The Year of
Dispatches from the Front by Burl Burlingame
|2/1/01 There didn't seem to be much official notice given to the Star-Bulletin's
119th birthday today, so I brought in a pile of Portuguese pastries
from Agnes's Bakery in Kailua to celebrate. Cindy Luis, the acting
sports editor, suggested that the Star-Bulletin open a branch
office in the vacant space over Agnes', and I must say I like
that idea. At any rate, 119 years ago today, a Honolulu shopowner
began posting a "Daily Bulletin" in his store window to attract
|2/1/01 Rob Perez, our award-winning financial writer, won a prestigious
seat on the National Headliner judges panel, which is limited
to 14 such winners from newspapers across the country. They're
doing the judging at Atlantic City later in February, but unlike
other newspapers, Liberty won't cough up the few hundred bucks
it'll take to fly Rob there. Things like this indicate that Liberty
really isn't in the newspaper business at all. It's just a cover
to defraud the government. I guess we'll have to organize a charity
fundraiser to send our boy to his reward.
|2/2/01 Here's a small part of dozens of computers, scanners and printers
being tossed out by Gannett. Even if the computers had failed,
there were still pricey components such as hard drives, CD-ROM
drives, motherboards and RAM that were still in good condition.
They even sprayed paint on them to ruin them. At a time when Hawaii
schools are crying for computers, such dreadful hubris seems either
incredibly arrogant or simply knuckle-headed.
|2/3/01 An emotional evening. The band played at a going-away party for
our former drummer Craig Anderson, who's been stricken with brain
cancer. We aren't going to see him any more, and Craig -- a sharp,
hip, funny guy -- simply isn't here any more mentally. Lots of
tears. A pointed reminder that life is short and we only go around
once, so we need to do what we can while we're here.
|2/4/01 Gannett keeps running full-page ads in the Sunday Gannett Advertiser
-- which Star-Bulletin subscribers have forced upon them -- that
tout the Gannett Foundation's contributions to Hawaii non-profits.
Dozens of charities are listed. What's not noted is that virtually
all of them received the bequests when the Star-Bulletin was the
Gannett paper. Under the Advertiser, charitable donations to Hawaii
have almost dried up from Gannett, despite hundreds of millions
of dollars in profits they've made here.
|2/5/01 To Rob Perez' bemused dismay, we organized an in-office fundraiser
to help him with his expenses to go to the National Headliner
Awards judging in Atlantic City. Unlike every other newspaper
organization in the country, Liberty cheaped out on this honor,
and we were damned if he was going to pay his own way. I brought
in a box of Potato Cannon CDs and sold them for $2 each, and other
folks simply gave out of their wallets, and nearly $300 was raised.
Donations came in from all over the building, not just from the
Star-Bulletin staff. Not a nickel was received from Liberty or
Portner. So much for their professional contributions to the newspaper
|2/6/01 Many top-level ad-sales and circulation people are fleeing HNA
and Gannett, more than anyone would have expected. People in Hawaii
generally have a great deal of loyalty to their workplace, so
this is saying something about the way Gannett has treated their
|2/7/01 Some sour-looking knucklehead with a clipboard stuck his head
in my cubicle, peered around, muttered "Shit!" and made a tic
mark on his clipboard before wandering away. These jerks have
been poking around the office for weeks, flipping lights on and
off in meetings, walking on our desks while we're typing, opening
our drawers and riffling through our possessions. These guys are
simply planning for HNA's takeover of our side of the building,
we're told, and mean no harm. The guy who measures you for your
casket doesn't mean any harm either, but at least he's polite
about it. This is petty harrassment. I actually chased one of
these bozos out into the hallway and asked why he was being so
rude. "Just doing my job, it's just business," he whined.
||2/8/01 The ever-vigilant Ian Lind discovered that Gannett's big wheels were busy enriching themselves
with insider trading on their own stocks as the year turned. Labor
"negotiator" John Jaske cashed in $708,784; Tom Chapple, the company's
general counsel, banked $558,980; Frank Vega, president of the
Detroit Newspaper Agency, put $495,425 into his wallet. Profits
were flat, even though revenues rose 30 percent. Gannett is predicting
a tough year ahead. Looks like the top guys are cashing in before
their stockholders find out how badly they've screwed up in Honolulu.
Left, John Jaske daydreams about his pocketful o' profits.
||2/9/01 Quietly announced in the newspaper was the new executive line-up.
It's largely familiar: John Flanagan, editor in chief; Frank Bridgewater,
managing editor; Richard Halloran, editorial director; Michael
Rovner, assistant managing editor; Lucy Young-Oda, assistant managing
editor; Ed Lynch, city editor; Cindy Luis, sports editor; Nadine
Kam, features editor; Stephanie Kendrick, business editor. Missing
from the list was Diane Chang, senior editor and editorial page
editor. We're not sure what she'll be doing. Her wahine-centric
column has a vocal following, however.
||2/12/01 The Columbia Journalism Review took note of the upcoming newspaper war in Honolulu as a signal that newspapers might be reverting to
||2/13/01 The Black Ops team have arranged a partnership with local ABC
affiliate KITV, which is quite good news. Literally. Their station
is making serious inroads on KHON's local dominance of the TV-news
scene, and will likely surpass them in this month's sweeps period.
The Gannett Advertiser has a long-standing relationship with KHON
for polls and debates, and they've announced a working relationship
with the station -- which is pretty transparent so far -- but
they've backed the wrong pony. Another example of Gannett having
no understanding of local dynamics.
||2/14/01 BaseView training started. We have to take time off or a vacation
day to take the training, but the program -- which is database-driven
-- is far superior to the SII system we've been using.
Note Gannett's solution to the permanent leak -- a five-gallon
bucket emptied every few hours.
Water flows into the art department. Note soggy electrical outlet
by artist Dave Swann's feet.
2/15/01 So much rainwater has fallen on the News Building that it's percolating
through the structure and falling on our staff. Floors and electrical
outlets are soaked, computers are short-circuiting and smoking,
there's a permanent waterfall by Tim Ryan's desk that makes the
place sound like a Japanese zen garden. It's highly dangerous,
but it's also an ongoing situation that has never been fixed by
Gannett, despite complaints to OSHA. When Gannett bought the structure
in 1992, there were public statements that the charming and historic
News Building would be restored. Nothing of the sort has occured,
and the Gannett Advertiser staff even refuses to drink from the
building's water supply, insisting instead on gourmet bottled
water. What makes the situation doubly ironic is that it was Star-Bullein
profits siphoned off by Gannett that saved the News Building in
the first place.
2/16/01 The Kendalls, frustrated by timing and weather problems in organizing
a staff beach party, instead hosted an informal get-together at
Restaurant Row's open-air bar. I took the opportunity to bring
down the wooden Star-Bulletin sign that Gannett workers had pried
off the News Building and thrown away. I repaired it and it had
been sitting around for more than a year. Flanagan took a shine
to it and insisted we rush it right upstairs to place in his private
Here we are with the rescued sign in a staff picture last year.
||2/19/01 My friend Craig Anderson, the best damn drummer I ever played with, passed away today after
an intense bout with brain cancer. He sat in with us only two
weeks ago and still found "one" on the count-off. A hell of a
||2/20/01 Letters began arriving today telling us whether we're in or out
of the "new" Star-Bulletin after so long a struggle. Everyone
got the same thing: a short form letter with a thumbs-up, a shorter
form letter if it was thumbs down. Mary and I were lucky.
||2/21/01 I also received a nice letter from the Hawaii Newspaper Guild,
signed by both President Lucy Witeck and Administrative Officer
Wayne Cahill, thanking me for serving as a Guild rep in the Star-Bulletin
newsroom for two years, a post that ran its course on Jan. 1.
"The last couple of years have been especially challenging ones
for the Hawaii Newspaper Guild ... Keeping the Star-Bulletin alive,
negotiating contracts for the Star-Bulletin editorial staff and
for the Advertiser and HNA workers took a lot of energy and plain
hard work" the letter began. It sure did! Without the Guild stepping
up to the plate, there would be no Star-Bulletin for Black to
||2/22/01 The Gannett Advertiser is swarming with fresh bodies, so many
there's no place for them to sit down. We hear most of these are
on "loan" from other Gannett papers. Doesn't matter who pays their
salary. Whatever the staffing levels they set, they'll have to
become Guild members under the contract they agreed to, and when
Gannett decides to discharge most of them in a few months, it'll
||2/23/01 While we're getting most of the blue Star-Bulletin street boxes
from HNA as part of the deal, Gannett insists that the coin boxes
attached to the top of the racks are a separate item and belong
to them. If we bought our own pencils back from Gannett, they'd
keep the lead.
||2/24/01 Advertising for the Advertiser -- now there's an interesting term!
-- is blossoming everywhere. TV commercial crews are in the building
filming Tiser folks being groovy, concerned citizens. Radio spots
are wall-to-wall. Gannett is also sending waifs from door to door
pitching Advertiser subscriptions "so I can go to college" and
calling people at home claiming that the Advertiser will be the
"only newspaper printed in Honolulu." We are unable to counter-ad.
And it does no good to point out that such antics are shameless
-- if these guys had any ethics they wouldn't be working for Gannett
Corporate in the first place.
||2/26/01 In a lunchtime speech to the Hawaii Advertising Federation, new Star-Bulletin owner
David Black reported that ad sales are going very well. Black
promised "an exciting new product" with a morning edition added
to the afternoon Star-Bulletin and a Sunday paper that will include
Parade magazine and, as part of the business coverage, a four-page
section produced by the Wall Street Journal that focuses on personal
finance. Not surprisingly, the Gannett Advertiser declined to
cover the talk.
||2/27/01 Here go more computers to the dump, while lonely former Star-Builletin
staffer Rod Ohira has his hourly smoke. To be fair, these are
mostly way-old SII terminals. HNA was the last organization to
buy SII hardware, and there was a good reason SII got out of that
market. The stuff was junk.
||2/28/01 It's the beginning of several frustrating days trying to get a
vacation-scheduling snafu straightened out with Human Resources,
who admit they bolloxed it, but are also incapable of explaining
it the same way twice. I got a nasty note from Liberty executioner
Al Portner, left, accusing me of trying to steal vacation days from the company
and that my pay will be docked for the next two weeks, even though
Human Resources had already explained to him there was no error.
I suppose we can expect petty harrassment like this to increase,
particularly since Gannett/Liberty are placing ten additional
security guards in the newsroom to watch us.
NEXT! March 2001
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