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HonoluluNewsBlues
July 2001

The Year of
Savage Counterattack
The Worm Turns

Dispatches from the Front by Burl Burlingame
7/1/01 Associated Press employees past and present were there for the blessing of the new offices in Restaurant Row on Sunday afternoon. Gee, the view from the doorway makes it look like we live in a big metroplis. Thanks to new standards imposed on AP workspaces, the new place is seven times bigger than the old place at the Gannett-owned News Building. No Advertiser staff showed up to wish them well.
Gannett kicked AP out in their quest for higher security for their operation, and I'm told you need multiple forms of ID to speak to anyone these days at the Gannett Advertiser. At the Star-Bulletin. anyone can walk in, even politicians.
That's Jim Becker, center, and Ed White talking to bureau chief David Briscoe at the opening. Jim came to Honolulu to work for AP two years before I was born!
7/2/01 Gannett Advertiser publisher Mike Fisch, having bought his way into a leadership role of a local historical society, noted the Advertiser turned 145 this day, but not that it was a weekly shopper until the competition -- us! -- came along and created daily journalism in Hawaii 120 years ago. A little spin-by-omission, there. And Gannett's Bob "Angry Historian" Krauss invited the public to check out their new offices -- apparently, after they pass a cavity search -- where, he proudly claims, it's as swank as an insurance office and they have 140 work stations, about triple the number the Star-Bulletin newsroom has. Reading between the lines, it's clear Krauss thinks he's a cool guy. Warning: If you click on the links above, you could probably get a real Advertiser delivered quicker than their notoriously balky web site will load.
7/4/01 David Shapiro, former Star-Bulletin managing editor and a long-term Gannett employee, started writing for the Gannett Advertiser using the Volcanic Ash column title that was Star-Bulletin property. But then, when Shapiro self-published a booklet of collected columns, there was no mention that they were copyrighted Star-Bulletin material. The move likely has something to do with Gannett threats to Shapiro's medical benefits, as he has MS. During the final days at the old News Building, as the staff struggled with their emotions and the rippling chaos of mass-evacuation, Shapiro -- who was busy hobnobbing with Gannett's Fisch in the executive offices -- was little to be seen, except for photo ops. You can take the boy out of Gannett, but you can't take the Gannett out of the boy.
7/6/01 I don't usually run letters from others, but this e-note arrived yesterday and was uncommonly well voiced, and has the bite of personal experience. I edited it to obscure the writer's identity -- you never know when Gannett might consume your paper -- but he is an editor in the MidWest:
As a Gannett survivor, I have followed your newsman's memoir of doom and rebirth in Honolulu with immense interest. And a certain sense of expectant optimism.

I'm a sucker for happy endings, a sentimental streak that managing inside Gannett for three years could not bash out of me.

Perhaps it's way too early to declare survival in Honolulu, but nothing scares the bejeebers out of Gannett upper management more than easy prey that won't die. And they always view prey as easy.

There were times in the last several months when I thought to write and let you know that many on the mainland are following your journal as avidly as I. You may known that, anyway.

But time jumps away before you can grab hold of it. The dedication to the time it takes for your journal is admirable in its own right.

But then today arrived -- July 4th -- and it struck me that no better or more fitting day to send salutations of support and general good will could be found than Independence Day. Any day dedicated to celebrating rebellion against tyranny is a good day to send hail and good tidings in the battle to survive Gannett.

Your staff's plight over the last two years is even more meaningful to me because I came within a cat's whisker of being a Honolulu Gannetoid awhile ago.

I had been fed up with (with the job I was at) and went looking for a bigger digs. One spot was the AME-News job in Honolulu. We were engaged in that phone call tag that precedes earnest courtship when the same job was offered to me at a Gannett paper elsewhere.

Not that I can claim intelligent prescience for having avoided the cataclysm of Honolulu. This other paper was its own brand of Gannett hell.

If you have a spare smidgen of pity for anyone left in Gannett, offer it to below-the-throne-room-level managers. Some came to the job not knowing they were expected to cultivate a culinary taste for human flesh.

It certainly was a surprise when I found out that deliberately manipulating and injuring dedicated journalists was a hidden part of the job description. I had known poor managers before, but it was the first time I'd encountered folks who seemed to delight in other people's anguish.

I eventually escaped with my soul more or less intact.

For those of your staff insulated from other experiences with Gannett, let me assure you that the events of the last two years are not an aberration.

I now have worked for four news corporations and all have their less-than-astute moments and flawed human beings with too much power.

But no company in my experience so insistently seeks out, enables and rewards thugs more than Gannett. Many also seem to be nincompoops as well.

Tell your friends that there are those of us across the water who wish them only the best.

A happy Fourth of July!

7/7/01 Ever since the "Pearl Harbor" movie came out, I've gotten cryptic notes from people across the country claiming they saw me featured in Gannett's flagship paper, USA Today. Unlikely, I thought.
I was wrong. Somebody -- OK, it was my mother-in-law -- finally sent me a clipping. In Gannett's big feature on the impact of the movie, I'm quoted at length, plus there's a break-out quote on the graphic.
Since I don't remember saying any of these things, it took a while to track down the source -- an article I wrote for the Star-Bulletin a decade ago!
I guess the quotes held up, because no one from USA Today contacted me to verify them.
Interestingly, Even thought the Gannett paper in Honolulu is the Advertiser, Gannett decided not to lift any of their content. There's probably a reason for that.

7/11/01 A fellow from our sister TV station showed up to make filming tests in the newsroom. The trick is to show computers, it seems, without showing what's on their screens.
7/12/01 How cute is this? Sports layout guy Sjarif Goldstein heralded the birth of his baby with this special chocolate wrapper. Ingredients of this baby include, it notes, Filipino, Indonesian, Lithuanian and Russian. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin at one point had the
most ethnically diverse newsroom in the United States, and that's likely still true. The cosmopolitan staff includes Hawaiians, Irish, Japanese, Germans, Chinese, Filipinos, English, Dutch, Scots, Indonesians, Portuguese, Vietnamese, Okinawans, Guamanians, Spanish, Mexicans, Russians, Lithuanians, blacks, French and even a Viking Goddess!
7/16/01 This notice stands in the old shared library of the News Building, now totally controlled by the Gannett Advertiser --- except for what remains of the Star-Bulletin archives:

MEMO; June 26, 2001

Notify Jim Kelly (8094) when Star-Bulletin staff come to the library for photos or clippings. He wants to know what subject matter is being covered.


Kelly is Gannett's managing editor in Honolulu and apparently so terrified that his massive, over-funded staff will get scooped by the rag-tag irregulars at the Star-Bulletin that simple professional courtesy is a thing of the past. On second thought, professionalism and courtesy aren't exactly Gannett trademarks, although paranoia and sheer meanness are.
Note that Kelly drafted this order in third-person so that he can have deniability.
By the way, Kelly's full number is 808-525-8094, in case anyone wishes to have a discussion on ethics with him.
UPDATE:
When contacted by staff members, Kelly claimed there was no proof the order originated with him, because it wasn't signed. The librarians must have inflicted it upon themselves, apparently.
7/18/01 A lot of things fell through the cracks in the hustle of separating the two newspapers. Worrisome to many was the notion that the physical resources of the Star-Bulletin's archives would remain with Gannett. But we were assured that copyright would remain with the Star-Bulletin, that this copyright allowed us to reproduce these materials for our own use over a period of several years, and that we'd have complete access to our own archives.
Since then, Gannett has republished Star-Bulletin materials and credited it to themselves -- in blatent violation of copyright and intellectual-property law -- hidden Star-Bulletin materials when our reporters try to do research, and decided that "open access" is only a few hours on weekdays and costs us $48 an hour for the privilege of looking up our own materials -- assuming Gannett hasn't hidden or destroyed them.
Lawyers will almost certainly get involved at some point. The issue, frankly, is theft.
Not only are old-fashioned paper photographs, microfiche, clippings and microfilm involved, but the Star-Bulletin's electronic photo archives have been looted as well. Likely, this means that Gannett copied these materials from the Star-Bulletin's server prior to change-over, which means the theft was premeditated. This might also explain several mysterious outages with our electronic photo database in the weeks just before the switch, while the system was maintained by Gannett techs.

Another unresolved issue is the union contract under which these materials were reproduced. The contract stipulated that while copyright remained with the newspaper, the right to re-use the materials in secondary markets remained with the writers, artists and photographers. This is doubly true with competive markets like the Gannett Advertiser! None of our people were asked permission by Gannett to lift their materials and use it against ourselves. I don't know if this is in violation of the contract's intent, because nothing like this has ever arisen before in American journalism.
Ian Lind also has a meditation on this issue.
I don't know where the chips will fall on this one. I do know that the courts are not friendly these days to copyright violators and and intellectual-property thieves.
More than that, I've produced more than two decades' worth of stories, photographs and artwork for the Star-Bulletin, and it's in the hands of the enemy. There's something wrong with this picture.
7/19/01 Gannett's ad income plunged again in the second quarter. Tsk. In Honolulu, we hear, the Gannett Advertiser made $34 million last year and this year, so far, are breaking even. They also have two more managers than they're allowed to have by union contract. Who are they going to have to fire? They'll save a few bucks that way, though.
7/20/01 Green Bay, where the early salvos were traded in Gannett's anti-trust behavior, has been forced to lay some folks off and Gannett moves into direct morning competition. But the editors there say they won't be broken by the Big Bad G.
7/22/01 It's deja vu all over again! Sansei, the tony sushi bar and seafood restaurant, recently began serving lunches that are not only good, they're reasonably priced, so naturally Star-Bulletin staff eat there a lot. Sansei's logo is an octopus, and the one used on their lunch menu, left, seemed familiar. Compare it to one I drew several years ago for a science publication.
7/29/01 Honolulu Weekly, the hiply fascist "alternative" publication whose publisher -- Laurie Carlson -- vowed early on to destroy the Star-Bulletin, celebrated its 10th anniversary by muzzling former writers and editors asked to submit golden memories of working there. The too-trusting staffers were apparently stunned by Carlson's "hypocrisy" in whitewashing her private product, and signed a letter of protest that noted the censorship was particularly galling "coming from a publication that paints itself as the journalistic conscience of Honolulu and frequently takes other news media to task for their alleged lack of openness." Carrion-feeder Carlson has made no secret of her lust for power in the past, so they shouldn't have been surprised.
NEXT! August 2001
Sticky Fingers

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