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June 2001

The Year of
Savage Counterattack
The First Casualties

Dispatches from the Front by Burl Burlingame
6/1/01 Marilyn Ige joined the staff of the Star-Bulletin only a month or so before I did, waaaaaaay back in the '70s. She started as a clerk and wound up a copy editor. She retired this day so she could move to Seattle. Also leaving was Marisa Maemori, departing for family reasons. Although Marisa is wee and soft-spoken, she kept some of the biggest egos on the staff in line, and Marilyn is no slouch when it comes to dragon-slaying either. That's Marilyn in white; Marisa is in teal. We had a going-away party for them in the newsroom, the first employees at the "new" Star-Bulletin to hele-on to new pastures. We hate to see them go. Afterwards, the feature section headed to to Side Street Inn to pipe them away in style.
6/1/01 Stephanie Kendrick, Tim Ryan, Nadine Kam and an unidentified writer pretend they haven't been toasting excessively.

6/2/01 Nadine, Michelle, Betty, Gary, Tim, Stephanie. Marilyn and Nancy grinding on the ono food at Side Street.

6/2/01 That's writer Gary C.W. Chun, above, along with clerk/layout editor Michelle Ramos. Gary is improbably hip and wrote for the Gannett Advertiser for more than a decade before joining us in March. A vicious rumor accepted as gospel at the Tiser these days -- and repeated to publicists -- is that we all hate Gary and want to get rid of him. Wrong! At left is another Gannett trick. Wire racks at in-out stores and gas stations are having an Advertiser sign clipped onto the Star-Bulletin shelf. We can't compete in the dirty-tricks department.
6/4/01 As predicted here a while ago, and denied by Gannett, Chris the cafeteria guy packed up and moved out of the News Building during the first week of June. There was a dispute over Chris' insistance that Gannett check the building for gas leaks, which Gannett refused to do, and when a gas leak was discovered, Gannett seized the kitchen materials in the cafeteria to cover costs.
6/6/01 Pointed out by Ian Lind and with back-up from advertisng sales, it is apparent that Gannett has kept national advertisers in the dark concerning the break-up of the Hawaii JOA, and others were threatened with rate increases at ALL Gannett papers if they buy ads from the Star-Bulletin.
6/7/01 It's good to be the king. Gannett Advertiser editor Jim Kelly, who makes something like $139.920 a year, paid his wife -- now ex-wife -- Sally Apgar $69.927 a year, nearly $20 grand more than most writers on his staff. That doesn't include Gannett management perks.
6/10/01 The spending spree is over at the Gannett Advertiser. Long-posted vacant positions at the paper, listed on the Gannett job board, have vanished, and folks applying there are told there's a hiring freeze. So much for being competitive on the news side. If history repeats itself, as at other Gannett papers, soon there will be layoffs. The union contract only runs for one more year, even though it has a no-layoff clause. There'll be blood on the floors there by fall, when the real competition for advertisiung dollars begins.
6/11/01 The Gannett Advertiser cold-call salespeople are certainly influencing readers. One told me last week (not knowing I work at the Star-Bulletin, apparently) that I was "stupid" for subscribing to the Star-Bulletin instead of the Advertiser. I chalked it up to overzealousness -- many cold-callers are prisoners, after all -- but on reflection .... I wonder if such bullying tactics aren't deliberate, aimed at intentionally confusing the marketplace?

The green arrow pointing at the pink head shows Fisch.
6/12/01 From, here's a "spy photo" of Gannett publisher Mike Fisch telling a thrilled Advertiser newsroom in March that they were starting a PM edition, despite testifying in court that afternoon papers are doomed. This week, managing editor Jim Kelly continued in the same desperate vein, lying directly to the public and signing his name to it. The Tiser tried it once before, in 1946, Kelly noted. And they failed, which he didn't note. Their PM edition is hemorrhaging money, but their real goal is to bleed the Star-Bulletin and hoodwink the public. Their PM will soon die, since fewer than 2,500 readers subscribe.
6/13/01 I neglected to bring this up before: When the Gannett Advertiser acquired community press PMP, what they were after was PMP's lucrative "Parade of Homes" edition, despite public whinneying about serving communities better. But "Parade of Home" had already been spun off elsewhere, and the Gannett geniuses bought a PMP pig-in-a-poke instead. Wasted money.
6/15/01 Things are changing over at the Gannett Advertiser -- long-range planning now assumes that the Star-Bulletin will be around for some time to come. The previous assumption was that they'd kill us right out of the gate, and that message was hammered into their staff so often some even believed it. The irony is, the survival of the Star-Bulletin means job security at the Gannett paper. If we weren't here, they'd have turned into a shopper by now. That's what Gannett has done everywhere else.
6/19/01 I don't know why, but the annual Gannett get-together of top news-media execs always reminds me of a Legion of Super-Villians summit conference in a DC comic book, somewhere in an isolated mega-fortress, where they sit naked in money and champagne dribbles down their cracks. This year's kegger, however, had media tycoons singing the blues as they wailed about profits being down. Not gone, mind you -- just down. They're still making fistfuls of money
6/25/01 Once again, the Star-Bulletin made a respectable showing in the annual Society of Professional Journalists awards. These are the ones that Gannett editor Jim Kelly had a snit-fit about, and refused to enter this year, but Gannett newbie Saundra Keyes insisted they enter anyway, for staff morale. And the Gannett paper improved over last year, which goes to show you that you actually can improve coverage by throwing in extra staff and resources and being determined to beat the other guy. The public wins, actually, not the newspapers.
Even so, despite what Ian Lind delicately calls special circumstances, we hammered 'em again. I expect Kelly is whirling like the Tasmanian Devil cartoon.
Very special circumstances:
We were in the midst of a vicious newspaper war against both the opposition and our own owners, who were being paid off by the opposition to cripple us unto death. Gannett flooded their own newsroom with extra staff and resources we could only dream about, while we were being bled dry.
And to add insult to injury, our owner refused to allow us to enter professional contests like the SPJ. Staff members, like artist David Swann, had to provide entry fees out of their own pockets. I entered nothing in the contest because I couldn't afford it. It was more important to the Gannett "luna" Al Portner to loot every last scrap of newsroom resources, even the 20-year Star-Bulletin pocket watches and bolts of Star-Bulletin fabric.
I don't know how we survived under those circumstances, much less beat up the opposition. Gannett had everything going for it except, apparently, a committment to quality work.
Ironically, one of our top winners was Diane Chang, who's no longer with us!

6/26/01 At photo-J school we were warned never to take pictures like this! Here's Associated Press Honolulu news editor Janis Magin at their new offices.
AP , which existed alongside both newspapers in the grand old building, was likewise kicked out of their home by the Gannett Advertiser. But then AP was asked back when the Tiser folks realized it would be difficult to order up rewritten Star-Bulletin stories. But AP preferred to move in with us. Here, AP's Jean Christensen pretends to chin with Star-Bulletin's Rob Perez.
6/27/01 Here's a good subscription deal if you're a student, teacher or DOE administrator -- the sign at left, which I spotted on the counter of as local high school, notes that the bulk subscription rate to the Honolulu Advertiser is $32.40 for the entire 2001-2002 school year, which works out to a few cents a day. Nothing about how to take the Star-Bulletin, which is now produced early enough to be mass-delivered to schools.
6/29/01 Pacific Business News examines the growing conflict for advertisers on the two paper's web sites. When ad sales were controlled by Gannett, they refused to allow them on the site.
6/30/01 The Star-Bulletin won two awards this year in the Best of the West competition; the Gannett Advertiser, zip. One was for a graphics package, another was a "virtual tour" of Hana Highway, with cool 360-pix by webmaster Blaine Fergerstrom.
NEXT! July 2001
The Worm Turns

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