The Year of
Cashing In on Terror
Dispatches from the Front by Burl Burlingame
|9/3/01 The Honolulu Star-Bulletin invented something more than a half-century ago, an annual special edition that celebrated the changes in the territory and state, a kind of yearbook called the "Progress Edition." The news contained in it was more reflective and analytic, and it became a nifty advertising vehicle as well. The concept was bastadized under Gannett management and became a joke. The first edition of the new Star-Bulletin's capabilities, called Keiki to Kupuna -- and invariably called the Progree Edition by the staff -- came out this Sunday and is a handsome reminder of what the medium is capable of. It's also full of ads. We made money this Sunday! It's also well-printed, something the Gannett paper cannot approach.|
|9/5/01 Island Business magazine, the soon-to-be-doomed publication helmed
by former Star-Bulletin business writer Peter Wagner, is devoted
it's last two issues to the Newspaper War. The first story, written
by Mike Markrich, sets great store on two points:
* An upcoming Audit Bureau of Circulations report on distribution figures will be an important weapon in convincing advertisers where to spend their money. However, the next ABC audit will cover the period only up through March, BEFORE the papers split apart, and during a period when the Gannett Advertiser -- in violation of the Joint Operating Agreement -- was doing everything in its power to poison the Star-Bulletin's distribution, from near-daily press slow-downs to refusing to deliver the paper in some districts. So the Star-Bulletin figures will certainly be down. By the same token, when accurate post-separation figures are available next year, it will look like our circulation gains are even more impressive.
* The Gannett Advertiser's decision not to lower ad rates is treated as a smart move, forcing advertisers to choose rather than buy in both. Not mentioned, however, was that the Gannett ad-sales reps have been offering advertisers package deals that effectively reduce their rates so much that the Gannett paper won't show a profit for this year, and they began locking advertisers into long-term contracts at least six months before the papers separated.
|9/12/01 You can always count on Gannett to cash in on the silver lining in every cloud. The following is a copy of an internal memo to the ad-sales staff at the Gannett Advertiser, reproduced here exactly as received. Judging by the grammar, it may be a draft version, but you get the idea:|
|9/13/01 Since we broke the news Wednesday morning about Gannett attempts
to cash in on the World Trade Center assault, below, it was picked
up both by Ian Lind's site and the Poynter MediaNews site. Actually,
MediaNews knew about it Wednesday as well but didn't realize the
damning significance of the memo, and Ian, who has a better fax
machine, actually ran a picture of the memo.
After queries from Mainland reporters, the Gannett Advertiser's Mike Fisch decided to suspend the note-writing campaign, but not until Associated Press moved a story -- crediting us! -- for bringing it to folks attention. Fact is, Gannett didn't suspend the campaign because of its callow, sleazy nature, they did so because they were caught at it. Gannett manager Dennis Francis blamed online sites like this one for making them look bad, but he and Fisch are just scuttling away from the flashlight.
|9/14/01 The Gannett Advertiser is hoovering up every small publication in the islands in their desperate efforts to maintain market share. Their latest acquisition is the classified-ads giveaway Pennysaver, known for its sex ads. The tiny paper was printed on our press, now it'll be printed on theirs. Well, ouch! There goes a couple of hundred dollars.|
|9/15/01 We're not supposed to be here. Today is the two-year anniversary
of the day when Rupert Phillips delivered the news that he wasn't
making enough money, and that the Star-Bulletin, after 118 years,
was going to be killed. He then admitted that the newspaper was
profitable and that he was being paid by Gannett, his long-term
silent partner, to scuttle his own product. The fight that followed,
led by Hawaii's citizens and the Newspaper Guild, made journalism
history, preserved an informed electorate in Honolulu and allowed
David Black -- who's actually interested in newspapers -- to buy
Yesterday was also the six-month anniversary of our severance from Gannett's corporate business practices, and in that time our circulation and financial stability have grown steadily. We had a brief meeting to mark to occasion in the newsroom, above, and the most applause erupted when we learned that we had managed to distrubute newspapers on the neighbor islands during this incredible news week, while the Gannett Advertiser decided to skip these readers. We're not only taking the high ground, we're staking it out! Come and get us, G-men!
|9/16/01 Aw heck, while I'm on this cross-linking jag, I've started another (and now for something completely different!) web site about a subject dear to my heart, Army Baseball. If anyone's got any info about this -- admittedly! -- narrowly focussed subject, send 'em on.|
|9/16/01 Andy Lyon's swell "angry journalist" site at PoisonKitchen.com picked up our item about the sleazy "sympathy card" scam Gannett
Pacific tried to pull last week and is featuring it. Their take:
The Kitchen staff finds this extremely distasteful, not to mention shoddy and just cheap. Gannett head honcho, Doug McCorkindale should stop counting all his cash long enough to apologize. While we aren't sure, it looks vague enough to have been sent out industry-wide. If you're bold enough, check to see if your paper is involved in something like this and tell them how offensive you think it is.
Here's their go-to logo:
They also cross-linked to this site -- "We like the way you stare down the ogre!" -- and provided a capsule review of this site that says, partly:
Not since Captain Cook has an outsider caused so much trouble on the islands ... it's a great mixture of information and commentary and Burl isn't shy about letting you know what side he's on.
All righty, then. Also made us get off our lazy duffs and create a couple to go-to logos in the slim chance that anyone else out there wants to cross-link. Here ya go:
|9/17/01 From such little acorns of clues, mighty oaks of perfidy grow.
FACT -- Gannett Pacific is currently refusing to sign contracts with the Newspaper Guild, insisting that such contracts are between the Honolulu Advertiser and the Guild, not with them. (Never mind that Gannett spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on goombas to represent them in such negotiations.) And the contrat, offfered in a breathless fashion last December, runs out next June. Clock's ticking.
OBSERVATION -- Gannett spent a pile of shareholder dollars remodeling the News Building, creating an incredible amount of excess space.
CLUE -- To compete with the spin-off Honolulu Star-Bulletin (which was Gannett's choice, mind you: they could still be minting money with a JOA) Gannett Pacific -- sorry, the Honolulu Advertiser -- created an afternoon edition that is hemorrhaging resources and has no chance of success. Again, this was Gannett's choice.
OPPORTUNITY -- Gannett flew in scads of non-union workers on a "temporary" basis earlier this year, working them alongside the "permanent" staff. Think of it as a dry run, a proof-of-concept experiment.
MOTIVE -- Gannett is anti-democracy and anti-union, to the point of taking tremendous financial hits in order to dominate markets and remove the notion of choice from consumers. An example, Gannett exec Mike Fisch's desperate lies regarding union issues (love linking to outright official falsehoods printed as fact in the Advertiser!).
FACT plus OBSERVATION plus CLUE plus OPPORTUNITY plus MOTIVE equals SINISTER PLOT -- Well, duh. Try on this scenario: Gannett succeeds in creating a union contract wholly between the Newspaper Guild and the Honolulu Advertiser. Gannett then creates another, non-union, morning newspaper -- let's call it the Hawaii Advertiser -- and the Gannett Honolulu Advertiser becomes the failing afternoon paper, staffed solely by Guild members. Gannett might even find another two-bit bagman like Rupert Phillips to "buy" the afternoon paper. The two papers share space in the expanded news building. The union paper understandably fails under Gannett's faux stewardship. The Honolulu Advertiser vanishes, all union members and Advertiser workers are fired, and Gannett still owns the dominant morning paper in Honolulu, except that no one can afford to work there with take-it-or-leave-it wages and benefits. All of the people who have served the Honolulu Advertiser honorably and well are out on the street.
AW, C'MON -- Gannett wouldn't pull anything that arrogant, thuggish and underhanded, would they? And if you believe that, you've forgotten recent Honolulu newspaper history. Start reading Something Smells, below; and keeep going. You'll be quizzed later.
|9/18/01 Oops, they did it again. There's a natural progression of things, it seems. You'll see it first in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, and then you'll see it stolen in the Gannett Advertiser. The latest is the American flag. Upon hearing that stores were sold out of American flags, we ran a full-page reproduction of one last Friday so that folks could put one in their window, or whatever. The Gannett Advertiser copied us shamelessly and did exactly the same thing today, with two notable exceptions: They got the legal dimensions of the flag incorrect and they added their logo to the image of the flag. The United States of America, a subsidiary of Gannett!|
|9/19/01 A couple of days after MediaNews received information about the Gannett "sympathy card" memo, and linked to the later version at Ian Lind's site, MediaNews removed the link and all references to the event. It's like it never happened...|
|9/20/01 They never learn. Even though Gannett Advertiser ad-sales folks
were busted last week trying to cash in on the terrorism scare
and supposedly stopped sending out predigested "sympathy cards"
to clients, their cold-call subscription hustlers are using the
same scare tactic. The current script states that "in these times
of terrorism everybody's hungry for news. All your friends and
neighbors are subscribing to the Advertiser for their news because
they're good Americans. Why don't you join them?"
Also, you'd think by now that the cold-callers would have figured out that calling Star-Bulletin employees to pitch Advertiser subscriptions is a waste of time. But no. Several of our staff received the above call.
|9/21/01 The Gannett Advertiser's gaffe last week following the terrorism attack on the East Coast continues to fester. Ray Barrington at the Green Bay News-Chronicle reprints the note in full today, and adds, "Thanks, Gannett. And be sure to write us again the next time thousands of people are horribly killed by terrorists, will ya?"|
|9/22/01 The Gannett Advertiser gobbled up another tiny publication, a free-classified called Buy & Sell,
in their efforts to monopolize the advertising business in Hawaii.
Last week they bought Pennysaver, a direct competitor to Buy &
Sell. Apparently they also had to buy a sign-painting business
to acquire Buy and Sell. Everything will now be printed on Gannett's
crappy presses, which obviously wasn't the first choice of the
What's Gannett's goal here? To deny the Star-Bulletin/MidWeek job-printing money? These publications are so small that's pocket change, and our presses are too busy anyway. Maybe they're going after high-school papers next.
To completely dominate the classified market? Although notorious liar Mike Fisch waffles mightily about changes being made at either publication, they're likely doomed. Gannett now owns competing publications that also took classified dollars away from the Advertiser, and now they can't even make money printing these publications. The staffs at PennySaver and Buy & Sell must feel like passenger pigeons -- at any moment they're about to become extinct. And Hawaii consumers will have their advertising choices restricted.
Two predictions: Gannett must be dangling big dollars in front of Honolulu Weekly publisher Laurie Carlson at the moment, and there's easy money to be had -- just start up a free-classified paper on Oahu, and Gannett will buy it from you! Then start up another, and another...
|9/26/01 The Gannett Advertiser's bottomless war chest paid for an advertisement
in Pacific Business News after their claims of dirty Star-Bulletin
dealings fell on deaf ears, at least when anonymously reported
in their own news pages. In a nutshell, they hired the Audit Bureau
of Circulations (ABC) to whip out a special circulation audit
during a period of massive giveaways of their product, and because
the Star-Bulletin has decided to wait until the official audit
period next year to examine circulation, their complained to ABC
that our unofficial figures were improper. ABC only responded
that they wished only ABC would give out circulation figures (That's
how they make their living, duh. Imagine chaos reigning if publishers
didn't need ABC.) Gannett then took this behind-the-scenes petty
squabble and is trying to inflate it to dirigible size, but even
Gannett execs don't have that much hot air.
The thrust of the advertisement is that our owners are liars and the only newspaper people the public can trust are Gannett. Some interesting points have been raised, however, by Gannett's anguished weeping:
They don't say our numbers are wrong, just that Gannett doesn't want them made public unless they can contol the circumstances.
They claim their own circulation went up a whopping 61 percent overnight. This is astounding. This should be a cover story in Editor & Publisher. Has any newspaper in American history had that sort of success. This needs to be analyzed in detail. Break out those numbers, G-men! Show us how you did that. Oh, nobody paid for those papers and nobody asked for them? Well, then you're printing, not publishing.
What's the point of claiming such high numbers in a time when their credibility is zilch? This winter, when we get accurate numbers for both papers, it will simply look as if the Advertiser's decline in circulation was more precipitous than it was. Unless they're looking for an excuse to kill the Advertiser and create another, non-Guild newspaper. The best excuses are those you plan in advance.
|9/28/01 Gannett Advertiser publisher Mike Fisch told at least one freelance reporter that the Newspaper Guild is providing the Advertiser with confidential sales and circulation information from the Star-Bulletin. According to the Guild, this is not only absolutely untrue, it is bizarre.|