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August 2002

The Year of
Sustained Casualties
Draggin' Butts

Dispatches from the Front by Burl Burlingame

8/1/02 Great minds type alike?
The marketplace of ideas isn't always bustling. For example, Gannett Advertiser columnist David Shapiro's recent column about the admission of Kamehameha students raised some interesting concepts that he floated as his own brainstorms. Except that exactly the same concepts had been a linchpin of Randy Roth's Star-Bulletin column on Sunday, and then endorsed by the Star-Bulletin editorial department on Tuesday. But then you wouldn't know that unless you read both papers. Shapiro, certainly, was counting on that.

8/5/02 Draggin' butt race
The Star-Bulletin's Dragon Boat team, of which I was a member, fared OK against the pumped-up ringers from other corporations in the races off Ala Moana this weekend. In our heat yesterday, I looked up and laughed as one of the other boats pulled away from us like they were pulling a water skier. They actually had a wake! Here's a story I did last week on the training phase. Interestingly, the original version mentioned that the Star-Bulletin was fielding a team while the Gannett Advertiser (those wussies!) was not. This was excised (exorcised?) by an editor mindful of hurting their tender feelings. Apparently the Advertiser is still smarting over the asswhuppin' we gave them in baseball.

8/6/02 Maui wowie
Rod Antone reports:
I was back on Maui this weekend and walking through the lobby of Maui Memorial Hospital when I noticed that there were only two coin-operated newspaper boxes there: The Maui News and the Honolulu Star Bulletin.
When I asked one of the security guards why there wasn't an Advertiser box also he replied, "Who cares? They don't write about Maui anyway."
I just couldn't help smiling.

8/8/02 En toute, fruitie
A week after Gannett Advertiser columnist Dave Shapiro "appropriated" concepts from an earlier guest column in the Star-Bulletin, we're amused and appalled by these pieces appearing in both the Philadelphia Inquirer and the 'Tiser. Here's the lede of the June 26 Inquirer:

As much as we may dislike them, the stickers or labels attached to fruit speed up the scanning process at checkout.
Cashiers no longer need to distinguish a Fuji apple from a Gala apple, a prickly pear from a horned melon, or a grapefruit from an ugli fruit.
They simply key in the PLU code - the price lookup number printed on the sticker - and the market's computerized cash register identifies the fruit by its PLU.

And here's a locally bylined piece a few days later in the July 31 'Tiser:

As much as we may dislike them, the stickers or labels attached to fruit speed up the scanning process at checkout.
Cashiers no longer need to distinguish a Fuji apple from a Gala apple, a prickly pear from a horned melon, or a grapefruit from an ugli fruit.
They simply key in the PLU code - the price lookup number printed on the sticker - and the market's computerized cash register identifies the fruit.

The pieces ARE different. Read closely. The rest of the article is also a case of deja vu.
I thought that the Gannett paper had posted their ethics code on their web site, but I wasn't able to find it. I wondered if they have any rules about cut-and-paste journalism.
On the other hand, it might be a "template error," common among layout editors using Quark. Which means that the editor is in error, not the writer.

8/9/02 Say what?
You'd think folks in the communication business would come up with a catchier union-solidarity button than this, but this is what they're wearing up the street during union negotiations. And today, they're wearing all-black as the Gannett goon squad sets up shop for the final (?) phase of bargaining.
As for the possible plagierism incident noted on the previous day's entry, Gannett management is now insisting it's all just a dumb mistake. (Well, duh!) They've also removed the link to the article, as if it never existed. Hmmm. Was the Big Lie a Stalinist or Nazi tactic? Don't worry, we have printouts.
For some reason I'm reminded of my first days in the business at a chain of weeklies. I was a starry-eyed journalism grad, and in charge of the chain was a Scumbag Editor and an Idiot Publisher. One day, the Idiot Publisher demanded to know how it was that Scumbag Editor was achieving fifty bylines a week when we could only handle a dozen or so. When we pointed out that Scumbag Editor was simply typing his name at the top of press releases -- not even bothering to rewrite the lede -- Idiot Publisher reacted by giggling and stammering, and then decided that Scumbag Editor's was a rare genius.
After bringing lawsuits upon his papers by failing to read the press releases he was bylining for himself, Scumbag Editor is no longer in the news biz. I hope.
I'm happy to report that Idiot Publisher was recently recruited by Gannett for an executive position.

8/10/02 Saturday-morning quarterbacking
I'm told that officials at the Gannett Advertiser are really, really steamed that information about their printing a Philadelphia Inquirer piece as their own got out. I do believe that it was a production error. The Internet has actually made it more, not less, difficult to plagiarize, as things can be compared so readily, which is exactly what happened here, A reader noticed the similarity and contacted the Advertiser to find out what was happening, and they blew her off, refused to acknowledge there was anything wrong. Which was the reason the indignant lady eventually contacted the Star-Bulletin. To me, this kind of arrogance in dealing with readers is as big a sin as the "production error" they claim this was -- and which Gannett executives knew about for at least a week before taking steps to cover it up, (only after the error was made public, mind you.) They made a printed correction yesterday, but are not putting it online for some reason. Probably hoping that the Inquirer reporter they ripped off doesn't find out.

8/26/02 That's where it's SAT?
Here's how both papers interpreted the same data this afternoon. And people say they can't tell the papers apart? (On the second day, the Tiser changed their tune to NEW HIGH SET IN SAT MATH)

8/28/02 Another cool day for history
Those dedicated folks at the University's Hawaii Undersea Research Lab finally found the "midget" submarine sunk by the USS Ward before the Pearl Harbor attack. Gotta admit I have more than a passing interest in the subject, having written the definitive (so far!) text on the subject. It was also fun watching other media cover a story they generally don't understand (one TV reporter said the submarine was "shot down" in the attack and is "a thousand feet under the water.") I broke the story in the early afternoon, which we put on our breaking news online board, which was quickly copied by the Associated Press, and the AP version was then picked up by the Gannett Advertiser as THEIR "breaking news." Again, I wonder about the propriety of the Advertiser running AP stories online. And the time fixed on their version predates the press conference in which the AP picked up most of their quotes. I guess they're trying to give the impression they got to it earlier than they did.

8/28/02 Busted flat
OK, this site's been down a while. I got many notes expressing concern. The simple problem was that the home computer was on the fritz. Apparently a vanilla iMac doesn't take kindly to being loaded down with 14 gigs' worth of MxPx and Weezer songs when the hard disk only holds one gig. Wasn't me! I'm more of a Blink-182 guy. At any rate, I've got some catching up to do, and a lot has happened.

8/29/02 Sub-stantial news coverage
Here's how we covered the breaking news of the Japanese submarine discovery.

8/30/02 Adios and hola
There have been some staff changes since this site went on forced hiatus. Treena Shapiro jumped ship to work for Gannett. It's her private decision, so good luck to her. We've hired back Marc Dixon in sports, and picked up Genevieve Suzuki on city and Susana Choy on web and we're still looking for someone else.

8/31/02 Doin' the Midget Mash
Not only are we busy busy busy with our own coverage, because I wrote the only book on the subject, other media have been calling me. It's interesting being on the other side. For example, despite asking me three times, and having me say it slowly, the Washington Post reporter got the name of my book wildly wrong. I wonder if my publisher -- who's in Washington -- will notice?
NEXT! September 2002
Still Cashing In On Terror

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