Saving the Balance of News in Hawaii

I recently wrote about the impending demise of print media.  I painted a grim picture of how bleak the future looked for newspapers and magazines.  The internet was slowly but surely tightening the noose.  Now however it seems that the internet is trying to save at least one local newspaper.  In Hawaii, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin is in danger of being shut down.  The current owner of the paper, Canadian David Black, recently purchased the Honolulu Advertiser.  This acquisition has put the Star-Bulletin on the market for prospective buyers.  However, Mr. Black has publicly stated that if the paper fails to sell, the Star-Bulletin will be merged with the Honolulu Advertiser.  This would be a huge blow to journalism in Hawaii.  It would also be a disservice to the people of the Aloha State since less pertinent news will be covered.

Before the age of the internet, both local news papers fielded a robust and talented group of editors, columnists and reporters.  Coverage of local events and happenings was never an issue.  It would be common for many individuals to buy both papers every day to get the different perspectives of a particular story.  Both papers also had a dedicated fan base.  In recent years, with the advent of the internet, both papers have gone through the struggle of remaining relevant.  The Honolulu Advertiser has so far been able to adapt the best.  This has not been without casualties.  Both papers have been forced to push employees to early retirement, layoffs and whole sale cuts to content.  Just a few minutes of browsing both papers’ websites will show how well one has adapted and how much the other lacks.  The internet has changed how businesses approach advertising.  It used to be a matter of buying ad space in the pages of a newspaper.  Now it has become more about getting banner space on websites and links to the business website.  This change in advertising has forced both papers to become creative in generating revenue.

Hawaii's newspapers are searching for ways to get back on top. Even news like war is covered differently by papers.

The problem for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin has become a question of how to compete with the Advertiser.  How can two papers cover the same events and news in such a small state?  Maybe the question should be how can two papers give enough space to the multitude of events going on in such a diverse and interesting state!  Hawaii may not be a state large on land mass, however it more than makes up for it with the interesting stories found on its shores.  If the Advertiser has taken the lead on being a more national and international news source, then why not take the Star-Bulletin back to the local people of Hawaii?  The Star-Bulletin could have entire features on the increased presence of farmers markets around the state.  The Star-Bulletin could spend page after page talking about how important it is to provide Hawaii with locally grown produce to assist in island sustainability.  The paper could go to the community and talk about issues that affect each city and what steps are being taken to find a solution.  The Star-Bulletin could dive headlong into local politics and do investigations into our local government.  Journalism is the key to keeping a strong democracy.  The paper could serve as a watchdog for the people.  There is no doubt that people want to read stories that affect their every day lives.

The Star-Bulletin is a vital instrument to keeping a journalistic balance in Hawaii.  Many consider the Honolulu Advertiser to be a bit of a Liberal leaning publication.  Whether or not that is a fair sentiment is not the point.  What does matter is that there is more than just one option for news.  A monopoly means that fewer stories will be covered on a daily basis.  Fewer stories will mean less people will be impacted by those stories.  How much more difficult will it be for citizens to get involved in their communities when there is a lack of coverage of the issues involving these communities?  If the Star-Bulletin dies, so will the ability for the population to stay informed.  If the Star-Bulletin dies, so will a vital voice for Hawaii’s people.

Gone may be the days of seeing competing newspapers provide much needed variety in what and how news is covered in Hawaii.

What can we do to save the Star-Bulletin?  Well right now there is not much that can be done.  A good outcome would be for someone to buy the paper and keep it running as a competitor to the Advertiser.  The best possible outcome would be for someone to purchase the paper and then turn the paper over to the employees.  Allow the paper to be run by the people whose jobs depend on the success of the paper staying in business.  Hopefully this move will create a new found sense of urgency in covering important stories that are in Hawaii and will affect local people.  However, right now everyone needs to do what they can to help the Star-Bulletin survive this latest attempt at a monopoly of news coverage.

SaveHawaiiNews is an organization that was created to keep the Star-Bulletin and the Honolulu Advertiser in competition for coverage of local news.  The organization is the brain child of Hawaii State Senator Sam Slom.  He is working with the Hawaii Reporter to purchase the Star-Bulletin.  If Mr. Black does not find a buyer within the next week he will complete his purchase of the Honolulu Advertiser and then begin the process of merging the two papers into a single entity.  This must not happen.  We must stand up and do our part.  Here is the link to SaveHawaiiNews and information on what you can go.  Get Involved!

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