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HonoluluNewsBlues
March 2000

The Year of
Stalemate and Sitzkrieg
An Offensive Defense

Dispatches from the Front by Burl Burlingame
3/2/00 Gannett's attornies are notorious for filing at the last second and then only to restate the obvious. Even so, their motion to have the state's and SOS' anti-closure suit dismissed as moot made it to court with only five minutes to spare! Gannett's claim was that the state and Save Our Star-Bulletin suffered no harm and so "there is no antitrust violation for which the court can grant relief." The motion also claimed that "economic forces" will "continue to drive the Star-Bulletin further into its downward spiral."
For once, they skirted the obvious: Gannett itself was the "economic force" that will make sure that the Star-Bulletin suffers. The situation is similar to that of Coca-Cola allowing Pepsi to handle its distribution and sales.
Dismissing the suit on the grounds that the original shutdown failed was another attempt to deflect investigation into the manner in which Gannett violated the public trust by scheming to shut down newspapers under the cover of the Failing Newspaper Act. All of Gannett's legal actions to date are focused on avoiding discovery in an open court, and not on a solution to Honolulu's JOA problems.
The Star-Bulletin -- and by extension, the public -- HAVE been harmed by Gannett/Liberty's actions, which have their roots in the 1992 agreement:
*Services, promotion and distribution of the product have been cut back or curtailed.

*The Star-Bulletin's discretionary budget has been trimmed, so that it is difficult or impossible to fund off-island newsgathering. The Star-Bulletin's Washington bureau reporter, Pete Pischake, was given a few hours to clean out his desk last fall. The newspaper currently has no reporter in Washngton, unlike virtually all major dailies.

*Since Gannett's lapdog Liberty took over the Star-Bulletin in 1993, 43 of the newspaper's 98 staffers have left.

*Gannett's own motions announce intent to murder the Star-Bulletin, despite its profitability and contribution to Gannett's own bottom line.

*Reporters and editors who have left the newspaper since the closure announcement are being denied severance pay by Gannett, and the issue is going to arbitration, even though Gannett forced them to leave. All staffers of the Star-Bulletin received layoff notices in 1999, but there has been no follow-up from Gannett voiding the original notice.

*The Star-Bulletin's staff continues to work with the certain knowledge that one of the largest, most powerful and absolutely ruthless media companies in the world is scheming night and day to have them eliminated and turn Honolulu into a one-voice town. And that voice is Gannett's.
3/3/00 We spent a good part of the day discussing possible legal strategies for Gannett. Do they want to force this to trial -- but be forced to testify and allow discovery? Shut up and go back to the JOA -- even after they've already testified that they'll try agin in the future to kill the Star-Bulletin? Negotiate a settlement that will appease the SOS lawsuit -- but still allow a lingering death? Or maybe they'll be forced to sell the paper -- but make it impossible for a legitimate buyer to come forward.
3/6/00 The Seattle Times became a morning paper on this day after more than 100 years as an afternoon publication. The Justice Department was closely reviewing this modification of the Seattle JOA.
3/9/00 City editor Alan Matsuoka announced he's leaving to sit among the magic clouds of Volcano and follow his literary muse. Sounds tempting, getting away from all this pressure.
3/10/00 In a memo giving an "update" on contract negotiations, Gannett publisher Mike Fisch clumsily threatened his existing staff, hoping out loud there won't be "Significant staff reductions or major changes in the standard of living our employees have enjoyed."
3/18/00 The San Francisco Examiner had a buyer approved! The news certainly cheered up a newspaper staff in this neck of the Pacific.
3/25/00 Frank Vega, one of Gannett's mean-spirited toughs in the Detroit newspaper debacle, quietly visited Honolulu.
3/31/00 As the month wound down, we were happy to see both the Hawaii House and Hawaii Senate pass resolutions supporting our struggle. These are the same guys we investigate daily as journlaists. What a weird world.
NEXT! April 2000
Falsehoods, Lies and Dammed Lies

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