|1993 After years of mismanagement of his other newspaper holdings,
Honolulu Advertiser owner Thurston Twigg-Smith abruptly sold the
family trust to competitor Gannett, owners of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
and with whom the Advertiser had entered into a joint operating
agreement to consolidate printing, distribution and ad-sales functions.
This came as a surprise announcement by Gannett executives John
Curley and Douglas McCorkindale in the Star-Bulletin newsroom,
who then raced out the door and peeled off their shirts and put
on Advertiser aloha shirts to repeat the announcement to the now-frightened
staff at the other newspaper.
For weeks, the Star-Bulletin's fate was in limbo while Gannett
"searched" for a buyer. Gannett rebuffs an employee buyout, and
eventually produces mystery Florida "newspaper broker" Rupert
Phillips as the newspaper's owner. No details of the purchase
were ever produced in public, but Phillips and Gannett executives
promised employees and the public that the JOA agreement will stand for the next 20 years. Phillips even urged staff members
to take out second mortgages and car loans to bolster public confidence
in the product, while McCorkindale claimed Star-Bulletin staffers
had the best job security of any newspaper in the country. The newspapers switched hands on the same day Bush Justice Department
lawyers vacated their offices for Clinton appointees, and Justice
never got around to examining the JOA contract between the two
newspapers and the government.
Phillips went back to the mainland and was rarely heard from.
Out from under Gannett, over the next six years, the Star-Bulletin
won numerous journalism awards while the Advertiser hemorrhaged
an experienced staff under a succession of Gannett editors. Citizen
ridicule of Advertiser news-judgment peaked when clueless Gannett editors sat on the now-famous "Broken Trust" essay by critics of powerful
Bishop Estate, a document that, when made public by the Honolulu
Star-Bulletin, set into motion the biggest news story in Hawaii
in the last quarter-century.
Into this charged and competitive atmosphere, Gannett bean-counters
smelled more beans over the horizon.
If only they could poison the other guy's well and not get caught
Now go with us into the scary days of 1999