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April 2010
The Year of Reunification
Balkan Rhapsody!

Dispatches from the Front by Burl Burlingame

04/01/10 Wanted -- Another gladiator to do battle
I hope this isn't an April Fools. The Newspaper Guild Web site has posted an article headlined "Hawaii Guild can't find good candidates to succeed Cahill," but the story is about how treasurer Ernie Murphy is stepping up to fill in for Wayne Cahill, who retires June 10. The union has been battered by declining membership, but that's largely because there are simply fewer people in the business, thanks to layoffs and attrition.

04/02/10 Laid off but still working
Four Honolulu Advertiser employees who were given termination notices in early March for an April separation sue their parent company, Gannett, for failing to give them a 60-day notice. Sixty days are required under Hawaii plant-closing regulation, and the suit seeks to become a class-action move on behalf of other Advertiser employees. The question, of course, is what "employed" means when Advertiser ownership transitions between Gannett and the planned interim holding company in late April. Supposedly, these folks will still be working, just not for Gannett. We'll see how it pans out.

04/04/10 There WILL be blood
Oahu Publications informs the State Labor Department that at least 150 employees of the Honolulu Advertiser will lose their jobs. The number is likely to be higher, according to others.

04/05/10 Invest with confidence
BusinessWeek is keeping track of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin as a potential investment. But they list the owner as Liberty Newspapers, so invest at your peril based on this information.

04/07/10 Why bother with investing?
Religious publisher Wick Allison of the D Magazine Frontburner calls the Honolulu Star-Bulletin a "lousy newspaper" and wonders why Dallas investor Brian Ferguson would want to buy it. D magazine is convinced Ferguson is a "whiz kid." D Magazine is seriously out of touch with reality.

04/08/10 The last awards
Both daily newspapers do well in the annual Hawaii Publishers Association Pa'i Awards. It's likely their last outing. The Advertiser trumpets their awards as a way of trying to find jobs for the winners.

04/10/10 Lawsuits against the tide
Four long-time Advertiser employees sue Gannett over the terms of separation, but fail to slow down sale.

04/11/10 Desperation move
The "Desperate America" blog chimes in with advice on how to save the Star-Bulletin, advice that wasn't even appropriate a decade ago and is now hopelessly out of touch. Then the piece shills for Sam Slom's website purporting to try to save Hawaii news.

04/16/10 Gannett is printing money
Gannett's profits jump 51 percent — despite a 4-percent decline in revenue. That pesky bleeding in the extremities tapers off when you cut your own throat.

04/17/10 A technological non-marvel
Sam Slom blithely continues with his Star-Bulletin bid, trying to join the new age of newspapering, despite — and we have this on good authority — the oddity of using System 8 on his own Macintosh, Apple worst system and one 15 years old.

04/18/10 Case closed
The Hawaii Free Press blog speculates that the Honolulu Star-Bulletin endorsed Congressional candidate Ed Case solely because Case has a relative who invested in the newspaper, and that the Advertiser, who also endorsed Case, did so because they're anxious to suck up to the Star-Bulletin. The black helicopters are next.

04/19/10 Help us, Obi-Wan Inouye, you're our only hope
The Advertiser reports that Sen. Dan Inouye intends to send a strongly worded letter to the Justice Department questioning the Advertiser sale on anti-trust issues.

04/20/10 Three bidders
Three bidders eventually cast lots for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, while the Justice Department weighed their legitimacy.

04/21/10 Irony, anyone?
Advertiser editor Stephen Downes blogged online on the effect of print newspapers shutting down.

04/21/10 Hurry up and wait
The sale of the Advertiser is delayed "a couple of weeks."

04/22/10 Where no man has gone B4
In the midst of all this newspaper mergering, eBay cofounder Pierre Omidyar creates a start-up Hawaii-based online news "town meeting" called Hawaii Civil Beat. The organization lures away reporters from both papers and plans to charge a hefty viewing fee. Within a month, the former Star-Bulletin writer quits.

04/26/10 Seriously!
Slom and business-partner-with-benefits Zimmerman insist they are serious, which is pretty funny, actually.

04/28/10 Swift Justice
The Justice Department, no surprise, completes its investigation of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin sale and determines that David Black cannot be forced to keep alive a business that is losing money. This allows for a quick consolidation of the two newspaper products in Honolulu.

04/29/10 The Guild fights for news jobs
No surprise, the Newspaper Guild president finds the whole deal "highly questionable."

04/30/10 Right in our own backyard!
Claiming a months-long national search for just the right news director, Hawaii News Now general manager Rick Blangiardi found Advertiser editor Mark Platte right under his nose and scooped him up. It's just a coincidence that the Advertiser and the three-TV-station joint news operation have had a long-standing backscratching agreement. And singular luck that Platte happens to be at liberty at the moment, being one of the Gannett managers not transferred into HA for the newspaper transition. Now, let's see if Hawaii News Now will ask Advertiser publisher Lee Webber if Barack Obama was born in the United States.

04/30/10 In other words, please zip it
Following emotional confrontations by Advertiser employees, Star-Bulletin workers are urged not to react: "The next couple of months will be hectic, difficult and emotional for many in the local journalism community, and the social media will be full of thoughts, opinions and claims.  Please show restraint in dealing with the situation … We need to concentrate on getting out the best paper we can each day and focus on how we are going to get better as we get bigger. Do not get drawn into the latest daily distractions -- rise above the inevitable noise that will grow louder during the transition and consolidation."

NEXT! May 2010
The Final Countdown

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