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June 2002

The Year of
Sustained Casualties
School's Out, Forever

Dispatches from the Front by Burl Burlingame

6/3/02 Blackout!
Our power went out last night and was out for hours at Restaurant Row. No lights, no elevators, no security doors, nothing but phones. Since our computer system has no power backups -- that kind of high-ticket technology is for big-time newspapers, not little guys like us -- the techs unplugged the server, carried it over to Kaneohe at the printing plant and plugged it back in. And so the paper got out despite the blackout!

6/4/02 ... and master of none?
There certainly is a fair amount of flexibility working at the Star-Bulletin these days. Let's see, in the last week I've been a writer, a photographer, an artist, a layout editor, a wire editor, a copy editor and a clerk. Where DOES the time go?

6/6/02 Gannett blinks first
So much for Gannett's demands that the Hawaii Newspaper Guild cave in on the June 9 deadline for the Advertiser's contract. The date was quietly moved to June 28, then to sometime this fall. The so-called "evergreen" clause in the contract will go into effect, even though Gannett claimed it would not. That means that the old contract's provisions are in place while talks go forward, and both sides can nullify that with 30 days' warning. The talks have stalled completely at this point, reportedly over the existing no-layoffs policy, and neither side will get back to the table before late June, probably later. Gannett VP John Jaske has better things to do back in Virginia -- add another room onto the mansion, or kill a fox, maybe.

6/7/02 Star-Bulletin staff goes hungry!
Two more eateries at Restaurant Row have gone belly-up. Lucarelli's and Boomerangs. We'll miss them for the usual reasons -- the food was good and we could afford to eat there (that is, if we shared a meal). Heaven knows I'm not one to give unsolicited advice, but: To Mr. Black, our owner -- please don't open any restaurants at Restaurant Row! It should be called Restaurant Death Row. Or maybe we can convince them to rename it Newspaper Row. Even though we've only been in business 15 months, we've lasted longer than most of the restaurants there.

6/10/02 The difference between the two papers
How do the two dailies in Honolulu -- certainly the most "ethnic" state capitol in the United States -- stack up when covering minority issues? Here's a note from a reader concerning the way both papers covered the opening of the state's first Filipino-American community center late last week:
Check out the lame-o special section on Fil-Com the 'Tizer had in today's paper; all frickin' ads and filler copy.
Now check the blow-em-away coverage done by Rose Bernardo (in the Star-Bulletin) on Thursday and Friday.
Who goes for the money? Who goes for the substance? Where should community groups go if they want to shop around a tab like that next time?

6/15/02 We win again
There will be more details in tomorrow's or Monday's newspapers, but the Honolulu Star-Bulletin again more than held its own against the Honolulu Advertiser in this year's Society of Professional Journalist Awards. We scored 25 awards -- one to me, for something, apparently -- to their 22, of which both papers each got 10 First Places. Sounds like a dead heat, except when you figure they've got millions of dollars in Gannett money, twice our staff and a ferociously enforced mandate from on high to kill us dead, dead, dead. And we still managed to pull ahead. (Insert Woody Woodpecker laugh here).

Jack Wyatt
Star-Bulletin Sports
6/19/02 Just Jack
It was a kind of standing gag in the newsroom -- no matter where you go, there's Jack. It was one of the few constants in a changing universe. Jack Wyatt, who wrote sports for more than a quarter-century at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, was a walker extraordinaire. Invariably, no matter where you went, you'd see Jack trucking down the sidewalk, smiling and waving. Once, when I was driving around with Lois Taylor, Jack popped out from between some parked cars and Lois ran into him. Jack just rolled over the hood, waved and moved on, totally unfazed, while Lois shrieked in dismay. Jack retired in 1998.
Yesterday, a Hawaiian fellow went nuts and stomped down the length of the Ala Wai Canal, assaulting citizens and throwing them into the water. One was Jack Wyatt, who struck his head and drowned. He was 71.
According to the Honolulu Advertiser, who interviewed the perp's apartment manager, Cline Kahue was well-mannered, and occasionally would "hold the door open for ladies." Kahue has not yet been charged.
Police at the scene left Wyatt's body floating facedown in the Ala Wai Canal for more than 20 minutes.

6/21/02 Killers have self-esteem issues too
Sure enough, within a few hours of the reports of Jack Wyatt's death at the hands of a deranged person, we received a letter to the editor proclaiming that the perp was the "real victim." This happens like clockwork, particularly when the person causing the crime is of a perceived "minority" group.

6/24/02 Another investor in our future!
Another financial whiz has cast his retirement fortune with the Star-Bulletin. Larry Johnson, former CEO of the corporation that owned Bank of Hawaii, is the latest investor to come on board. Having so many banker types investing in the paper is going to be interesting in a year when Hawaii's best-known banker, Walter Dods, may be running for governor. The Star-Bulletin will not have a conflict of interest -- there's a firewall between the investors and the newsroom -- but it might be perceived that way.

6/25/02 Timing isn't everything in the news biz, it's the only thing
While superbanker Walter Dods was declining to run for governor on page A-1 of our paper, our generally amusing columnist Chaz Memminger was urging him to do exactly that -- nothing -- on page D-1.

6/30/02 So ... why are Gannett's actions considered a security issue?
Ian Lind, that scamp, has FOIA'd theJustice Department files on the Honolulu Advertiser and Star-Bulletin shut-down and sale, and is beginning to go through them. Here's the cover letter. What's most interesting is that he's only received a portion of what he asked for -- the other documents involved in this very public matter are being withheld. Why? They claim "privacy" is the issue.
Reminds me of one of the many times I got into trouble over at the Advertiser building. I filed an FOIA on the Honolulu Advertiser itself during the World War II period. Between 1941 and 1945, Honolulu Advertiser publisher Lorrin Thurston also served as the public-relations manager for the military governor and used the newspaper as a propaganda vehicle to enforce martial law. Anyway, the Gannett Advertiser lawyers pitched a fit, and my own editors -- ex-Gannett employees -- caved like a sand castle at high tide. So, even the events of 60 years ago are verboten.
NEXT! July 2002
Summertime Blues

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