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September 2003

The Year of
Switching Commanders
Unfashionable Fall Season

Dispatches from the Front by Burl Burlingame

9/1/03 At what point does community service become public manipulation?
On Friday, The Honolulu Star-Bulletin published and inserted an extraordinary piece of promotional material for the University of Hawaii football team -- an honest-to-gosh comic book called "The H-Men," which likened the team to a group of superheroes. It had a real story and fab art by Star-Bulletin artist Kip Aoki, and appartently was ful of inside-football insights that went right over my head. It is certainly one of the most creative and original promotions created for a college football team in the nation.
And the yet the University was silent about it, and, incredibly, Kip and crew were forbidden by the University to use the taxpayer-funded UH football logo. They had to invent their own UH football logo.
What's the deal? There are a couple of potential reasons:
* University of Hawaii president Evan Dobelle and his posse have made no secret that they're steamed by the "Dangerous Equations" guest piece that appeared in July. They seem to believe that the opinions of others that appear in the newspaper are actually the newspaper's opinions. But it's hard to imagine that they'd be so petty as to undercut promotion of their own football team.
* The Gannett Advertiser has an exclusive promotional contract the the University of Hawaii sports department. It's likely the squeeze came from that direction. I hope they're paying UH a lot of money, because UH certainly isn't getting its money's worth of promotion out of Gannett.
Oh gosh, is it possible that Gannett would twist the arms of public officials in this way?

Here's another mystery. Last year I was (drafted? volunteered?) to provide historical background from the Star-Bulletin for a walking-tour route the city was developing with several historical organizations. The work was essentially done last February. A representative from the Gannett Advertiser claimed they were going to print some kind of map and sell it to the city -- a non-bid contract? -- but nothing ever appeared. The Historic Hawaii Foundation also appeared at several of these planning meetings. After six months, I shrugged, took the sites chosen by the volunteers, had a city official confirm that the sites were permanent, laid out a map of Honolulu and started an ongoing feature called Holoholo Honolulu, which uses QuickTime VR to visit these sites for online users.
Next thing we know, we've received a letter from Historic Hawaii Foundation crying foul. Apparently, we spoiled their secret plan to unveil the Gannett Advertiser's non-bid map sometime in September. The Advertiser considers the work done by private volunteers -- at the request of the city and using taxpaper dollars -- to be their "intellectual property." Ha ho! Naturally, not mentioned in the HHF's complaint was the name of their past president and current pursekeeper ? Mike Fisch of the Gannett Advertiser.
You don't have to actually see the fish to know something's rotting away behind closed doors. You just have to smell it.

9/2/03 Our Star-Bulletin superheroes?
Here are the guys responsible for the look of the comic book, artist Kip Aoki and Assistant Managing Editor/Graphics Mike Rovner. Yes, I had fun with PhotoShop!

9/4/03 All the news that's fit to .... oh, never mind
Looks like a murder scene! This Star-Bulletin honor box in front of Castle Hospital seems to have met with a little accident. It's still chained to the pole. The Gannett Advertiser stand just beyond is OK.

9/6/03 And all that jazz
I admit I'll drive across town to hear Renee Zellwenger croon There's men everywhere / jazz everywhere / boooooze everywhere in "Chicago." The City showed a trimmed version recently at the Sunset on the Beach event, which are a lot of fun. These bicycle cops are pretty much wrapped up the courtroom finale.

9/8/03 Honolulu's falling apart, bit by bit
This quay at Pier #7 near Aloha Tower has the Falls of Clyde moored to it. There's a platform around it that simply collapsed a few days ago. Apparently it just gave way in the middle of the night. A guard nearby told me at least no one was standing on it. While it's possible that the platform was hit by a ship, it's extremely unlikely, given the angles. Looks like the internal rebar just gave way. There's no apparent rust in the broken concrete. At any rate this is a spot at which thousands of tourists pass by each day. To see the piers collapsing can't be a confidence builder in the City infrastructure.
9/9/03 Not a good way to begin your day
Mr. Burlingame, you are SUCH a lucky man! said this impossibly cheerful voice on the phone early this morning. Unlike your neighbors, YOU have been chosen to receive a discount subscription to the Honolulu Advertiser! Well, that doesn't seem quite fair, I responded. I asked what penitentiary the caller was in and why he was incarcerated there -- telephone-solicitation companies often use prison labor -- and when he started huffing and puffing, I hung up.
Not that it's all that easy to get our own paper. There's some sort of distribution fracas going on at Enchanted Lake Safeway with the newspaper companies. Safeway allows the Advertiser distributor in through the front door and to fill up the racks -- including the space reserved for the Star-Bulletion -- while the Star-Bulletin distributor has to hike around to the rear of the supermarket, enter there and hump his bundle back up to the front of the store, where there's no space left for Star-Bulletins.
Doesn't seem quite fair.

9/12/03 Problem with puppies, they grow up to be dogs
Puppy update: His name is officially Antone, but we're calling him Andy for short. Here he is playing with his namesake, Rod Antone, the reporter who initially scooped him up. Andy is becoming feisty and healthy. Look how straight his little crooked limbs are becoming! His belly no longer drags on the ground. And his paws have doubled in size in the last week. Andy is giving our other dog Sophie a run for her money and they tussle together every night, tiring each other out. We still have no idea what kind of dog he is, other than poi. The vet thinks he's part Australian Shepherd. We'll see as his fur grows out. He was two pounds when we got him, now he weighs 11.

9/16/03 Another date that will be remembered in infamy
Four years ago this morning Rupert Phillips announced to the staff that the Star-Bulletin was profitable, but it was way more profitable for Bubba to accept money from Gannett to kill the paper. For background, go here.The Hawaii Newspaper Guild immediately began a fight to save the paper, and here we are today thanks to the union's efforts, and to the cleverness of David Black. It's also payday, and I couldn't afford to pay the server rental on this site until today, which is why it disappeared for a little while. Hey, between the pay cuts and the spiraling cost of living, it was either this or food for the kids, OK? But at least we're still putting out a newspaper in this town, despite all the G-men can throw at us, and Honolulu is the better for it. In other towns where Gannett has succeeded in crushing the competition, the Gannett papers are pathetic. Without the Star-Builletin around to keep them on their toes, the Gannett Advertiser would have become a shopper. Everyone wins in a free market economy. It's the American way, you Arlington thuggees.

9/19/03 Maybe there's such a thing as investigative snapshots of cats. Kitty porn?
Ian Lind has relaunched Hawaii Monitor as an online publication, and that's good. You can't have too many watchdogs, but in this case, Ian is unusually tenacious, and the online format is a media technology uniquely suited to this type of reporting -- it's fast, customizable, cheap, universally distributed and democratic. The only trick is having content worth reading (which is why I don't do daily updates at THIS site!).

9/22/03 The rich AREN'T like you and me -- they don't pay for anything

Doug McCorkindale
Gannett CEO
(Click me!)
University of Hawaii football coach June Jones draws about half a million dollars a year in money from sources that the University want to keep top secret, so secret that they're probably embarrassing. What's the deal? Is the al-Qaida terrorist group paying for Hawaii football? Despite all that money, do you think June is making car payments? Nope, he's given TWO cars, gratis, to tool around in. I guess he has a spare in case the ashtray gets full in one.
Which brings me, naturally, to Gannett. While the rest of the country was sweating out a recession and the fiscal damage created by 9-1-1, Gannett was jacking up the perks for their top-level executives (while cutting back on staff and resources at newspapers). In 2001, Gannett CEO Doug McCorkindale (who took home nearly $20 million last year) nominated himself to the newspaper board, which pays its members $45,000 a year, plus $1,500 for each meeting attended. I guess he needed the pocket change. The top-level guys also receive pensions, in case they haven't socked anything away for a rainy day, but here's my favorite perk: Gannett pays for the life insurance policies for its directors. Yep, they don't reach into their own pockets for their own life insurance, the way ordianry folks do. In McCorkindale's case, that comes to $103,000 a year in policy coverage. Sweet deal.

9/23/03 There she is!
Miss Hawaii, Kanoelani Gibson, returned to Honolulu Sunday after placing first runner-up in the Miss America pageant. Right off the plane, she grabbed a Star-Bulletin and began showing it around. No similar picture was available for the Gannett Advertiser because, well, that wasn't the paper she was interested in, and also because no one was here from the Gannett paper.

9/24/03 Hobbling along up the street
It seems another Gannett Advertiser employee has felt compelled to hire an attorney in a dispute. Seems the newspaper is overriding doctors' medical opinions in a disability claim. UPDATE: Gannett Advertiser reporter Catherine Toth was fired this day. I'm not sure of the circumstances, but one thing is for sure -- they'll use any excuse at all to dump top-scale reporters.

9/25/03 The walking tour of old Honolulu, with you-are-there QuickTime VR
My series on Honolulu's historic buildings has been organized with its own web page, which will expand into the the most complete site on this subject as the series goes on. The Historic Hawaii Foundation and the Gannett Advertiser will roll out their own version at a press conference later today -- they're collaborating on a very cool little fold-up map.

9/26/03 Miss Hawaii wasn't missed after all!
Thanks to a bogus original source, plus my own retarded inability to navigate the Advertiser's complicated web site, it turns out they did the get the return of Miss Hawaii and did so in splendid fashion. It was difficult to grasp how they could have missed it. They didn't! The story was nimbly covered by Vicki Viotti, pitching in for Robbie Dingeman, who had to go elsewhere that day. Since these two ladies are among the finest and hardest-working reporters in Honolulu, Miss Hawaii was in good hands.

9/27/03 Deep inside the bowels of a press conference
The Historic Hawaii Foundation, working with the Gannett Advertiser as print broker, held a press conference to announce their "Z-map" edition of the Historic Honolulu Trail. They are costing the the City about a buck apiece. Curiously, the Advertiser story doesn't mention the Advertiser's involvement. The Star-Bulletin version uses you-are-there QTVR. The deal to the left is a QTVR link of the press conference -- after going there put your mouse in it and stir it! Scary stuff! Recognize anyone? But most of the questions from the press dealt with the end of the bus strike. See how dour we all are.

9/30/03 A most splendid pic-a-nic!

One of the Star-Bulletin and MidWeek staff picnics was held over the weekend at Kailua Beach Park. Hundreds attended this one, including a rapidly growing puppy.
NEXT! October 2003
Farewell to Friends

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