11/9/00 It's a Deal!
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HonoluluNewsBlues
November 2000

The Year of
Stalemate and Sitzkrieg
The Cavalry Comes Over the Hill

Dispatches from the Front by Burl Burlingame
11/7/00 Star-Bulletin suitor David Black got a taste of doing battle with Gannett, who, during the last days of negotiations, wholly fabricated a rift between Black and the Hawaii Newspaper Guild.
It began when Advertiser publisher Mike Fisch cranked out a bizarre press release claiming that the deal was off because Black was anti-union. "That Mr. Black won't accept the Guild contract creates far-reaching issues with implications for employees of both newspapers represented by the unions," Fisch claimed, which was both a lie and a threat to his own employees.
"Gannett calling another employer an anti-union employer is like the pot calling the kettle black," noted Wayne Cahill of the Guild.
Not even Fisch's own staff fell for that one.
Fourteen months after Save Our Star-Bulletin was organized to preserve an alternate editorial voice in Hawaii, Canadian newspaper owner David Black bolted out of Honolulu's Federal Courthouse and announced that a deal had been struck moments before to save the newspaper. Negotiations with Gannett had been rocky and mean-spirited so far.
Above and right, Honolulu media swarmed around Black at the Federal courthouse.The Advertiser sent four reporters to cover the 7-minute press conference! Here, relieved Star-Bulletin staffers celebrated that evening at Murphy's as if it were VJ-Day.


Jim Gatti
11/14/00 The first high-level casualty of a competitive newspaper market in Honolulu? Advertiser Editor Jim Gatti called a staff meeting and resigned, retiring from the journalism game at age 57. An embarrassing silence reigned until publisher Mike Fisch insisted that the staff applaud.
Some 'Tiser staffers liked Gatti, others detested him. No one was neutral, it seemed. He was always cool and reserved with me, saying little but scowling like a hungry bear.
His replacement would be Contra Costa Times managing editor Saundra Keyes, a long-time Knight-Ridder executive who's bolting from that chain. It would be unkind to point out that she had worked at steadily smaller newspapers since she presided over the gutting of the Miami Herald in the mid-'90s -- but it's true nonetheless.
11/16/00 Gannett began targeting the Guild members of the recently acquired Indianapolis Star for termination.
11/17/00 Star-Bulletin reporters and editors found it increasingly difficult to use our own archives in the HNA shared library as new "rules" were posted. For the first time since I started at the newspaper in 1979, doors were being locked in our faces. Gannett also increased the number of security guards on the building once again, warning the guards that Star-Bulletin personnel are capable of stealing anything.
11/28/00 Star-Bulletin Newspaper Guild members overwhelmingly ratified a provisional contract with Canadian publisher David Black despite some reservations. Black proved very tough at the table, and I think he was surprised that we weren't exactly rolling over for him. Even so, it's the first time in 14 months we've actually been able to do something about our own fate, and it was strangely satisfying and disconcerting at the same time.
"Overall, we've accomplished something we've never been able to accomplish in this country as far as I know," noted Guild director Wayne Cahill. "Fourteen months ago, Gannett wanted to close the Star-Bulletin and fire everybody who worked for it."
These pictures, courtesy Ian Lind, show the meeting and ballot-counting. Of 64 eligible to vote, the tally was 54 in favor, with ten against or abstaining, about an 85 percent margin. Many who voted no confided that they would have voted yes if they suspected the contract would have trouble passing.
Like Florida election officials, Gannett Advertiser editors apparently had trouble counting and deliberately painted a wider division than existed, claiming "Of the paper's roughly 90 employees, 54 voted for the contract." Since reporter Frank Cho interviewed me while working on the story, I know he had the right numbers.
It was an incredibly hectic day as I spent most of it preparing a major story that I was pretty sure would be a scoop and an exclusive.
11/29/00 My story appears and, huzzah, the other media in town had not tumbled to it yet. A public-relations person called me in the afternoon and said that other media had been calling her all day annoyed that they not only had no idea this story was occurring, but that the Star-Bulletin had such a complete package on it. "That's what the Star-Bulletin DOES," she told them.
This warm glow is tempered by second thoughts about the contract we were forced to sign. No one is happy about it, but we also realized we did not have much of a choice. A lot of the good will toward Black had evaporated, particularly since he seemed to be treating this all-important negotiation rather off-handedly, giving his end to a local lawyer who seemed more intent on running up his billable hours than settling issues. This guy wasted everyone's time.
NEXT! December 2000
It'll Be a Black Christmas Without You

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