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HonoluluNewsBlues
August 2003

The Year of
Switching Commanders
Software and Hard Times

Dispatches from the Front by Burl Burlingame

8/1/03 Momentous breakthough -- or an overdue paperwork detail


John Jaske
Gannett Vice-President for Union-Busting
(Click me!)
Rather quietly yesterday, the Gannett Advertiser and the Hawaii Newspaper Guild apparently came to terms on a new contract. Details are forthcoming, but they seem to include substantial raises for the staff, a four-year time period, elimination of that stupid we-charge-you-for-your-first-sick-day clause and, amazingly, institution of a 401K package, something Gannett swore they'd never do at a Guild newspaper. The no-layoffs clause continues for a couple more years and then vanishes (Expect a bloodletting then, but we hope the employees will have sweet buyouts).
The Tiser folks have been operating without an updated contract for more than 14 months. But the old contract allowed for work to carry on under the old contract, and so it was no skin off the Big G's nose to stretch out negotiations, and indeed they did. There were a couple of minor solidarity functions among the staff. Buit then suddenly, in the last couple of weeks, the G-men crumbled and gave the Tiser rank-and-file virtually everything they asked for. Gannett reasoned it was in the company's best interest to have a contract in place as soon as possible.

And so the question is -- Why?

8/4/03 Pirates of the Caribbean, er, I mean, the mid-Pacific
Now it can be told -- I once participated in a computer scam with Gannett. Or maybe it was against Gannett.
Back in the early '80s, when Gannett owned the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, I tested the then-brand new Macintosh computer and thought it would be ideal for newspaper graphics. Star-Bulletin managing editor Bill Cox saw what it could do and agreed. He told Gannett we intended to buy one.
Gannett refused to allow us to do so. We got a memo -- Gannett Newspapers will never use Apple products. We were to stick to IBM clone products. So Bill and I dutifully bought some sort of PC clone for the same price as a Mac, got the approval from Gannett in the quarterly budget, and then quietly returned the PC to the store and swapped it for a Mac.
It was one of those beige-box 128-K Macs that were like toys, but it worked great at producing bar charts and such (in MacPaint!). We were certainly the first newspaper in the Gannett chain to use a Macintosh, maybe one of the first papers in the country. We'd been using it for more than a year when another memo arrived from Gannett -- go forth and buy Macs, right away, don't delay. The artists in the then-new USA Today used to to call the Star-Bulletin art department for advice on Mac usage. That was when USA Today used a daily pie-chart.
Gannett was then very, very strict about buying software. Only approved production software, no freeware or shareware, and serial numbers were routinely logged through the building for legally updating the software. Each machine had it's own software.
Apparently, things change. Gannett and the Gannett Advertiser are now being sued because they supposedly fired an employee who blew the whistle on Advertiser software piracy.
Former Advertiser Web guy Scott Yoshinaga has filed, claiming that he was let go because of concerns he raised about illegal video software used to produce the Tiser "Bachelor" series. Recently, Troy Fujimoto was also let go for similar concerns.
In deposition, Gannett's Director of New Media, Dexter Suzuki, supposedly testified that the ends justified the means -- the job was made so important that they were forced to steal software to get it done.
Gannett is currently making checks of building computers. Yoshinaga's attorneys believe they're wiping out evidence of software piracy.

If this case goes forward and becomes broader in its implications, it could have a sobering effect on the entire newspaper graphics industry by setting legal precedent. It could blow up in Gannett's face, and simply because of corporation hubris. Or simply because they're cheap, mean bastards who don't believe the law applies to them. That's exactly how they bolloxed the Honolulu JOA.
We'll be following this. You can expect Gannett to soon start cutting the throats of mid-level managers like Suzuki and hanging them out to dry, in order to protect corporate deniability.
Acccording the Sortware Information Industry Association, in the US, a software "infringer" could be fined up to $250,000 and jail terms of up to five years.

8/5/03 Intrigue on the high seas! More piracy tales from 605 Kapiolani
After looking at the court documents filed in SCOTT YOSHINAGA vs. THE HONOLULU ADVERTISER, it looks like it might be an interesting case and could set newspaper-software precedent, unless Gannett settles out of court, which it likely will -- so as not to set precedent. The software in question, Final Cut Pro, used to trim and spruce the Tiser' s cringe-worthy "Bachelor" series, WAS apparently owned by the company, it was copied from one machine to another for another employee to use. Even so, that constitutes a potentially illegal action, one that Gannett executives were well aware of:
It has come to my attention that we have areas and machines that are running software that has been copied and not purchased. This is illegal and very serious ... Anyone in management can be held accountable for their employees actions, warned Gannett vice-president Roger Forness in an April 3 memo.
This is after several months of badgering by Yoshinaga for the Advertiser to update its software in a legal way. Shortly afterwards, Yoshinaga was dismissed from the Advertiser without a warning because management "discovered" he was part owner of a Web site that accepted advertising, setting up a "conflict" with honoluluadvertiser.com. This is despite the fact that the Tiser's Web site used Yoshinaga's servers at the other site to get itself off the ground. The reason for dismissal smells bogus, and Yoshinaga believes that he was canned for being a whistleblower, hence the lawsuit.
The meat of the court document is a long deposition by Advertiser Director of New Media Dexter Suzuki. Suzuki, under medication for hypertension and clearly out of his element -- he was recruited from Ala Moana by publisher Mike Fisch for his New Age management skills, not for any expertise in "new media" -- doesn't come off very well, even though he had attended a two-day seminar (on his own dime) on the very subject of software legality.
The picture painted within the dank confines of the Tiser is of a place where desperation to perform supercedes questions of legality, of a culture that values only the bottom line on a day-to-day basis at the expense of long-range planning, where budgets are twisted to reflect immediate financial projections instead of operational realities.

Here's an example. Suzuki, accompanied by lawyer Tamara Gerrard, is getting grilled by plaintiff counsel Leighton Lee:

Q
Did you ever talk to Chris Kanemura about the Final Cut Pro that was used by Chad Asuncion?

A
Vaguely and he mentioned to it to me.

Q
You mean you didn't ask him specificallly. It didn?t concern you at all?

A
No, what concerns me is getting the job done.

Q
Whether it's legal or illegal, just get your job done?

A
You are putting words in my mouth.

Q
I'm asking you the question?

A
It's getting the job done.

Q
Getting the job done is more important than the job being done legally?

A
If you got to murder somebody to get the job done, of course, not. I think it depends on the gravity and what the situation calls for.

Q
So in other words, if it's not murder but it's what you would, in your mind, call a minor legality, it's okay just just get the job done?

A
No, of course not, you don't want to do anything illegal.

Q
So being legal is more important than getting the job done; is that your response?

A
They have equal weights.

MS. GERRARD:
I'm sorry. Did you say they have equal weights?

A
They would have equal weight or equal consideration.

This is where you wish the transcripts noted whether the primary subject was bulging out his eyes, sweating profusely and tugging at his collar. And so it goes for many pages. How tense was it? I can't resist repeating this little fracas:

Q:
I'm asking you, did you memorize the bottom line?

MS. GERRARD:
Objection, Counsel. Please don't yell at this witness.

MR. LEE:
I'm not yelling.

MS. GERRARD:
Please let me put my objection on the record instead of interrupting me. And your smirks and laughter are not going to intimidate this witness. And it's really inappropriate, your demeanor.

MR. LEE:
Well, for the record. I didn't laugh, and I didn't smirk. You are just misinterpreting my face.

MS. GERRARD:
That could be.

MR. LEE:
I have comments about your face, but I won't put it on the record.

Q:
So Mr. Suzuki, let's go from step one, Exhibit 4. My understanding now is it is not a copy that you gave to Mr. Chang; is that correct?

MS. GERRARD:
Objection. Asked and answered.

8/8/03 Yo ho ho! Avast, you swabs! ... OK, already, I'll stop the lame pirate heds


Dexter Suzuki
Gannett Advertiser Director of "New Media"
(Click me!)
A few notes, clarifications and updates on the Gannett Advertiser software problem.
* The illegal software problem wasn't limited to a single piece of Final Cut Pro. In his reports to Gannett management, Yoshinaga listed no fewer than 23 pieces of "copied or borrowed" software that he knew about. Hmmm. If they got busted oin each piece and paid the full permissible fine, that would be nearly six million dollars. And again -- that's only the software Yoshinaga knew about.
* Yoshinaga was not canned. He was suspended. That means while all this is going on he's still apparently drawing salary. And frankly, suspending him is weirder than firing him. What were they thinking?

* Dexter Suzuki has vanished.
* Scott Yoshinaga has been replaced by a Stella Bernardo as "Project Manager," although Suzuki calls her the "office mama" and makes her bring him coffee and make his xeroxes. Sounds more like Suzuki's secretary. She's probably not making any lists of illegal software, though, nosirreebob.

8/12/03 Solidarity forever ...
The round of new contracts was voted on this weekend by the six newspaper trade unions, passed handily among five of them -- and was rejected big-time by the ILWU (see 8/13), representing the printers. The vote wasn't even close, a point neglected in the Tiser story. This means the very modest wage increases (Gannett was demanding decreases, mind you), continued medical coverage (Big G wanted staff to pay for it) and brand-new 401K offering (a first at a Gannett guild paper -- someone had a meltdown!) are all on hold until the printers can be appeased.
That's unlikely to be easy. Despite their new-found eagerness to have a contract in hand, Gannett wants the freedom to fire people willy-nilly 16 months from now when the new press comes on line. That's not far off. Pressmen are to be considered expendable, rather than a resource. At the same time, Gannett doesn't want to reveal how many are to be kept on. They also don't want to buy out pressmen for early retirement when they can just fire them. There's also that little problem of their ex-printers coming to work for us, which the G-men would rather avoid as well.
The whole point of a union contract is to provide workplace stability. By pursuing a course of deliberate instability, it's unlikely Gannett will be able to get a new contract out of the ILWU. It's safer for the printers to continue under the old contract.

8/13/03 Never update a website unless you're properly caffeinated
I don't know how Ian does it, getting up so early. I can barely move, much less make coherant thoughts. At least that's my excuse for the dumb error in the previous day's posting.
It is, of course, not the ILWU representing the printers or the pressmen. The printers are members of the Honolulu Typographical Union and apparently did not have any issues concerning the new plant. The pressmen are represented by the Hawaii Printing and Graphic Communications Union. They negotiated buyouts for senior people who wanted to leave, but the Tiser cannot fire any of them, even after the no-layoffs clause peters out next year, as they seem to have guaranteed jobs. The pressmen did ratify the contract -- by a substantial margin.
The ILWU represents distribution people, including district managers, mailroom employees and inserters. The ILWU did not ratify. They still have an issue of some sort with the proposed contract.
Distribution was a sore point when the two papers divorced. Gannett hung on to the afternoon people in order to deny them to us, and created a free afternoon-delivery Advertiser to give them something to do. Even so, their district managers were so poorly treated that many of them came over with the Star-Bulletin.
It will be interesting to see how their afternoon paper is doing. Is it paying for itself yet?

8/14/03 Poor puppy
As of this writing, we're not sure this little guy is going to make it. A couple of Star-Bulletin reporters discovered that a litter of puppies in Laie had been abandoned. They rescued a couple. This boy came into the newsroom and couldn't lift his head. We took him right to a vet and found that he's so anemic that his gums and paw pads are white. He can't hold down water or food. The vet said he weighs a third of what he should -- he's as floppy as a Beanie Baby and all you can feel through his skin is bones and ribs. We're going to sit up with him through the night with nourishment and water. The vet's giving him a 50-50 chance of pulling through... damn

8/15/03 The news organization with its foot in its mouth
Green Bay Ray forwards this link -- it's Fair and Balanced Day! Fox News, the outfit that delivers news in a high-pitched whine, should have had its image consultants throttle its lawyers on this goof-up. Any news organization that sues people in order to get them to shut up isn't really in the journalism biz. Or believers in democracy.

8/17/03 The straight scoop on puppy poop
Yes, every once in a while your life comes down to checking out puppy poop. In the case of the little guy rescued after being abandoned, his poop is getting better all the time. After 48 hours of medication, water, soft food and sleep, it looks like he's going to make it. He's alert, his eyes are clear, he wants to play. But he simply doesn't have the energy for it. He looks funny because his head is so big compared to his emaciated body. He weighs two pounds when he should weigh five or six. Walking is still painful for him, but he insists on it. No clue what he'll look like as he gets older -- he's a mutt of various breeds, but the vet thinks maybe sheltie-akita mix. Such a scrappy fella needed a prizefighter name, and so he's been dubbed Jack Murphy. At this point, signs are good he'll grow up to use it. Alas, his sibs up in Laie didn't survive.

8/18/03 First, Columbia Inn, and now, the Old Heidelberg
I should be doing some hard-hitting blogging this morning, but instead, I lift my glass to the demise of the infamous Old Heidelberg in Columbia, Missouri, where I lifted many glasses in a previous lifetime. Work all day getting crop-harvest photos for the Missourian or the Daily Tribune, get a beer or three at the OH and then some of those Greek, square-cut pizzas at Romano's a few doors down ... yep, that was the life.

8/20/03 Dog daze afternoon
* Here's Sophie, our other foundling, trying to get the new puppy to play. The fact that Jack -- that name is on advisement -- can even hold his head up is a tribute to animal resiliance. Thanks also to a small donation of puppy vitamins from Petland -- which necessitated some editorial judgment on gift-ethics -- the puppy is actually getting frisky. Puppy-like. And in other news ...
* Dexter Suzuki is back at work and reportedly beaming mysteriously.
* I had lunch yesterday with awesome cartoonist Daryl Cagle, whom, you might remember, used to work for MidWeek and then was seduced away by the Gannett Advertiser just as the papers split up -- and then fired a few months later. Cagle's take on that situation was that he was caught in Saundra Keyes' new regime, and was lopped as a cost-cutting measure. He's still stunned that Ken Berry, former MidWeek publisher, is now cleaning the tires of Gannett delivery vans, or whatever he does over there. Cagle's brief memories of the Advertiser stint are that he never had so many cartoons rejected -- anything that was mildly critical of Hawaii businesses or the military was tossed. Anyway, getting canned like that made him rethink his priorities, and now he's quite a successful syndicator of cartoons.

8/22/03 Department of Corrections
Earlier this week, the Associated Press moved a picture of an antique aircraft taxiing next to an enormous fireball. A spectacular image, and we ran it quite large in the Star-Bulletin. Unfortunately, the caption information identified the aircraft as a "T-6 propeller fighter-bomber," when it was actually a Douglas SBD Dauntless, and the explosion was called a mistake. Every veteran and aviation buff in Hawaii -- and presumably across the United States -- could spot this error, but when I called AP, they were less than interested in chasing a corrected photo caption. I was picking nits, apparently. But wrong is wrong, and if they'd identified a Volkswagen Bug as a Lincoln Continental, they'd have copped to it. Why does it matter? Because the T-6 is a very common warbird, and the SBD is an extremely rare aircraft -- which makes its near-destruction newsworthy. Quite late in the day, AP did move a corrected caption (out of Washington!) that correctly identified the aircraft, and added that the explosion was planned, not accidental.
On the other hand, pity the poor fact-checker at AP who had to move the following fix:
Correction: Hemlock Society
The Associated Press
7/23/03 6:33 PM
DENVER (AP) -- In a July 21 story about the Hemlock Society, The Associated Press erroneously reported that Socrates is believed to have killed himself in 329 B.C. Most historians believe Socrates died in 399 B.C.

8/24/03 Roll away that rock
It would be foolish to pretend that there is no historical link between religion and law. The Founding Fathers called upon His Name at the drop of a cocked hat. But they also established a separation between church and state, a notion that -- in a cosmopolitan nation -- assures fair play for all.
Those who wish a close relationship between religion and government should live in Iran for a while to see what it's like. Those who want the government to get religion certainly don't want their religion to get government
Alabama chief justice Roy Moore has deliberately pushing the boundaries for some time, posting the Ten Commandments in his courtrooms and leading juries in prayer sessions. Moore, God bless his hubris, is courting deliberate martyrdom in order to inject Christianity back into government. His view of Christianity, however, is so narrow that it doesn't include Catholics and Pentacostals.
Accordingly, he personally plopped a many-ton stone monument in the lobby of an Alabama courthouse and challenged the government to haul it away, which they're doing. He'll probably be lying in front of it praying as it's moved. Moore should lift his eyes upon the monument, and check out the Second Commandment -- THOU SHALT NOT MAKE UNTO THEE ANY GRAVEN IMAGE.
Moore's monument is about as graven an image as you can imagine. If he really wants to display his giant Pet Rock, it would probably be legal for him to place it in his personal parking space at the courthouse, but then he'd have to choose between reserved parking and God.

8/25/03 The McPaper! It's here!
Here's an interesting coupon I received at McDonald's the other day, offering a discount on Sunday subscriptions to the Gannett Advertiser. The two giant corporations have been working closely in Hawaii for some time. Interestingly, the discount is only available to those who have NOT subscribed to the Advertiser for more than 30 days. This screws their loyal subscribers. But hey, if you want the discount, stop subscribing to the Tiser for a month, then start up again. If you care to!

8/26/03 Column as I see 'em
* From Green Bay Ray comes news that Gannett is planning an assault on "alternative" weeklies. Seems there's a whole niche of readers they haven't yet bored. Yeah, that's the way to get kids to read -- force the McPaper on them! Should Honolulu Weekly get nervous?
* Sports enthusiasts around town were amused when the Gannett Advertiser's UH football special digitally altered a photo of coach June Jones to look like a Wild West bad guy. Jones reportedly knew nothing about the photo altering and one source said he was not amused. Doesn't matter what Jones thinks; the Gannett paper has an excluisive contract to promote the University and Jones had better shut up and smile, or who knows what kind of silly hat they'll draw on him next?

8/28/03 I didn't set this up, but how could I resist taking a picture?
>> The foundling puppy, who seems to be going by the name Antone these days, is getting healthy and sassy. I've got the nipped fingertips to prove it. He's gained a pound in the last week, and his paws and palate are pink now that he's getting over the anemia. When he's hanging out at the editorial office we have to put papers down, and he seems to relieve himself on one paper more that others. Or do we just put more of that particular brand on the floor?

>> University of Hawaii football fans will be getting something extra special in Friday's Star-Bulletin. There's a funny and awful story involved that I'll tell later.


>> And at right, here's what the new Tiser press looked like this week under construction. It's way big. I hear all unions over there have settled and they're one big happy family again.

8/29/03 Mystery car ...
This blue Integra has been sitting in Kawainui Marsh for several days now. There's no damage other than being in the water, so I suspect some perps "borrowed" it and simply pushed it in. Dusting the trunk would likely tell us who, before a tow company starts climbing all over it.
NEXT! September 2003
Unfashionable Fall Season

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