex-staffers interviewed are ALL the staff that has left -- except for one staffer who was recruited by the Advertiser! Of the currently working staff, fewer than 200 words are spent actually discussing newsroom mood, the stated subject of the story. The story also completely ignores the groundbreaking legal case now pending, allowing Fisch to prattle on about the case being moot.
4/20/00 In a newsletter distributed to all employees in their pay envelopes, Gannett executive Mike Fisch again thinly threatened workers that their days were numbered during upcoming contract negotiations. Due to a changing newspaper climate, workers can no longer expect the high standard of living they've been used to, Fisch said. These economic threats come at the same time Gannett has posted record profits. Any reverses in Honolulu were self-inflicted by Gannett in their rush to screw customers before Christmas last year.
4/21/00 After a week of puzzling computer "problems" that affect only the Star-Bulletin and not the Advertiser, the Star-Bulletin's 50-gigabyte photographic archive mysteriously vanished, affecting the newspaper's ability to publish in a timely manner. According to Gannett executive John Jaske in recent contract negotiations, such archives are considered an asset that Gannett intends to keep for itself.

John Jaske
4/22/00 Managing Editor David Shapiro calls Star-Bulletin employees together to announce that an agreement to offer the paper for sale has been reached, in concert with a modification in the injunction to allow the Star-Bulletin to be placed on the market. In a nutshell -- Liberty must sell the newspaper to an independent party, the Joint Operating Agreement is not part of the package, any buyer will have to provide distribution, computer systems and advertising-sales forces, and may contract for printing with Gannett. The Justice Department has apparently not weighed in on the deal.
4/27/00 As one of his last acts as a Pacific Business News editor before joining Gannett's Honolulu Advertiser, ex-Star-Bulletin editor Dan Woods oversaw a story slamming the Star-Bulletin's chances of being sold. He then cleaned out his desk and went to work for Gannett.
4/29/00 Gannett circulation employees are switching Star-Bulletin subscribers to the Advertiser and then billing them without first asking consent.
4/30/00 "60 Minutes" aired a surface story on the Bishop Estate trustees debacle, and properly credited the Star-Bulletin for breaking the story while Gannett's Advertiser editors refused to do so. Ex-trustee Henry Peters concluded the segment by saying only thing he's sorry for is not silencing the Star-Bulletin when he could. The story was a tremendous morale booster, and we wondered if we'd ever have a chance to serve Hawaii's citizens in the same way again.
NEXT! May 2000
The San Francisco Solution

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