Friday, June 04, 2010

Honolulu Advertiser Continues Its Fade to (David) Black

As Hawaii's Oldest Paper Reaches its Pau Moment, Longtime Writers Put on a Brave Face

As the Honolulu Advertiser has its -30- on Sunday, the first reaction is that David, in this case David Black, owner of the rival Star-Bulletin who's buying the Advertiser, firmly kicked the butt of Goliath, played out in this version by Gannett.
But there's no happy ending here. Honolulu will be a one newspaper town next week. And 430 people who had a job will mostly now have a hard time figuring out where their next paycheck will come from. Severance agreements from mostly union contracts will help, but for many who spent their career in newspapers in Honolulu will have to find another line of work.
It would have been a lot easier to bid good riddance to Gannett if the Advertiser had been sold to someone else. After all, it was Gannett that had tried to buy the Star-Bulletin in 1999 to shut it down and end its joint operating agreement with Liberty Newspapers.
But a local outcry and the federal government kiboshed that. In came Black from Canada, who instead bought the S-B from Liberty to keep it alive. How times have changed.
As the newspaper industry has tanked, Black has claimed he's lost $100 million running the S-B. Gannett has said it's also in the red. It chose to bail, rather than fight. Even though it had suffered the cuts every other paper has been forced to endure, the Advertiser was still a better-than-average Gannett paper, which still managed a 115,000 daily circulation, compared to just 37,000 for the S-B.
It's a tight-knit news community on the islands, filled with scribes who are natives or have become one through decades of service at either paper. As an example, the writer of today's Advertiser story about the closure was written by Rick Daysog, who wrote the story linked above from the Oct. 20, 2000 edition---of the Star-Bulletin.
I've been reading the Advertiser the last couple of days as I take a break from some R&R in Hawaii, and the farewells in the paper are getting louder and more insistent. They include food editor Wanda Adams, who had a front seat as the island's cuisine evolved into a world-class fusion of flavors and reverence for locally grown and caught food. She's working on starting a website. Best to her with that.
Today, we heard from golf columnist Bill Kwon, who worked more than half a century at both papers covering sports all over the world. And while I'm sure he'd still rather be working, his column is headlined "For five decades I had the best job in the world," and you know he means it. He really did have a great ride.
Too bad a lot of other talented journalists won't get to say the same when the new Honolulu Star-Advertiser debuts Monday.


Langlay said...
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Anonymous said...

Both Gannett and Black are fighting against paying severance so the Guilds have filed a greivance. It will probably take months to get our severance if we get it at all.

Anonymous said...

Gannett and Black are not only trying to screw employees out of severance pay, they're doing their best to prevent them from getting COBRA extended medical benefits (which cost the employer nothing) and even tried to keep them from collecting unemployment benefits.

Mass layoffs are not unusual these days. But treating jobless former employees this badly is unprecedented. What Gannett and Black are doing to us in Honolulu is just plain mean and rotten.