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December 2002

The Year of
Sustained Casualties
Embarrassing Allies

Dispatches from the Front by Burl Burlingame

12/2/02 Something to read during the halftime show
And so we have a new governor, who's a first in many ways -- a woman, an ex-mayor, Republican (if you discount Bill Quinn's incumbency), a Jewess (do people still use that word?) and the first Hawaii governor who's under 50. Lingle gave an inaugural speech that was part manifesto and part battle cry. Interestingly, before the inauguration even got off the ground, someone at the capitol rotunda thoughtfully placed the morning's Star-Bulletin on each seat.
Over the weekend, Ed Case won the special election for Patsy Mink's temprorary seat. Saturday night, I sat bolt upright and squawked, Holy Cow! I forgot to vote! It was the first election I've missed since 1972.

12/4/02 Zipmap-a-dee-doodah
Gannett is negotiating to become the sole producer of walking-tour "zipmaps" for Honolulu's historic districts. Publisher Mike Fisch has a legitimate personal interest, as he's an official with the Historic Hawaii Foundation. The cost per unit they're quoting -- a dollar apiece -- is quite high, but Gannett is brokering the sale, not printing it, and Advertiser staff will be donating all the labor. It's too early to tell if it's shrewd business or a simple public service, but likely a little of both. Public monies may be involved, however.

12/5/02 Flanagan folds
He tried being an editor, then he tried being a publisher, then he tried being a columnist, and now former Star-Bulletin executive John Flanagan wants a job where he has a desk (and a secretary and an office) again. Flanagan is moving on to run the Hawaii Community Services Council, a public non-profit that jumpstarts other non-profits. In his farewell column today, Flanagan emphasized his uncanny ability to make "shoot-from-the-hip decisions" under pressure.

Gannett bagman
(Click me!)
12/6/02 Rupert has stepped in it again
Rupert Phillips' Journal newspapers in Maryland are down to one news reporter, two sports reporters and three photographers (now, there's balance!) because he fired everyone else. Oh, wait, he fired everyone in the newsroom who was thinking of unionizing, and he did it shortly before they were to take a vote. This action has earned the Journal a complaint from the Newspaper Guild filed with the National Labor Relations Board.
You might recall that Phillips and his son are still in litigation with former Journal executive Karl Spain over sexual misconduct with Journal employees -- each side says the other was doing it! (Try not to visualize.)
Gannett allies itself with some pretty classy people.

12/7/02 Midget mania
And my rendezvous with Oliver North continues ...

12/9/02 Waal, dang, Bubba Ryan, whoeer them thar people out thar?
Today at noon (East Coast time) the Northern Virginny Journal is going to be picketed by the (ex-)employees the Phillips family illegally laid off last week. These are the executive offices of Ryan Phillips, son of Rupert, and reportedly decorated with a Confederate flag.
Ought to be fun!

12/10/02 Merry Christmas Gannett style
The swank party for the Gannett executives this year will be held at the Halekulani. (Staff is fending for themselves this Christmas.) In the meantime, they're not bothering to fix broken fax machines in the Gannett Advertiser news room -- too expensive.

12/12/02 The "Publisher Who Stole Christmas"
Look! That's the Grinch over there on the left in this picture of recently fired Journal reporters picketing Ryan Phillips' offices at the Virginia newspaper. You might recall that the Phillips family laid off their entire editorial staff last week except for one reporter -- because the Phillipses suspected their employees might be interested in unionizing. Well, if they weren't before, they certainly are now. It isn't labor that creates unions, it's management.
And here's a report from the picket line:
Unfortunately, Ryan Phillips did not come out of his office (if he was there at all) ... We waved a lot of anti-Phillips signs, even had a Grinch-costumed guy there depicting him. Unfortunately, we did not get the media coverage we wanted, but did get the AP & a local cable station. We're hoping to rally public officials here to the possibility that the Phillips game plan is to permanently shut down the two Maryland papers. (The Northern Virginia Journal staff, who weren't allowed to come out and see us picketing, let alone write about it) have been forced to endure something like six hours a piece of union-busting propaganda from Californnia union busters. 
It's not unusual for publishers to plead poverty and lay people off while simultaneously paying anti-union lawyers big bucks to frighten the troops.

You might not recall what a sensitive guy -- er, goy -- Phillips is. After acquiring Washington Jewish Week, he promptly banned Jewish holidays among the staff. The vacation policy of Washington Jewish Week is just like the ones at Gannett and Knight Ridder and all the big newspaper chains! Phillips said proudly at the time.
But you certainly recall that the Phillipses are Gannett toadies -- and proud of it.

12/13/02 Stealing thunder
Ian Lind is crediting the University of Hawaii newspaper Ka Leo with taking the Gannett Advertiser to task for their conflict of interest in promoting a Thunderstix-type device in supposedly independent news stories. That's a bit of a stretch.
Ian's Honolulu Weekly piece also claims that all references to the Advertiser were "nixed" by editors in a letter from Aloha Stadium Manager Eddie Hayashi. Actually, in virtually all respects, Hayashi's Nov. 24 letter was identical to a press release he issued on Nov. 12 -- except for one paragraph.
The Nov. 12 press release read I think it is important to point out that the 8,000 Thunder Stix referred to in news accounts were not paid for by the University's Marketing Department. University officials have informed me that The Honolulu Advertiser, the corporate sponsor of the UH vs. Alabama game, is paying for them.
But when the press release was recycled as a letter to the editor, that paragraph read I also want to point out that the 8,000 Thunder Stix referred to in news accounts were not paid for by the university's marketing department, as was previously reported.
Seems Hayashi himself pulled the reference, at least in the version of the letter sent to the Star-Bulletin.
And how did Ian find out? See 11/30/02 below.

12/14/02 Merry Christmas!
OK, the picture ain't fancy, but I was loaded and my digital camera batteries weren't. This is the MidWeek/Star-Bulletin most-swell Chrstmas party. Yeah, that's Kapono playing up in the corner. Cool party.

12/16/02 More midget news
Where else are you going to get Pearl Harbor midget submarine updates?

12/17/02 A teaching newspaper -- like working at a teaching hospital
When I attended the University of Missouri journalism school in lovely Columbia, MO, the in-house lab was a real daily paper, the Columbia Missourian, when I did a little reporting, but primarily photography. (My actual BJ degree is in photojournalism). Across town was the Columbia Daily Tribune, a county-wide paper, and we'd moonlight there as well. Nothing like real, screaming editors and real, irate subscribers to prepare you! And nothing like unleashing 150 cub reporters on a town every semester that could easily be covered by two reporters.
The reason for this stroll down memory lane is a recent development in Anniston, AL, where the 120-year-old Anniston Star has formed a foundation in conjunction with the University of Alabama to use the paper as a teaching lab.
The idea, according to publisher H. Brandt Ayers, is to keep alive the concept of community journalism, or actually serving the people you work with instead of taking their money. He also firmly intends to keep it a family-owned operation.
Star executive editor Chris Waddle is more pragmatic ? for newspapers and journalists nationwide, the concept is evidence that other family-owned newspapers can find ways to preserve their companies from the increasing conglomeration of the industry ...
The Star is one of only two family-owned newspapers in Alabama, and have so far been successful at avoiding being swallowed up.

Gannett McCapo
(Click me!)
12/18/02 And now Scotland is falling!
Gannett is about to buy Glasgow's three leading newspapers -- The Herald, Sunday Herald and Evening Times -- for $341.3 million U.S. Scottish Media Group is unloading the papers so the company can concentrate on its TV holdings. The British government has an anti-monopoly office, but they're likely to roll over on the sale, on the grounds that because Gannett doesn't already own papers in Glasgow, it's all right for them to buy them all.
Maybe they could use a copy of "The Chain Gang," muses Green Bay Ray.
It's clear to British financial analysts that Gannett is bidding too much, and that it will be difficult to make the expense pay for itself. Is it
because the McCapo of capos, back in Virginia, is one Doug McCorkindale, whose grandfather played for a Glasgow football club? wondered one.
On the other hand, the expense is roughly the same as Gannett is paying in their attempt to monopolize Honolulu. Let's see -- $250 million for the Advertiser, $26 million to Rupert Phillips, $80 million for a new press, losses of about a million a month in give-away ad "sales" -- hey, it's adding up to real money!

12/19/02 Seattle preparing to void JOA by reporting about it
The Seattle Times is looking for a reporter to cover the Joint Operating Agreement it has with the Post-Intelligencer. Observers think it's a step toward nullifying the agreement by appeasing the Feds. The Times has also managed to claim that it has lost money for three years, another step in the process.

12/20/02 We wish you a Gannett Christmas
See what happens when you take a few days off? Seems the Gannett Advertiser let go photographer Corey Lum last week -- it's the way Gannett managers celebrate Christmas -- but I'm only hearing about it now, thanks to Ian. More later.

12/21/02 Star-Bulletin Photo Album #2
Another in our series of ancient Star-Bulletin history, here's the early '60s in the City desk. That's Harriet Gee on the phone and Helen Altonn in the background. Harriet's daughter Pat is on our staff now, and Helen is still embarrassing us younger folk with her reporting chops. Note the guy in white shirt and tie -- official reporterwear at the time.

12/23/02 But it didn't get past the moat and alligators
Gannett Advertiser publisher Mike Fisch had unexpected visitors yesterday when an out-of-control truck crossed several lanes of freeway and slammed into the gigantic stone wall surrounding his palatial estate. Our picture of Fisch standing outside his house desperately calling 911 on his cell phone made the bulletin board, with several rude suggested captions. His own photographer didn't show uip until hours later.

12/24/02 Star-Bulletin Photo Album #3
Merry Christmas! I'll explain this picture later. Or maybe I won't.

12/25/02 All I want for Christmas is a kick-ass, high-speed server
Gettin' to the end of the year and I need to do a little site redesign. Suggestions?

12/26/02 Getting more product out of lazy overpaid employees
Thanks to Green Bay Ray and Eagle-Eye Erika, comes news that Gannett is considering whipping out their own cable news channel.
Up in Green Bay, the Gannett station is KARE/11. Quoth Ray from a local story:
"KARE/11's newscasts could be seen coast-to-coast on a new channel being considered by parent company Gannett Media. The "America Today" channel would air complete newscasts from Gannett stations and NBC affiliates in the top 25 markets, as well as USA Today-branded national content. If enough cable and satellite providers agree to carry the channel, it could launch in two years."
He continues on his own:
Also, the CBS-owned and operated station in Green Bay now carries a nightly "tomorrow's papers" feature at the end of its newscast featuring the Gannett-owned papers. It seems at the same time the station's newscasts have been more and more fluffy. Coincidence? (It might be, if not for the fact that the Press-Gannett recently took up most of its front page with a feature on the 20th anniversary of Michael Jackson's "Thriller." Granted, I think we have more to fear from Michael Jackson than Osama, but STILL...

12/30/02 Star-Bulletin Photo Album #4
Not sure when this picture was taken, but the license plate says 1946. Seems someone wrote in and complained that the newspaper photographer's Jeep looked "like it belonged in a circus," so when the circus actually came to town, the photographer obliged. Note the chrome wheels, bumper and grill on this surplus GPW, and the fabric-wrapped steering wheel. I'd be willing to bet the body isn't olive-drab any more. Suggestions? I'm guessing bright blue.

12/31/02 Happy New Year!
I'm too sleepy to post much more than the sentiment above. We're going to be working on two newspapers today, not one -- the price you pay for being at a daily newspaper. We never sleep. Good news, though -- starting Sunday, some of the national advertising inserts scared away by Gannett last year will start appearing in the paper. That's the way to start the new year!
NEXT! January 2003
Banana Fever

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