The Year of
Dispatches from the Front by Burl Burlingame
|New Year's Day 2002 Nothing fancy, just some navigational tweaks being added to this
site. It will take me a while to convert all the pages. Goodness,
we're going into our fourth year!
|1/2/02 It must be good these days to be courted by the Gannett Advertiser.
They pouring millions into, essentially, a massive campaign of
sucking-up, brown-nosing and friend-buying. Here's an invitation to join the 'Tiser swells at a golf tournament. Get it while
it lasts, Honolulu.
|1/3/02 Dave Kennedy, ex-Gannett Advertiser sales exec, is joining our staff to replace
Jay Higa, who dutifully followed ex-MidWeek publisher Ken Berry
up the street, wagging his tail. Higa told co-workers here as
he left that he wanted to go to Gannett so he wouldn't have to
work so hard, which is fine with us. To civilians this must look
like musical chairs.
|1/3/02 Henry Rollins once said of Madonna, "While we're sleeping, she's
working." Gannett's been busy over the holidays. Now they're entering
into a pact with Donrey Media -- who, along with Singleton in
California (and another Gannett crony) -- are about the most unpleasant
places to work in American journalism. The Gannett Advertiser
is partnering at the Hawaii.com web site, a Donrey production. What will be
their contribution? "I do know we will share a lot of content
with The Advertiser that will give us a lot more depth," (Hawaii.com
general manager Sheri) Rolf said. In other words, Advertiser writers
will be propping up Hawaii.com at no benefit to themselves. This
is an illustration why Gannett was so hell-bent on taking away
Guild members' resale and copyrights in contract negotiations
two years ago.
|1/4/02 Smells Fischy in the halls of state government. Since Gannett
hasn't killed the Star-Bulletin in a timely manner, they're going
after MidWeek. Get this: Three years ago, the state legislature,
desperate to take away legal-notice display advertising from Gannett's
Hawaii Newspaper Agency, modified state law so that MidWeek would
be eligible. MidWeek won the contract because HNA's bid was four
minutes late. At the end of November, a State comptroller, all
on his lonesome, decided that MidWeek was no longer qualified and unilaterally changed the rules so that only Gannett fit the
bill, and then promptly resigned and fled to a desk job at the
Public Utilities Commission, traditionally a safe haven in election
years for those about to be deprived of their patronage jobs.
He is likely carrying water for someone else. How ridiculous is
this? For example, the new rules state that the qualifying papers
must have a circulation of 60,000 on Mar. 14, 2001, and on that
day -- the last day the Star-Bulletin was under Gannett distribution
control -- the Star-Bulletin's circulation was 59,782. Midweek
was removed from consideration because of unspecified -- and undocumented
-- "complaints" from other government agencies that once-a-week
was too slow, even though the dailies traditionally run the legals
once a week. Once we get beyond the incredible miracle of a state-government
worker actually making a decision that can be traced back to him,
we should keep in mind that the state government has a Rules Commission
that interprets how state law is carried out. It doesn't fall
to individuals who then vamoose to skip the consequences. This
|1/6/02 What's this I hear about Cutter, the giant Hawaii car dealer,
severing it's display contract with the Gannett Advertiser? Stay
||1/9/02 There's a classic National Lampoon cover that featured a puppy
with a gun to her head. BUY THIS MAGAZINE OR WE'LL SHOOT THIS
DOG! it said. I'm reminded of that every time I see creepy Gannett
rack cards and stickers like these. If you don't buy the Advertiser,
then you refuse to "help a child" or "save a life." How come they
weren't interested in children or life-saving last year?
|1/10/02 The bloodletting has begun over at the Gannett Advertiser. A number of advertising
and marketing types, including the popular Jim George, have been
told to hit the bricks, effective immediately. George has been
there three decades.
"There were no layoffs," Gannett consigliere Mike Fisch said in
fluent double-speak. "We eliminated several positions."
Their ranks will be filled with the talents -- ha ha! -- of Ken
Berry and friends, who are busy creating a Gannett clone of MidWeek. Oops, that's supposed to be a big secret.
Also coming on board is former Ala Moana Center Advertising and
Marketing Director Dexter Suzuki, to transform Gannett into the
Lords of the Internet. Judging by alamoana.com, good luck.
||1/15/02 Publisher David Black is back in town and reports that now that
the one-year exclusive contracts the Gannett paper signed advertisers
to are ending, many are jumping ship and moving over to the Star-Bulletin,
as they perceive a product that better suits ttheir demographic.
The Cutter car contract was a huge loss for the Gannett Advertiser
-- we're talking millions a year in lost revenue -- and there
are others, such as Papa John's pizza, that carefully studied
the two papers and chose the Star-Bulletin as the flagship product.
It's not jut the big boys. A friend stopped by the office yesterday
to place a display ad and complained that the "people up the street"
were still rude and demanding, and that their rates weren't going
||1/18/02 Our kids are doing OK selling papers on the street on Sunday morning,
adding close to a hundred to our circulation by themselves. Certainly
the Gannett Advertiser is taking them seriously -- they've beefed
up their saleskids on that corner from one to six! Apparently,
bullying and threatening our kids didn't work. Having that many
competitors on the corner hasn't cut into our sales at all, but
I wonder if it's worth the 'Tiser kids' while to compete against
each other that way.
||1/19/02 Also leaving the Gannett Advertiser is production guru Rayburn
Freitas, taking his retirement option. Rayburn, a real gentleman,
ran the backshop that composed the newspapers. John Simonds, the
Gannett Advertiser's ombudsman and special-promotions guy, is
retiring as well. Simonds, who devoted his life to serving Gannett,
was the Editor and Op-Ed Editor of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin
until Rupert Phillips "bought" the paper in 1993 and uncermoniously
fired Simonds and publisher Arlene Lum. We used to joke that the
scratches on the lobby linoleum at the old address were made from
Simonds' fingernails as they dragged him out. At any rate, Simonds
either played some hidden-closet cards or Gannett had a fit of
conscience because he went to work for the 'Tiser soon after,
and out from under the daily pressure of the news side, actually
||1/21/02 It's Martin Luther King Day!
Gannett Human Resources lady
|1/22/02 The Gannett Advertiser is continuing to hemorrhage staff. The
most interesting, we hear, is Jo Kerns, the snippy Human Resources
lady who was given one day to clear out. Kerns was the epitome
of the loyal Gannett soldier, and there was no water too foul
for her to carry for her Gannett bosses. Kind of makes you believe
in karma. Also gone are Leonard Rapoza of imaging -- a three-decade
veteran -- and Ferd Borsch of Sports, whom I often witnessed drinking
ranch dressing like it was a milk shake. John Simonds' replacement will be hard-working Anne Harpham, placed in a position
where they can fire her if she doesn't smile. More people have
left the Gannett Advertiser in the last couple of weeks than we've
lost all year.
|1/23/02 Apparently, Jo Kerns was fired after embarrassing Gannettoids
in the company's swank sky box at the Sony Open golf tournament
last week -- not once, but twice. Speaking of which, while Gannett
is hosting these expensive seats for the executives at golf tournaments,
the news side can't afford to send their sports reporters to cover
major neighbor island tournaments. They are instead sending freelance
columnists, who have to bear their own expenses.
||1/24/02 How's Gannett doing in Honolulu? At left is one of their own charts,
showing how income has declined here more than any other part
of the country. (It's still lower than their profit margins.)
It's from Gannett newspaper division's Gary Watson show'n'tell
at a Credit Suisse media conference in Boston. Watson noted, however, that ad revenues generated
by shoppers, weeklies, niche products and online ads were up,
which explains Gannett's Honolulu acquisitions over the last year.
Maybe they're getting out of the newspaper business. The real
question, of course, is why they would so publically reveal negative
numbers unles they're trying to stir the market.
||1/25/02 After giving it the old college try for a year, editorial page
editor Richard Halloran has decided full-time writing is really his game, and he's going
back to the field. His column, "The Rising East," will continue
in the Star-Bulletin.
||1/26/02 This site went down for a few days, thanks to some "mystery coding"
added to the server by persons unknown. Cleared up now, thank
Gannett Special Projects employee
|1/27/02 The Gannett Advertiser announced in a teeny story that they have
won the contract to print the Navy News, a military publication formerly handled by us. It would be interesting
to know the terms of that contract. It would be more interesting
to know the terms under which the terms were hashed out, as the
guy handling the negotiating for us was none other than Ken Berry,
who at the same time was negotiating a quick stab in the back
for his employees and a cushy job up the street at Gannett for
himself. No wonder the Navy -- sensitive to public scandal --
kept this under their hat for more than a month.
||1/27/02 Police were called Sunday when Gannett Advertiser street-sale
folks threatened kids selling the Sunday Star-Bulletin in Kaneohe.
The Tiser guys defense was that the phrase "Next week we're bringing
in big Samoans and you're not going to survive," when made to
a 12-year-old, shouldn't be considered a threat.
||1/28/02 I've had a running dialogue with a reader over the meaning of
the Gannett losses in retailing advertising in Honolulu (see the
chart for 1/24/02 below). He suggests strongly that I'm an economic nincompoop,
and he may be right. I don't know. He says if Gannett's retail-advertising
loss last year was 12 percent, then the Star-Bulletin's share
couldn't possibly be the 35 to 40 percent of current advertising.
My response was that advertising revenue and market share aren't
exactly reflective of each other -- there's no strict quid pro
quo -- and people are spending more on advertising than they used
to. No, he says, advertsing outlay is exactly the same for Honolulu
businesses today that it was a year ago. Clearly, no one knows
for sure at this point. And there are statistics, and there are
damned statistics. So I asked some folks who know better than
I what's going on. Two points were explained to me: Put a ruler
on the papers and measure all the paying ads, excluding the house
ads and charity giveaways, and the Star-Bulletin's ad lineage
is regularly 35 to 40 percent of the Gannett paper's (and we're
not mentioning MidWeek). And, more to the point, Gannett isn't
including the loss of the Star-Bulletin's former ad-sales contribution
to their bottom line, which was about 30 percent when the Joint
Operating Agreement was in effect. That leaves Gannett with about
70 percent TOTAL of what they made last year, minus 12 percent
of that 70 percent, which adds up to between 35 to 40 percent
-- which is right in the ballpark of what we think our current
market share is. The bottom line, though, is that we're making
enough to survive, and they haven't killed us.
||1/29/02 Eagle Eye Ian has noticed that the Hawaii.com website, now a partnership
between Gannett and Donrey, has links to every online news site in Hawaii ? except StarBulletin.com, which is ironically, the
most-visited news site about Hawaii. Doesn't sound like much of
a partnership when Gannett can dictate your content. But then
Donrey can't much like our expanding circulation in their Big
Island backyard. And Gannett needs a happy partner in the wings
when they decide to offload the Advertiser.
||1/29/02 A thought -- how can Gannett's Anne Harpham be both the Advertiser's ombudsperson AND the editor of their
PM edition? Isn't that a built-in conflict?
||1/31/02 One of the newer tactics Gannett street sales folks are trying,
at least on the Windward side, is to coerce kids into switching
sides. Our area distribution manager says this is becoming common.
As for my own kids, an Advertiser salesperson approached one of
them on Sunday morning and told her she'd make more money selling
Advertisers, to which the 13-year-old replied, "But I've sold
eight papers in the last hour and you've sold one. How can I make
NEXT! February 2002
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