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January 2003

The Year of
Switching Commanders
Banana Fever

Dispatches from the Front by Burl Burlingame

1/1/03 Happy New Year's Day!
I spent New Year's Day the same way most people do -- by getting out of bed in the wee hours and attending a power breakfast at the University with Michael and Kitty Dukakis. It seems that University president Evan Dobelle and Dukakis are old buds from Massachusetts. There was a lot of champagne and orange juice, thank God.

1/3/03 Star-Bulletin Photo Album #5
Here are two views of the Star-Bulletin's original newsroom, taken from roughly the same location, but a half-century apart. The above picture is from 1916. The guy standing in the back is editor Riley Allen. A couple of years after this picture was taken, Allen left the newspaper for the only time in his long career there, so he could aid in Red Cross efforts during the Russian rebellion in Siberia. In the picture below, in 1955, editor Bud Smyser is seated in the middle, in the white shirt, and Harriet Gee in the striped dress. The typewriters are still manuals, but by now the chairs have wheels. And Riley Allen was still in charge.

1/5/03 Star-Bulletin Photo Album #6
Hmm, the facade isn't familiar, but I'd know those drainpipes anywhere. For the first half of its life, the Honolulu was housed in this seemingly modest building on Merchant Street in the financial district of Honolulu. Thgis picture dates to the 1920s. That's a scrapyard dealer on the left. Note that the building had a false front on top for the sign, which has since been razed off. Interestingly, the signs in the windows on the second floor are in English, Japanese and Hawaiian. The same building today is host to a design firm and a couple of small shops.

1/7/03 People are idiots ...
How do these things get out of the gate? Residents of a high-rise complex in downtown Honolulu complained on Saturday that a China Airlines 747-400 rocketed by within a couple of dozen feet of their building, passed over the fourth-floor rec area and bellowed up Kapiolani Boulevartd toward the airport. This is blue-in-the-face nonsense -- every window in the building would be shattered and every car alarm within a mile would have gone off, plus there are all those other buildings in the area to jink around -- but news organizations dutifully repeated the wild tale without questioning it. By Sunday night it was featured all over the world, from MSNBC to Drudge to the networks to Fox and CNN and, and ...

1/9/03 Under press-ure
Work continues on the new Gannett Advertiser printing plant in Kapolei. When completed in a couple of years, it will be state of the art, with excellent color printing, fast turn-around, and efficient use of paper. Hawaii has deserved a plant like that for some time. It's iffy whether Gannett would have built the new facility if it didn't have competition, but there you go.
These new presses also require only a few employees to operate them. In the meantime, Gannett has press personnel standing around idle as it is, and they can't be fired (because Gannett added a no-layoff clause to the current contract!) and contract negotiations have evaporated.
Gannett also refuses to discuss buy-out options for current press personnel. And, if construction continues at the current rate, the pressmen will have to start training on the new equipment within the next year. But training who? Which pressmen will be kept on?
Anyone else smell a nasty conflict brewing?
You can count on Gannett to follow the path of most money. It may be cheaper to fly in a non-union press crew, fire all the current pressmen and pay the subsequent NLRB fines. And wind up with a non-union press.

Weekly publisher
(Click me!)
1/10/03 A back-scratching frenzy
Everyone will have 15 minutes of fame, so said Andy Warhol, and in Hawaii, sooner or later you'll wind up as a cover story in MidWeek, our sister publication. Amusingly, the cover this week is Honolulu Weekly publisher Laurie Carlson, who exposes her niche publication to hundreds of thousands of readers, thanks to the MidWeek's reach. In it, she blames her publication's small size on uncool local mindsets and chides the dailies for being mainstream and not as hip as she is. Every town needs an alternative publication, but the Weekly is largely reactionary, status-quo and elitist -- their spirited defense of the deposed Bishop Estate trustees and their current laissez faire coverage of the mayor comes to mind -- but any paper that runs "Straight Dope," "Clubbed to Death," "This Modern World" and "Ted Rall" deserves to be read, no matter what it costs. Oh, it's given away?

1/13/03 Why monopolies aren't good
The Star-Bulletin has been without voice-mail for several days now, thanks to the phone folks at Verizon. Seems they don't know what they're doing! Maintaining voice-mail for a mediuum-sized company is beyond their capabilities -- but Verizon is the only game in town.

1/15/03 Is that a wrecking ball in your pocket?
When Gannett purchased the Honolulu Advertiser in 1993, they also purchased the property it was housed in, primarily the historic Honolulu News Building, plus the press and paper-storage facilities at 605 Kapoiolani. The original owner, Thurston Twigg-Smith, applied for National Historic Landmark status in 1979, but never followed up on it. When Gannett took over, they made noise about "restoring" the building, and never did so. The only maintenance done to the structure has been at the insistance of OSHA.
Cut forward to the present day. Gannett is building a new press in Kapolei, so the press buildings downtown will surely be dismantled, probably later next year. What will remain will be business and editorial functions, and these can be located anywhere. It's likely that Gannett will maximize their value on the site by razing everything and building a high-rise.
Even though the News Building didn't become a Landmark structure, it's deemed historic by State rules, meaning that six months' notice of demolition will have to be given to the State Historic Preservation Division, who might squawk, but who will be powerless to do anything about it.
Interestingly, Gannett publisher Mike Fisch is president of the Historic Hawaii Foundation, a position often bestowed on corporate heads who donate the most money to the organization. Originally organized to preserve Hawaii's architectural heritage, HHF has often been criticised during the last decade for becoming a rubber-stamp OK for developers to actually destroy properties. The last time a corporation flowed such money into HHF's till, it was First Hawaiian Bank, and lo and behold, that year HHF announced it was in our best interest for First Hawaiian to demolish the historic Damon Building downtown and erect Hawaii's tallest, ugliest structure in its place .... the First Hawaiian Bank Building!

1/16/03 Aloha Gladys
Former principal of Kamehameha School for Girls and long-time educator Gladys Brandt died last night. She was also known as one of the authors of the famous "Broken Trust" essay that the Star-Bulletin published after Gannett editors sat on it for so long. As of this writing, neither paper has the news on their web sites, but the printed edition of the Star-Bulletin has a front-page obit by our ace reporter Sally Apgar, while the Advertiser has nothing -- nada, zip, zero, bupkis. They're probably sitting on their hands again.

1/17/03 Aloha Gladys, you empty warhead
Apparently, the Gannett Advertiser was scrambling to catch up on the Gladys Brandt story yesterday, and didn't even have it on their breaking news web presence until well into the afternoon. And there was an unfortunate juxtaposition on the A-1 story in their p.m. edition -- a big head shot of Mrs. Brandt, over which was the giant headline EMPTY CHEMICAL WARHEADS FOUND!

1/19/03 Subscription wars
Ian has some interesting observations today about the Gannett Advertiser's heavy-handed approach to daily subscriptions. We used to subscribe ourselves -- hey, we support a two-newspaper town! -- but were turned off by their circulation department's insistance on hammering us in for the long-term.

Gannett bagman
(Click me!)
1/21/03 With friends like these ...
Ouch! The Guild Reporter's lede on the nasty organizing situation at Rupert Phillips' Virginia newspapers goes like this: If the newspaper industry were an animal, the Journal Newspapers -- a chain of dailies ringing Washington, D.C. -- would be the hind end, somewhere near the musk gland. Underpaid and overworked, its reporters toil with pinched nostrils solely to accumulate the clips that can pave their way to respectable employment elsewhere. Phillips, you may recall, is one of Gannett's go-to boys when they need dirty work done.

1/22/03 Banana fever
Gannett is paying a former editor more than half a million dollars to settle a defamation lawsuit. When the company was caught using illegal tactics to chase the Chiquita Banana story, Gannett immediately turned on its own people to avoid corporate liability. They were found guilty anyway, plus guilty of ruining the career of some of their own people. They also paid Chiquita $14 million in sorry-money. This leaves one remaining lawsuit aginst Gannett still open, a confidential source they burned publically. So much for protecting sources. Overlooked -- the Chiquita story was true all along!

1/24/03 Another thick as a brick in the wall ...
This Gannett Advertiser wall ad in a stairwell at Restaurant Row has annoyed us for a long time with its snotty Mainland tone. Now we're told by building managers that Gannett hasn't paid their bill on it since last spring and they neglected to take it down. Huh. The wall ads the Star-Bulletin had up at the time of separation were immediately taken down by Gannett, even though we HAD paid our bill!

1/26/03 Idle roomers
I'm told this is the rumor currently given credence at the Gannett Advertiser, and spread by managers -- that Star-Bulletin Newspaper Guild members, because our duties aren't as rigidly defined in our contract, and in addition to our news jobs, are required to also do janitorial duties at Restaurant Row. Ha!

1/31/03 Nice 'stash, man!

Sometimes you just gotta doctor a photo a little ...
NEXT! February 2003

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