Posted tagged ‘media’

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.)

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