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HonoluluNewsBlues
August 2001

The Year of
Savage Counterattack
Sticky Fingers

Dispatches from the Front by Burl Burlingame
8/1/01 Ironies upon ironies -- Peter Wagner, the Star-Bulletin business writer who left about a year ago for the "safer" field of editing Island Business magazine, is being let go, along with the publisher, as the magazine is being merged with rival publication Hawaii Business next month. Since both newspapers have hiring freezes in effect, it'll be tough for him to get a job. Peter's a good guy and fine reporter and editor, and we often worked together back in the ... good God! ... back in the 1970s at the old Sun Press.
8/2/01 I'm collecting quite a number of parking passes on my rearview. For daytime workers who require cars, like newspaper writers, the Restaurant Row area is very expensive to park in, and every month is a scramble to find reasonable accomodations. Ironically, the night-time crew parks for free, as long as they don't leave before 10:30.


Best Dog in the World
8/4/01 It's taken me a while to note the death of my dog Kawika, because it's hard when a family member passes away. He was old, 14 or so, and had a good life, and died with dignity, lying in the sun with us near. He was a Star-Bulletin dog -- we inherited him from writer Jeanie Mariani many years ago, and this high-spirited guy was even the subject of a song. Meda and Ian Lind sent us a lovely note that concluded: "We've lost beloved animals over the year, and mean the word beloved sincerely. We know how this feels and are with you as you say a long goodbye to someone fabulous who will be missed. As one of our friends once advised us, mourn well for this good friend." Happy hunting, Kawika.
8/12/01 Here's a note from a female Gannett employee on the Mainland:
I was employed by Thomson who owned the Post Crescent and then worked for Gannett after they bought it in June, 2000. Let me tell you!

Gannett is micro-managed, under-managed, managed by people who have half a brain, and even unfair to the workers who collect the debts in advertising, and more.

I gave my notice last week Monday to work for the competition. The straw that broke the camels back was when we were given more work and not any overtime. I work with two full-time credit collectors and I am not allowed more than 30 hours. I had my revenues base against the full timers who get 10 hours more on phone to collect. And if THAT wasen't a sore spot, I was told if I wished to elevate my percent of intake I could work more. BUT I WOULDNT GET PAID because it isn't in the budget.

They just gave their hokie-mokie in Virginia a $3 million stock thing, and WHO DO YOU SUPPOSE PAID FOR THAT? The people who worked their butts off...

Actually, I should say, a "former Gannett employee" wrote the above. And there are more of those all the time. The company maintains a rigorous public fiction -- OK, let's call it propaganda -- that it is one of the fairest places to work, particularly for women and minorities. And there are many women and and minorities in the rank and file. You just don't see them in command positions.
Here's another example. For years, Gannett sought after and received a top ranking from "Working Mother" magazine as one of the best places in America for mothers to work, and all the benefits were glowingly listed, such as deductions for child-care withdrawn from salaries before taxes.
One small detail sailed by "Working Mother" every year -- these benefits were available ONLY to Gannettoids in management positions, not to the average employee.
8/13/01 Sunday, for the first time, the number of line-inches in a Sunday Classified department -- in this case, Automotive -- beat the line-inches in the same Gannett Advertiser department. This thing will be won by inches.
8/14/01 The Gannett Advertiser's photo staff was being called on the carpet for not being "productive" enough. We also hear they're blamed for few photos being used with stories -- the layout editors' responsibility -- and the generally poor reproduction of images in the printed paper, which is, of course, the printers' problem. I'd direct you to the 'Tiser's horrendously balky website for examples, but their online edition generally avoids using photographs.
8/15/01 An anonymously written story in the Gannett Advertiser claimed huge increases in the papers circulation figures in the weeks following the separation in March. The lack of a byline generally means that the reporter is unwilling to stand by the material after editing, or that it is embarrassing for other reasons. This is permissible under the Advertiser's union contract. Even so, the story still noted that much of the increase might possibly be linked to the 'Tiser giving away daily papers to Sunday subscribers, an accounting maneuver now allowed by the Audit Bureau of Circulations. The Advertiser also demanded that ABC conduct its audit for 15 weeks, which is unheard-of in the industry. This period coincided not only with the free-newspaper giveaways, but with a very expensive television ad campaign and vastly increased expenses in street-sale and point-of-purchase promotions.
Will ad buyers be fooled by these artificial numbers? Many already resent being hoodwinked by Gannett into signing long-term contracts last year without being told that the ads would not appear in the Star-Bulletin as well. To retain these people, the Advertiser desperately needs to keep its figures up by any means possible.
Despite the increased circulation -- if it lasts -- the Gannett Advertiser will likely lose money this year thanks to slashing ad rates and giving away free ad space to hang on to advertisers.
Newspapers in general have flat circulations in summertime. The battle for readers starts in earnest in the next couple of weeks, when the Advertiser starts charging for its free newspapers, and the Star-Bulletin circulation steps up. For example, Sheraton Hotels is now taking the Star-Bulletin rather than the Advertiser, Papa John's is delivering a Star-Bulletin with every pizza and the Department of Education starts buying several hundred Star-Bulletins for classroom use. Neighbor island circulation for the Star-Bulletin has also tripled with no promotion whatsoever, and several hundred street-sale boxes are being delivered for us.
Things are going to heat up!
8/16/01 Capitol Bureau reporter Pat Omandam shows off our new mailbox newspaper tubes. The Gannett Advertiser has been cranking out logo materials for some time.
8/17/01 We said farewell to another survivor of the closure years, Shirley Iida, a clerk with a legendary appetite for writing obits. Shirley is leaving to pursue her studies in the graphic arts and because the family store -- the legendary Iida's in Ala Moana -- is reopening. Shirley's unflappable cheer will be missed!

8/19/01 The Star-Bulletin picked up sponsorship of the famous Ki Ho'alu Slack-Key concerrt series after Bank of Hawaii dropped the ball after a couple of decades. I didn't get to go, but I'm told it was a lot of fun, and organizers were very grateful to the paper.

Ian Lind photo
8/22/01 After teaming up with top-rated KHON tv-news for more than a decade, the Gannett Advertiser has switched partners in mid-dance -- in the midst of the August ratings period, yet! -- to KHNL, the NBC affiliate. It's too early to know what this means. KHON has had shifting fortunes in their newsroom, however, which might have something to do with it.
8/24/01 My first attempt at Quicktime VR -- the Star-Bulletin
newsroom on a Friday night:

8/26/01 The Freedom Forum, the spin-off organization created with Gannett stock holdings by former Gannett emperor Al "I'm an S.O.B." Neuharth, frantically scuttled an FF-sponsored authorized biography of Neuharth when the writer -- former president of NBC News and Pulitzer Prize-winner Mike Gartner -- discovered that Neuharth fathered an illegetimate child in the '60s and then abandoned her.
8/27/01 The Gannett Advertiser decided not to report that University of Hawaii football coach June Jones' wife, who has cancer, is leaving him because of his romances with other women. Their reasoning -- the Joneses are private citizens. The marital split became public when Jones was hospitalized following a car accident. Jones, who is paid with taxpayer dollars and makes more money than the University president, also has a relationship with the Gannett Advertiser in that they help sponsor UH sports and their reporters are featured in UH programs.
8/29/01 Another anonymous story in the Gannett Advertiser took a desperate, petty potshot at the Star-Bulletin, complaining that we are releasing circulation figures to the public. Such figures are usually released by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, although the ABC won't audit the Star-Bulletin's circulation until the next examination period, which is next year, too long for us to wait. The Gannett paper filed a complaint with ABC -- whom they paid for a special audit of their own circulation during a period of massive giveaways -- and ABC responded, yep, we don't like it when newspapers release unofficial (that is, non-ABC) circulation figures. The Advertiser also dutifully reported ABC considers the issue in-house and covered by confidentiality agreements with both papers and should not be reported. They did not claim the Star-Bulletin's figures were incorrect, however.
8/31/01 Ian Lind, who browses court filings the way the rest of us read the comic pages, ran across an interesting lawsuit -- Gannett Advertiser retail-advertising manager Chris McMahon is being sued by a "wrongfully fired" account executive during the period McMahon worked at MidWeek.
According to the suit, Linda Westover-Salyer was fired two years ago after she accidentally received a fax intended for McMahon. The fax contained confidential information obtained by one ad agency from a competing ad agency and was being slipped to McMahon.
Westover-Salyer asked her supervisor what to do and was told to inform the ad agency on the letterhead. But this let the cat out of the bag,
The entertaining stuff is in the details. As the suit states, McMahon had a meltdown while confronting Westover-Salyer: "McMahon ranted about waiting all evening for the fax from Valenti Brothers. McMahon then berated plaintiff for several minutes about calling the Myers agency. While doing so he was red in the face and waiving his hands in the air like a child having a temper tantrum."
Later, McMahon "scratched at his face in a crazy fashion until he drew blood. He also banged his head on the desk several times." Despite the drama, he still suspended and later fired Westover-Salyer for doing what she was told to do.
Those who know McMahon recognize this behavior. He earlier got MidWeek into legal trouble for insisting that ad-sales women wear miniskirts. He departed MidWeek under clouded circumstances last year and was snatched up by Gannett, where he fits right in.
MidWeek, of course, is now our sister publication. The co-defendents named in the suit are RFD Publications, the previous owners.
NEXT! September 2001
Cashing In On Terror

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