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November 2002

The Year of
Sustained Casualties

Dispatches from the Front by Burl Burlingame

11/4/02 Road rage
It's the day before Election Day, and while driving the kids to school, we saw a panel truck gruesomely decorated with bloody, aborted fetuses, while the pinhead behind the wheel grinned at people's shocked reactions. "Now there's an issue," says I to the kids. "Ick," they said. Turns out it's advertising for a whole line of anti-abortion knick-knacks. Apparently, there's good money to be made feeding on obsessive self-righteousness.

11/6/02 Times, they are a'changin'
Governor Linda Lingle. Governor Linda Lingle. It's going to take me awhile to get used to that. At least this time around she didn't have fundamentalist wacko Stan Koki attached to her like an lead anchor. I'm convinced that Koki is the reason she didn't win four years ago. This time, Lingle won a comforatable margin over Lt. Gov. incumbent Mazie Hirono, but it was by no means resounding. Maybe, eventually, in time, Lingle's own Lt. Gov., Duke Aiona, will learn not to pronounce her name "Lingalindle," as if it were one word. Aiona also got the prize for the campaign's most-awkwardly staged TV ad, in which he seized a child in a headlock and dragged the poor kid around the yard while a scrimmage line of embarrassed-looking ladies took up defensive-tackle positions on both sides.

11/7/02 Leaving Pangs
Awesome political reporter Gordon Pang is leaving us for the greener money at the Gannett Advertiser.

11/7/02 Equal measure
According to this week's Honolulu Weekly, MidWeek Publishing has donated money to the Lingle campaign, a move that caused some vigorous dialectic in the newsroom. Scuttlebutt has it, though, that an equal amount was donated to the Democratic candidate -- or at least they tried to donate it. Numerous calls to Democratic Party headquarters, offering money, were made, but no calls were ever returned. Finally, a check was mailed blindly. Sounds symptomatic of the bizarre Democratic confusion over the last several months.

11/8/02 Going down, down, down ...
Despite the Gannett Advertiser's claims of greatly increased circulation, theres a great deal of difference between simply printing and giving away piles of papers and the number of customers willing to pay for the product. The latest Hawaii figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations tell an interesting story -- the Gannett paper was the only newspaper in Hawaii to lose ground over the last year. Of their daily newspaper, a.m. and p.m. combined, the Advertiser is selling 143,696 a day, a drop of 8,402 in a year. Of the Sunday Advertiser, the paid distribution is 166,673, down 6,664 over the last year. The Sunday Star-Bulletin, of course, had a beginning circulation of zero.

11/10/02 Going down, down, down ... aha!
Well, of course the Advertiser's paid circulation is going down, a reader writes in. I think some people (like me) have always considered it to be a free newspaper! Places like the schools and hospitals where I work get several copies, then pass them around to anyone that wants to read it.
If you see anything interesting in the Star-Bulletin, you have to go out buy one from the machine or a seller.
We'll live with that.
By the way, the Gannett Advertiser's declining circulation numbers are courtesy ABC's "preliminary figures Fas-Fax" to newspapers and advertising clients. Gannett, on the board of ABC, will certainly attempt to revise them upward. We'll see.

11/11/02 Copyright? What's that?
In the appropriately entitled "Stupid Issue," the Honolulu Weekly both takes the Star-Bulletin's ethics to task for making campaign contributions, and on the opposite page, steals a Star-Bulletin photo of union boss Gary Rodrigues from the web site. It's credited, but they didn't bother to ask permission.
And they retouched it! In the original version, reporter and "social activist" Ian Lind is standing in the background, grinning at Rodrigues.

11/14/02 Gridiron Gov
This picture was forwarded of the Gridiron 2002 cast backstage with Gov. Ben and Vicki Cayetano. That's me lower right, exhausted from reading three lines off a piece of paper.
"We may make vicious fun of you," I told the Gov. "But at least we spelled your name right."
"Big whoop," he responded.

11/15/02 The hard sell
Perhaps due to their declining circulation figures, the Gannett Advertiser has resumed TV ads and telemarketing. One of our staff the other day got a call from some fellow who insisted that she subscribe to the paper, the come-on line being that she was an idiot if she didn't take the Advertiser. "No thank you," she said. "I prefer the Star-Bulletin." The what? he responded. There's another newspaper in Honolulu? Maybe they should brief these guys.
Union negotiations at the Gannett paper are bogged diwn. The newsroom isn't doing much of anything. At some point however, when they close down the PM edition and start laying off people, because the old contract is in effect until superceded, the last hired will be the first fired. Must be difficult to recruit, unless the new hire has no clue how worthless a verbal promise from a Gannett executive is.

The real action -- or inaction -- is with the pressmen. Gannett wants to get rid of as many as possible -- they have too many now, and when the new plant opens in Kapolei they'll only need a half-dozen or so with the modern machinery. But Gannett is also refusing to "buy out" the contracts of those who remain. The deal Gannett gave other pressmen a couple of years ago is no longer available.

11/17/02 The new news crew
We've got some new people on board, replacing the departed. Welcome to Susan Essoyan and Sally Apgar, both well-regarded, capable writers. Alas, neither collects GI Joes.

11/18/02 Aloha Ayumi
Finally letting the door hit her in the okole after several months of being an intern in our Photo department is Ayumi Nakanishi, who'd become a fixture around here. It was great seeing someone learn as much as she did. Ayumi sent us this note: It has been an amazing experience for me, the best journalism experience I have ever had in my entire life. The last 4.5 months convinced me that this is truly what I want to do for the rest of my life.
Thank you so much for having me, all your help, being so patient with me and teaching me so much. I learned so much from every one of you. I was happier than ever working for the paper, meeting beautiful people everyday and getting to know about Hawaii. Everyday, I woke up so happy and excited about what I would get to do that day. I wish I was a permanent intern here at the Star Bulletin!

11/19/02 Gary's going to the Graybar Hotel
UPW union head Gary Rodrigues (and his daughter) were found guilty of hundreds of counts in federal court today. Ian Lind, who started the ball rolling several years ago with stories in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, must be feeling a peculiar sense of completion right now.

11/20/02 Invited in, and escorted out
We're hearing that Gannett Advertiser executive Chris McMahon has been placed at liberty rather abruptly by Gannett, so quickly that he was escorted from the building. McMahon, you might recall, is the Ken Berry protege at MidWeek whose sexist antics got the paper sued. One statement described how he "scratched at his face in a crazy fashion until he drew blood. He also banged his head on the desk several times." Former MidWeek publisher Berry followed McMahon to Gannett, nearly a year ago. When the year is up on Dec. 12, we'll see if Berry has a one-year contract with Gannett that expires. Gannett, however, should recognize Berry's extra-special genius and place him in charge of everything, absolutely everything. That's my suggestion.

11/21/02 That Jersey boy
Gannett is attempting to take over most of the newspapers in New Jersey as well, and here's an interesting profile of their guy on the spot, Robert T. Collins. Apparently, there's been an exodus of journalists from the Garden State thanks to his actions.

11/23/02 Negotiation Update #1,676
Anti-union negotiators for Gannett are giving way slightly. The no-layoffs clause may be off the table, and they're no longer demamnding an 11.5% wage reduction for all staff. Now it's journalists a 6.25% wage reduction, all others 11.5% wage reduction, and all new hires (since 6/9/02) at 70% of scale. So much for attracting talent.
Among other negotiating points -- Gannett wants sick leave reduced to three days a year (going up with experience), will allow part-time employees to participate in the dental plan as long as the employee pays the entire cost, reduce vacation time to four weeks after 15 years of service. use freelance ad-sales stringers for both display and classified ads, allow Gannett supervisors to take over Guild work, "allow" newsroom employees to write and take pictures simultaneously, increase the employee cost of covering dependents under the medical plan, and have no time limit on the contract. Oh, and severely limit medical coverage for employees with psychiatric or psychological disabilities. Wonder how that'll affect the dozen or so employees on leave there for Gannett-inspired mental stress?
None of this compares to how Donrey Media (Gannett's business partner in Hawaii) is handling the Hile Tribune-Herald's Guild negotiations. There, Donrey is demanding that they be allowed to subcontract all work to non-Guild freelancers, Donrey executives will take over Guild jobs, all job openings to be filled by non-Guild hires, will refuse to train Guild employees on new equipment, create arbitrary rules of conduct, change job descriptions on a whim, fire employees without notice or reason, eliminate severance pay, Donrey executives would determine if an employee was "under the influence" while ordering surprise drug testing, and -- without notice -- lay off employees at random.
"Drug testing" is a favorite tool of anti-worker corporations, as they suspend the worker pending the outcome of the test, and then claim there are privacy issues surrounding the drug-test results. It's kept secret, even from the suspended employee, and so there's no independent confirmation. What are the chances the company might fudge the outcome if there's no check on their behavior?
If ever there was a newspaper headed for a strike, the Hilo H-T is it. Not smart in a strong union town like Hilo. But then Donrey has never played it smart when it comes to unions. They've spent millions in wasted anti-union legal fees in Hilo and never succeeded in a single thing -- except annoying their readership base.

11/24/02 AOL/Time Warner/Star-Bulletin?
The Case family of Kauai are the latest to buy into minority ownership of the newspaper. The Cases include son Steve, the chairman of AOL Time-Warner. Ironically, when the newspaper staff was looking for investors to assist in saving the newspaper, Steve Case was the first person we appealed to, but we received no response. We thought would be a nice fit for AOL's news operation, but Case invested in Maui pineapples instead. Doubly ironically, once Cox Interactive Media (of Atlanta's Cox Newspapers) learned we were pitching at AOL, they sent us some nibbles.

11/25/02 Us and Them, Part fifty-deux
What's the difference between the way the two newspapers in town do things? Here's today's example: The Governor has a new house built, and the Gannett Advertiser has a whole team cover it like it was the Manhattan Project. Their gushy package looked splendid, but rather dull, and also detailed the building's floor plans -- despite the First Lady's and the Secret Service's expressed wishes to maintain security. No one, not even the Secret Service, is going to tell the 'Tiser what to do. But when we do it, it's the Royal We, because I had to do it on my lonesome, including photography and QTVR coverage, squeezing it in between my regular duties. We haven't got the extra bodies to go overboard like they do. But our package wasn't dull.

11/27/02 More competition for Green Bay Ray
It might be an effort to further erode the Green Bay News-Chronicle competition, or simply one big corporation climbing into bed with another, but Gannett's Green Bay Press-Gazette has launched a Green Bay Packers news-subscription web site in conjunction with the team, called They charge $4.95 a month for access to columns by coach Mike Sherman, videos of players, play diagrams, pre- and post-game analysis. We developed Packers Premium to meet the demand of Packers fans throughout the world who want more than what they can get with their hometown news coverage, said Green Bay Press-Gazette publisher Bill Nusbaum.
The NFL team Minnesota Vikings have a similar subscription service called Purple Plus and Microsoft and the National Hockey League are getting into the subscription businessas well.
But the question is, how will this impair objective news coverage of the Packers by the Gannett paper in Green Bay?

11/28/02 Turkey (and Bull) Day
Kalani Simpson notes that our Chris Dudley's "Taming the Bull" story was named Notable Sports Writing of 2001 in the book "The Best American Sports Writing 2002."
Yes! hoots Simpson. Right up there with all the ESPNs and Sports Illustrateds and Washington Posts!

11/30/02 The Delicate Sound of Thunder
Tonight the University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors play the University of Alabama at Aloha Stadium. The Gannett Advertiser is oh-so-sad that Rainbow fans won't be able to make as much noise as they possibly could at the game. The Advertiser planted a story on Oct. 30 strongly suggesting that UH fans were deprived of using a product called ThunderStix, made famous by the Anaheim Angels during the World Series. 'Thunder' claps could help UH against Tide read the headline, and the lede of the story claimed that the University was being thwarted in this wish by stadium authorities. Some 8,000 free ThunderStix were ready to be distributed!
A few days later, the 'Tiser planted a somewhat weighted readers' poll.
Do you feel the stadium should reconsider and allow 'ThunderStix' to be used? was the question.
Edwin Hayashi, Aloha Stadium manager, wrote a letter to the editor a week later, pointing out that artificial noisemakers have been banned at the stadium since 1982, that everyone knows this, and that University officials agree with that mandate. Lower down, he notes that the University had nothing to do with buying or promoting the use of ThunderStix, a direct contradiction to the Oct. 30 Advertiser story.
So why was the Gannett Advertiser pushing this so strongly, to the point of urging a violation of stadium, university and NCAA rules?
It turns out Gannett bought the ThunderStix, and the noisy balloons all have ADVERTISER printed on them. (You all saw this coming, right?)
It was solely in Gannett's corporate self-interest, and has nothing to do with helping Hawaii. Gannett just didn't bother to let the public know about their conflict of interest. Maybe they thought they could get away with it because the Gannett paper has an exclusive promotions contract with the state-supported university.
So now the Gannett Advertiser has thousands of unused ThunderStix bearing its logo. I don't want to let the cat out of the bag, but I think I know what the Advertiser staff is getting in their Christmas stockings this year.
NEXT! December 2002
Embarrassing Allies

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