Posted tagged ‘media’

Bachmann debate turns crazy

August 10, 2011

The latest tempest in the political teapot involves a Newsweek cover photo of GOP presidential contender Michele Bachmann that some supporters say is unflattering and makes her look crazy.

Even liberal feminists from the National Organization for Women are denouncing as sexist the headline that proclaims the tea party favorite to be “The Queen of Rage.”

“The ‘Queen of Rage’ is something you apply to wrestlers or somebody who is crazy,” said NOW president Terry O’Neill.

Personally, I’m inclined to agree with my Facebook friend David Harada-Stone, who posted, “I’d be more worried that the sh** she says makes her sound crazy.”

But professionally, I know that references based on gender and race have high potential to inflame, distort and distract the discussion and feel Newsweek should have known better.

We learned the lesson in the 2008 presidential campaign, when columnists like Maureen Dowd of the New York Times took major heat over gender-based putdowns of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

I also got some grief from Clinton supporters about comments I made to the effect that we needed to expand the political gene pool and stop trading the presidency back and forth between Bushes and Clintons.

But they couldn’t get me for gender bias; I reviewed what I’d written about Clinton and found no references to her gender except “she” and “her.”

I don’t see it as political correctness to use neutral language on matters of personal identity to avoid inflaming sensitivities. It’s a common courtesy that makes the public discourse a little more civil.


Sucking wind

April 22, 2011

I’ve been dragging for the past week from the triple curse of a bad cold, hot humidity and vog, which combine to leave me gasping and glued to my recliner by lethargy and perspiration.

All that gets me through the days is the hope that the weather will change and bring some relief.

Every night since last Friday, the weather guys on the TV newscasts have been promising a return of the tradewinds. But every morning upon waking, I look out the window expecting to see some rustle in the leaves of my stately ti plants — and NO MORE NOTHING!

I fully sympathize with Guy Hagi when he laments about the demands of viewers who expect him to tell him the exact hour it will rain at their house.

I certainly don’t demand that, but when they say the tradewinds are returning to the islands, I do assume that my house falls within the general classification of “the islands.”

The raised expectations are their own fault with all the hype over flashy meteorological graphics that need three weather segments in each half-hour newscast to be properly shown off.

But all those fancy graphics really tell us with any accuracy is what happened today, which we already know if we bothered to look out the window.

The art of predicting what will happen next hasn’t improved all that much and is often little more than a coin flip. We’re a tiny island chain in the middle of the ocean and a shift of just a few degrees can cause a weather system to hit us more full on than expected — or miss us altogether, like the elusive trades.

It’s still hot and humid as I write this late at night, but the few ti leaves I can see in the darkness are showing a hint of rustle.

Maybe tomorrow …


There was question in the comments earlier this week about the status of U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa’s campaign promise to move into the First Congressional District she represents. KITV had an update last night.

R.I.P. Harry Blauvelt

April 19, 2011

I’m sorry to report the passing of former Honolulu Star-Bulletin and USA Today sportswriter Harry Blauvelt, who died yesterday in a tragic accident on  Maryland’s treacherous Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

Blauvelt, 70, was returning to his home on Kent Island when his car became disabled. He had just stepped out when a truck slammed into his vehicle and pushed him into the water 50 feet below.

He covered a variety of local sports for the Star-Bulletin from 1985 to 1990, when he joined USA Today as its golf writer. He covered the rise of Tiger Woods before retiring to Maryland’s Eastern Shore in 2004.

In Hawai‘i, Blauvelt was known for his lively writing, wry sense of humor and love of the North Shore, where he lived.

The Baltimore Sun had details of the accident and a nice account of his achievements here.

Knowing Jack

March 17, 2011

This has been an emotional week in which I came out of retirement as a basic news reporter to write an obituary in yesterday’s Star-Advertiser on Jack Bryan, my friend, colleague and mentor who died Saturday in Thailand at 91.

Jack gave me my first journalism job in the Star-Bulletin Hilo bureau 43 years ago. I showed up for the interview as a college student only slightly better groomed than the young Neil Abercrombie, but Jack let me have a shot after nobody else applied for the 15-hour-a-week intern position. Ironically, one of the main responsibilities was writing obituaries.

It’s a cliché to say somebody taught you everything you know, but that’s pretty much what Jack did for me; I’d taken no journalism courses and had zero news experience when he took me on.

When I moved to Honolulu a year later and applied for a job at the newspaper, that time working part-time with Jack — studying his stories as I punched them into the teletype, watching how he worked news sources and carried himself in the community, listening to him talk about the job — left me well-prepared to compete for work against bright UH journalism students.

More than that, the quiet class Jack projected gave me a deep respect for the news profession and a desire to make it my own calling.

Jack was an old-school newsman whose kind pretty much disappeared in the corporate and Internet ages. He worked copy desk jobs at a half-dozen newspapers across the U.S. and in Australia before settling in Hawai‘i with his wife and three kids.

“He was among the last of a dwindling group of itinerant newspaper veterans, journeymen in every sense of the word,” said our colleague John Simonds.

The World War II generation that Jack belonged to was America’s greatest, in the estimation of Tom Brokaw, and certainly spawned one of our greatest generations of American journalists.

My week of remembering Jack leaves me a little embarrassed by the mess my generation has made of the rich journalistic legacy they left us.

Groups ask Legislature to open it up

November 23, 2010

The House isn’t even organized yet for the 2011 session, but 18 diverse public interest groups are already pressing the House and Senate to open up their operations and make them more transparent to the public.

Letters addressed to members of both houses asked lawmakers to:

— Broadcast more legislative proceedings and post them on the web.

“Without the ability to watch the hearings and floor sessions, a huge segment of our population is excluded from observing the legislative process. Furthermore, with fewer newspapers and TV news outlets in town, there is reduced news coverage about the legislature and citizens are further removed from the process.”

— Give at least three business days notice for all legislative hearings, excluding holidays and weekends.

“With the existing short notice, it makes it extremely difficult for ordinary citizens to write testimony and almost impossible to rearrange their work or personal schedules so that they may attend a hearing.”

— Post proposed bill amendments online ASAP.

“In some instances, proposed amendments are only available in hard copy by visiting the committee chair’s office. This makes it impossible for those who cannot be at the Capitol to see the proposed amendments.”

— Include in committee reports on legislative measures a list of all organizations or agencies testifying on the topic.

“Historically, this information was always listed in committee reports, but the Senate has dropped this practice.  This makes it more difficult for the reader to identify those who supported or opposed the bill. ”

Signing the letters were AARP Hawaii, ACLU of Hawaii, Americans for Democratic Action / Hawaii, Blue Planet Foundation, Citizen Voice, Citizens for Equal Rights, Common Cause Hawaii, Conservation Council for Hawaii, Grassroot Institute, Hawaii Pro-Democracy Initiative, Kanu Hawaii, League of Women Voters of Hawaii, Life of the Land, Media Council Hawaii, Progressive Democrats of Hawaii, Right to Know Committee, Sierra Club, and Voter Owned Hawaii.
A  new addition to the local online public policy debate is a weekly Internet radio show hosted by tech wiz and Republican Party strategist Peter Kay, who says he hopes to promote “a distinctly Hawaiian Conservative ideology” through “respectful debate from opposite sides of the political spectrum.”

Listeners can tune in live to the Peter Kay Show and call in questions at 9 p.m. Tuesdays, or if you miss it, download the podcast later for listening at your convenience.

The scheduled guest tonight is Malia Zimmerman, editor of the recently expanded Hawaii Reporter.

R.I.P. Marcia Reynolds

November 11, 2010

I was saddened to hear of the passing of my friend and former colleague from the Big Island.

Marcia Reynolds arrived in Hilo from Ohio in the early 1970s to work as a reporter for the Hawaii Tribune-Herald, where she mostly covered county government and politics.

I manned the Star-Bulletin Big Island bureau and always found her to be a tough competitor during the day, but amiable company after hours.

She was an old-fashioned, hardass reporter who took no prisoners in her coverage, but she seldom got complaints that stuck because of her fairness and accuracy. Many of the newsmakers she covered became lifelong friends.

She left reporting to become a trusted aide to Mayor Stephen Yamashiro and later went into public relations and the travel business.

Marcia was a driving force behind the Big Island Press Club’s popular gridiron show, The Imu, as its director for many years and was manager and a hell of a pitcher on our softball team.

She left a lasting mark during her four decades in Hilo and will be missed by a wide circle of friends.

Old friends bow out

July 30, 2010

Today is a most significant day in local newspaper history with the retirement from the Star-Advertiser of Helen Altonn, Mary Adamski and Ben Wood, giants of our business who among them have nearly 150 years of experience covering some of Hawai’i’s biggest stories since statehood.

As best as I can recall, they are the only three left who were already there when I first walked into the Star-Bulletin newsroom more than 42 years ago as a student wannabe with much to learn from all of them.

Helen Altonn is hands down Hawai’i’s greatest living journalist. An image of her I’ll always remember was a photo on the office bulletin board of her going off on Lyle Galdeira when he was the flack for some state agency and wasn’t coughing up the information she wanted.

Helen had fury in her eyes and veins popping out of her forehead while Galdeira just kind of wilted into the pavement.

The lesson I learned: A good reporter holds nothing back in fighting for the information readers need.

My first job was covering the police beat on weekends for Mary Adamski, and she took me down to the old station on Young Street to introduce me around.

I was totally intimidated after seeing her byline so many times and trailed a few deferential steps behind her. Mary kept yelling at me, “Stop walking behind me!” but I couldn’t help it. The lesson I finally learned: A good reporter is intimidated by nobody.

The original “Hawaii Five-0” was starting its run back then and Ben Wood was the entertainment reporter. He did a story on one of the stars and got a snotty note to the effect that Jack Lord was the only “star” and the rest of the cast should be referred to as featured players or somesuch.

Ben wrote a column taking note of this — and vowing never to visit the set again. I suspect he relented, but the lesson that impressed me: A good reporter doesn’t kowtow to anyone’s bloated ego.

These three represent experience and institutional memory that will be difficult, if not impossible, to replace as the news business continues to shrink.

But they’ve all done more than their turn and I wish them the long and happy retirements they richly deserve.

Ain’t that news

June 7, 2010

At the stroke of midnight, every news organization I’ve ever drawn a paycheck from officially ceased to exist.

Gannett News Service, where I was based to cover the Hawai’i, Guam and Virgin Islands congressional delegations in the late 70’s and early 80’s, was shuttered awhile back.

And with the publication of yesterday’s final editions, the Star-Bulletin, where I spent most of the first 33 years of my working life, and the Advertiser, where I’ve columnized the last nine years, were no more as they were merged today into the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

It’s a daunting time for journalists and journalism, with our professional world shrinking around us as readers and advertisers migrate online.

We’ve already lost some our brightest young reporters and best institutional memory to layoffs and buyouts in recent years, and now some 100 local journalists are out of work along with 300-plus other newspaper employees as a result of the merger of the Star-Bulletin and Advertiser.

If there’s a silver lining to this cloud, it’s the hope that we’ll finally see stability in a local newspaper market that has been in turmoil from a series of ownership changes since 1992.

The daily newspaper may not be the force it once was, but it is still by far the most important community forum for the exchange of news, information and informed opinion — and the responsibility for keeping the forum vibrant is shared by the newspaper and the community.

I was invited to say a few words at  a recent Hawai’i Publishers Association awards luncheon and I’ll share some thoughts I offered then:

We’re going through a period of very painful transition right now and … my hope is that somehow we make the journalism survive. I think we all have to take it on as a personal responsibility to agitate for that very loudly.

For years, we’ve been using the First Amendment as a license to print money. It’s not so easy to do that anymore in this market environment, but it doesn’t relieve us of our corresponding obligation as beneficiaries of the First Amendment to provide the kind of quality reporting and opinion that people need to be able to function effectively in a free society.

The Star-Advertiser seems to be taking the responsibility seriously with an expanded newsroom that added 28 of the Advertiser’s best journalists to a Star-Bulletin staff with much talent of its own.

In a couple of hours, we’ll hear the thud in the driveway that will provide the first glimpse of what the future of Hawai’i print journalism will look like.

(Volcanic Ash will appear in the Star-Advertiser on Wednesdays and “flASHback” on Saturdays.)

%d bloggers like this: