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HonoluluNewsBlues
November 2003

The Year of
Switching Commanders
Banana Fever

Dispatches from the Front by Burl Burlingame

11/5/03 Can't we all just get along (Lance does not play well with others)?
I know, I know, it's surprising -- unbelievable, really -- that this little yappy-dog Web site occasionally gets negative comments from readers. Here's one that arrived yesterday, apparently after people up the street at the other newspaper learned that Star-Bulletin/MidWeek publisher David Black suffered an injury requiring some stitches:
With any luck, he'll be permanently disfigured from crappy Canadian health care. That's what he gets for messing with an American newspaper ...
Well, that's just plain mean. As annoyed as I've ever gotten at the fascist thugs running Gannett, I've never wished for disfigurment. Jail time, yes, maybe an unfortunate incident in a prison shower, but nothing that leaves a mark.
Here's one that's more typical, from a "Lance Ta." I have no idea if that's a real name, or if some prankster has hijacked his email address. It was subjectlined "sour a(ss)pple"
you are such a sore loser ... always knocking competition, out of jealousy?
how come nothing had been mentioned about midweek.
it appears the "cover" is for sale, for a price to your advertisers.
what makes the furniture store a cover? and bia? hmmm, could it be the $$$ they spend?
why don't you mention or respond to that in your website, huh?

Respond? OK. I don't work at MidWeek. My company and MidWeek are owned by the same parent, but the operations are completely separate. Each has their own personality and market. If I wanted to work at a chain of publications that are micromanaged into numbing, cookiecutter sameness, I'd be working for Gannett. Speaking of which, Gannett is counteriing MidWeek by imitating it with Island Weekly, except that the contents are pilfered and recycled from the Gannett Advertiser.
Lance's comment that is interesting is "sore loser." What have we lost? We win simply by remaining in the game, and it is not a competition to destroy the other player (at least, not on OUR part). It's about providing an alternative local voice to mainland corporate dogma. It's about coexistance and competition. As long as the Honolulu Star-Bulletin stays alive, there is competitive news coverage, lower advertising rates and better deals for everyone. If the Gannett Advertiser becomes the only publication, it's highly professional news staff will be decimated, ad rates will go sky-high, Gannett's charity monies will evaporate and we'll wind up with a thin, pennysaver-type daily newspaper, excactly as Gannett has done elsewhere in the country. So who "wins" by this competition? Hawaii's citizens.

11/8/03 MidWeek melee
And here's a response to the item above, from a former MidWeek staffer:
MidWeek's cover "for sale"? Of course it was, for a long time. It's an info-tainment guide, not a daily newspaper, and can't be compared, and why should it? Publisher Ken Berry made no secret that the cover was for sale under his watch -- and that's why he was hired by Gannett, to do the same for Island Weekly. These days, it's the Island Weekly that goes to the highest bidder, not MidWeek, thanks to Berry. That's his brand of journalism. Who would "buy" a cover showing Hawaii's Most Wanted, or the one of nuns playing guitar? Get real.

11/10/03 The Presidential Game
True Confessions Time: I've been enjoying the Democratic Presidential debates. And primarily for their entertainment value! Watch 'em while you can, before the Homeland Security Office shuts 'em down. (On Fox News yesterday, anchor Laurie Dhue (sp?) kept comparing Democrats to terrorists in the gist of her questions to Republicans. Yeah, you decide, all right.) Politically, there's not a lick of real difference between the candidates, so it comes down to personality issues -- Lieberman is a little too wound up, Kerry a little too smug and vacant, Mosley-Braun is the strict teacher you had in intermediate school, Kucinich is the brainy nerd who tells you how to build a watch when you ask the time, Clark is earnest but uncomfortable as a politician (point in his favor), Edwards drags along his middle-class background like luggage, Gephardt needs to grow some eyebrows before anyone will take him seriously, Dean appears to be enjoying a private joke at our expense and Sharpton is crazy-scary-hilarious, but a headline writer's dream. The "Rock the Vote" debate orchestrated by CNN last week was particularly fun -- in a "Fear Factor" kind of way -- and I thought one of the questions posed by one of the kids was brilliant: "Are you Mac or PC?" In a short stroke, it asks a lot in a way that's deep and illuminating. Are you a creative, get-it-done, out-of-the-box dreamer, or are you a detail-oriented slave to a crumbling, unknowable mystery? It turns out the question was invented by a CNN journalist, and the student really wanted to ask some rambling hypothetical about technological inducements. Snore! Kids today, huh? Anyway, here's a link toi my recent encounter with President Bush.
 

11/11/03 A patriotic tale for Armistice Day
Recently, Spike TV wrapped up their highly rated "Joe Schmo Show," in which some doofus thought that what was happening around him was real, when it was really an elaborate con. Filming the next season of "Joe Schmo" is the only logical explanation for what happened to Maher Arar, a Syrian-Canadian citizen and by all accounts an average Joe who was seized by Tom Ridge's Secret Police, jailed without charges and then illegally deported to Syria, where he was beaten and tortured for nearly a year. The Syrians didn't want him; he was held at U.S. request. He recently got out, and the Canadians are hopping mad about the way one of their citizens was treated. I didn't know that pissing off allies was creating a safer world, but then anything's possible in the "Joe Schmo" universe

11/11/03 Over There -- The War to End All Wars ended 85 years ago today
I couldn't resist making this screenshot off my computer at work this morning. It was at this moment that an Armistice went into effect during the Great War. Most nations still commemorate the event, but in America we morphed it into the more generic Veteran's Day. Here's my favorite Marine Corps quote from that conflict: I have only two out of my company and 20 out of some other company. We need support, but it is almost suicide to try to get it here as we are swept by machine gun fire and a constant barrage is on us. I have no one on my left and only a few on my right. I will hold! -- First Lieutenant Clifton B. Cates, USMC, 96th Co., Soissons, 19 July 1918.
11/13/03 "Comp" doesn't stand for "complementary"
The Gannett Advertiser's editorial staff has a quickie Guild meeting planned for noon today to discuss the company's latest anti-worker measure, the abolition of "comp" or compensatory time. Most reasonable employers use comp time as a safety valve for those times when there just aren't enough hours in the day to do the job. That happens when news breaks. Journalists are generally motivated professionals who know they are performing a public service and don't mind putting in the extra hours when the public interest is at stake. Gannett knows this and uses it against them. Comp-time isn't in the Tiser's Guild contract, it's a side agreement. What will happen is that the employees will resent putting in extra hours for the company's benefit without being compensated -- no overtime pay, either -- and that attitude will be noted in their secret personnel files, and if they work the hours they're paid for and leave with the work undone, that will be noted too, and all those mid-level Gannett managers will finally earn their pay by riding employees every second of the day, making sure no one takes a breather, and if they do, THAT will be noted as well, They'll have plenty of self-created excuses to fire employees. And there's your hidden agenda.
In other news, Gannett publisher Mike Fisch waxes flatulent about the wonders of the new press and pretends he's a guy who likes to get his hands dirty. That's about as likely as Leslie Wilcox leaving KHON.

11/15/03 The newspapers that can't communicate
Interestingly, we've discovered that emails with starbulletin.com addresses can't be sent to folks at honoluluadvertiser.com, nor the other way 'round. A filter has been set up so there will be no interaction between workers at the two newspapers. I checked with our web guys, and it's not on our end. How are we going to catch up on the latest gossip about Jim Kelly's job-hunting elsewhere?

11/18/03 Playing catch-up
* This one sailed right by me, but Ian noted the irony the other day -- a Crimestoppers alert went out last month about a company raising funds for the University of Hawaii, but the UH folks had no idea who they were, so they smelled fraud. We did a story on it to alert citizens, which the Gannett Advertiser picked up on and repeated the next day. But, as Rod Antoine reported Saturday, the company is supposedly legit --- and working for the Advertiser! The geniuses at the Tiser failed to adequately notify the university. Or read their own newspaper.
* In response to the item about emails between the two papers on 11/15/03, one of our make-up people responded: I'm not sure bout u, but the advertising dept gets emails from the G-men all the time ... theyre usually from someone@honolulu.gannett.com ... they bug us when theyre too lazy too build their own ads and ask us to send them ours.
* And in the Gannett story about their new presses, this line appeared:
Removing the old presses on Kapi'olani Boulevard will take 10 months, beginning in 2005. The hole left behind will create room to begin a total renovation of the 75-year-old News Building at 605 Kapi'olani Blvd., which will continue to house advertising, news and administrative operations ... Note there's no mention of the other Gannett-owned address, which is 610 Kawaiahao. The complex where the facility sits is actually two lots, both owned by Gannett. The one fronting Kapiolani, more than 84,000 square feet, contains the original News Building and the parking lot, while the rear lot, 78,000 square feet, contains the production, printing, sorting, distribution and paper-storage facilities. This is the lot that will be disposed of and demolished, but Gannett faces a lot of environmental clean-up first, including those underground gasoline tanks.

11/20/03 Tuning us out
One of the great innovations of the Web is the concept of sharing original music. I'm not talking about ripping off established musicians by downloading their tunes. It's about independent artists trying to connect to the rest of the world in as direct a way as possible. The leader in that is the great mp3.com site, where you put your original music and anyone can listen to it. The Star-Bulletin has at least three artists who do so -- myself, Nancy and Mark -- and to me it's like a cool miracle that someone in Uganda or Tibet or Finland or Uruguay can groove on some song I've written. It's not just cool, it's way-cool. I've heard from folks about it, from around the world. But alas, all good things must pass. Mp3.com has been acquired by C/NET, and the future of the site is in limbo. Here's an essay by Glenn Reynolds that sums it up better than I ever could.

11/21/03 Communications restored
Whatever glitch it was that was preventing email from going back and forth between the two newspaper has been fixed, or simply went away. Now, if we just had something to say ...

11/24/03 Miss Baraquio's assigned reading list
The uncontrolled drooling of newspaper columnists aside, it's a fact, Jack, that Miss America 2001 Angela Perez Baraquio is awfully cute. Here she is showing off her favorite reading material, or maybe she was just amused by the "Destructive wind" headline. An elementary teacher by profession, Baraquio has quite a successful second career as a TV pitchwoman, such as the new icon for First Hawaiian Bank. She's not the reason my wife and I are leaving Bank of Hawaii after a quarter-century relationship, however -- Bankoh managed tp alienate us all on their own with their creative bookkeeping and mystery fees. Bankoh also removed their ATM machine from Restaurant Row, so we actually have to go for a drive to get cash, and we're in downtown Honolulu! Anyway, back to Miss Angela -- the Hawaii Visitors Bureau is missing out by not making her the "face" of Hawaii to the world.

11/25/03 We become an ingredient in the Wall Street Journal's facist fruitcake!
Whatever. The WSJ's Internet scouring pad, James Taranto, misread a Star-Bulletin editorial and heaped scorn upon the paper for suggesting that some issues are best left up to the courts instead of the predjudices of the voters. That's how blacks got the votes, BTW, but the WSJ still longs for plantation days. We're the item underneath Dispatchs From the PC Nuthouse.
11/30/03 Taking off
The Thanksgiving holiday and weekend were primarily spent at the office, working on a special tab insert dealing with Hawaii's aviation history. I'd discovered that the state planned a big whoop-ti-do at Barbers Point/Kalaleloa to commemorate the centennial of powered flight, and suggested to the publisher that we do something. I started working on my own in early November gathering facts for a "100 Milestones of Hawaiian Aviation History" graphic, but the newspaper editor told me there'd be no room in the paper in December to run anything I produced. I switched gears and began to redesign the graphic either for Feature or OpEd when word came down in mid-November that the tab was on! There was a tremendous amount of research to be done right away, but it could only be done after the normal days' duties were completed -- the daily newspaper comes first. It made for a stressful work environment, particularly since the actual contents of the section weren't to be decided until the last second by Star-Bulletin managers. Despite it all, Flights of Fancy was printed and distributed to Star-Bulletin readers in early December. The Gannett Advertiser had nothing comparable.
NEXT! December 2003
Street-Fighting Man

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