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July 2002

The Year of
Sustained Casualties
Summertime Blues

Dispatches from the Front by Burl Burlingame

7/2/02 It's payback time ... oops, payoff time
Has there ever been a better time to buy advertising in Hawaii? Not only are the two primary newspapers in a war and rates are great, but other "considerations" arise. The latest we've heard about is the Mediterranean cruise being offered this fall to the top 25 or so clients of the Gannett Advertiser. If you're one of those clents, get in there and get your tickets! But if you just work there, and you're in union negotiations while the paper pleads poverty, just say arrivederci, baby.

7/5/02 Any of this sound familiar?
The Justice Department's Antitrust Division investigated circumstances of the Press closing, and that led to the empaneling of a federal grand jury. However, that, and a series of private lawsuits filed by unions representing some Press employees, as well as some advertisers' suits, came to naught. Many articles and books were written about this piece of Cleveland journalism history, but the real story may never be known...
The above is from Barbara Mooney's piece on the effects of having a one-newspaper town in Cleveland. Go here to read it. It's fascinating. The Cleveland Press folded under circumstances remarkably similar to Gannett/Liberty's planned scenario for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. ANother quote:
Roberts says the effect of having one daily in town hurts now as much as it did 20 years ago. "Particularly now ... All institutions need to be challenged, and having one newspaper limits our ability to do that. More than ever, Cleveland is oriented toward consensus among, for the lack of a better word, the establishment. It does things in groupthink. That is myopic...

7/7/02 If you can't beat em ...
After more than a year of being hard-line about circulation prices, the Gannett Advertiser finally caved today and began offering Sunday newspapers at half-price. At $1, they're still more expensive than the Star-Bulletin -- and I wonder how their subscribers feel who were forced to pay full-price -- but it's obvious that they're being hurt on the street. And a couple of days before, I talked to a young fellow who was staring at a stack of papers in a store and selected an Advertiser. Why? I asked him. "I dunno," he said sheepishly. "We get big piles of them for free at the office and I guess I'm used to it." (He put it back and bought a Star-Bulletin, BTW.)

7/11/02 Searchin' high and low, and it's a no-go
Gannett Advertiser columnist Bob Krauss wrote a lovely piece about Jack Wyatt yesterday, whom Bob often bumped into while strolling the Ala Wai Canal. I'd link to it if I could, but getting good links off the Advertiser web site is nearly impossible, and they dissolve in a few weeks anyway. Then I got caught up in their "search engine" on the Advertiser web site, and discovered it was useless. It can't find anything. Even entering in the governor's and mayor's names yielded nothing, zippo, nada. Maybe I caught it at a bad moment. I dunno. They have a whole baseball team-sized crew working on their site over there. Todd Sugiyama on our side is vamoosing to attending the prestigious Parsons School of Design, and when he leaves, our web team is down by fifty percent. Yikes.

7/15/02 Playing the numbers
Pacific Business News is reporting that after a year of operations, the Star-Bulletin's initial boost of subscribers has declined slightly, particularly on Saturday, which is the one day of the week that the new owners changed the distribution schedule. The Star-Bulletin is a morning paper only on Saturday, and this shows more than anything else that Hawaii readers are creatures of habit. Even with the slight drop -- mostly after the 9-1-1 attack, mind you -- we still have better numbers than we did when Gannett was handling our circulation.
Interestingly, even though circulation has dipped, readership (the actual number of people reading the paper) has gone up! This likely means that the paper has become more interesting to more family members or co-workers. Both sides will be spinning these numbers for all they're worth. It should be obvious to all, though, that there's a solid niche of the population that prefers the Star-Bulletin to the Advertiser, and we've hung on to that niche despite everything Gannett has thrown at us.
The PBN story also claimed that the Gannett Advertiser's numbers have slipped as well, but provides no evidence. If that's true, that's more interesting than the Star-Bulletin maintaining the status quo, because the Tiser has been claiming all along that they have nearly doubled their circulation since the separation.

7/16/02 Feeding the beast that devours us all
This doesn't sound good. Gannett is thinking about gobbling up the Hearst-Argyle television chain, thanks to the reins on monopoly empires being slackened in DC. Oh, wait -- the phrase they're using is "merger." Gannett merges with other companies the same way that a whale merges with krill. Hearst-Argyle has 24 channels across the land, and their local station is the excellent KITV, with whom the Star-Bulletin has a partnership arrangement. It would be a shame to lose that, but a bigger shame to see them forced into numbing mediocrity under the G-men.

7/17/02 Green minds think alike
We're not exactly team players, but there must be some sort of planetary alignment influencing the way I, Nancy and Dave picked our clothes this morning. No. we're not park rangers in our spare time. At least Dave and I aren't. "Which one's Crocodile Hunter?" wondered Crystal over at the Cap Bureau.

7/18/02 Pronounced guh-net, as in "net profit"
"Greed," declared Gordon Gekko in "Wall Street," "is good." I couldn't put it any better than the story at left, which is scanned directly from the front page of the Gannett Advertiser's business section. Actually, no one should care if Gannett is making a lot of money, because that's what healthy businesses do. The problem is that the Gannett Advertiser is claiming poverty this week in contract negotiations with the Newspaper Guild.
At this point Gannett is holding firm to two demands; that the Guild give up a no-layoffs clause in their contract -- a clause that Gannett insisted upon last year -- and that the staff take an 11.5 percent pay cut. Why? Because we did, and Gannett seems to think that parity still exists between the two papers. (Nope! The G-men made sure that the Star-Bulletin was completely independent. Their choice, not ours, mind you.) By the way, our pay cut was temporary, and has already been partially restored, while theirs would be permanent.
I imagine that the Guild membership up the street will have to choose between these demands, and that's a tough call -- salary levels lower than the Star-Bulletin, or the staff decimated in mass firings? The story at left certainly didn't help Gannett management's case.

7/19/02 Walking a yard in our shoes
An Advertiser staffer or two complained that the previous day's posting, 7/18, seemed to them to be Star-Bulletin gloating over their discomfort during their tense union negotiations. No! I'm simply pointing out Gannett hypocrisy. Having actually sat across from the G-men during contract negotiations in the past, I have every sympathy for any Guild members trying to reason with these mean-spirited thugs. Having failed to screw us, Gannett is screwing their own employees. If I were to gloat, I'd gloat big-time over the 9-6 victory over Gannett Advertiser ballplayers this week by the Star-Bulletin's corporate baseball team. Yeah!

7/23/02 Wheelbarrows full of money!
Not quite, but folks WERE showing up with thousands in cash as the second round of the Star-Bulletin's Bidding Advantage drew to a close. This one was more successful than the last, and the paper did very well. Some good news up the street as well, as Gannett negotiators are waffling on their demands for the Guild. That's not stopping the usual psywar between Gannett management and Guild staff, but that happens every go-round. This time is no different.

7/25/02 Fan mail (thanks, Mom)
Every once in a while we hear from our readers who just want to vent. This one came in this week as a letter to the editor, which, naturally, we're not running;
The Star-Bulletin is the BEST paper in Hawaii. It is FAR SUPERIOR to the Advertiser. The Star-Bulletin sports section is excellent, which is all I really care about, but I even read the other sections because the paper is so well written and edited. The reporting has more depth and is much more fair and balanced. Also, it looks a lot better than the Advertiser. Your staff is great, and a lot of people appreciate everything you've been through and how hard you're working. Keep it up.
Making a difference like this in the community is what it's all about.

7/26/02 The Road to Depletion
Why am I surprised? I dunno. While doing a little online research this morning about the movie "The Road to Perdition," I came across the DreamWorks website about the film. Very slick. But I noticed that they use the same free counter I use, ExtremeTracking, which works quite well, but it's also an online gimme for those who can't afford REAL tracking counters. I would have thought that Steven Spielberg and the gang at Dreamworks could afford something a little more sophisticated. Or maybe that's why they're millionaires and I'm not!
NEXT! August 2002
Draggin' Butts

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