Thursday, July 17, 2008


Letter to the Advertiser

by Larry Geller

17 July 2008

Mr. Lee P. Webber, President and Publisher
Honolulu Advertiser

Dear Mr. Webber:

I got a bill in the mail at the beginning of this month for renewal of my Advertiser subscription. The charge for 52 weeks delivery was listed as $208.00.

Yesterday I read the lead article in the funny sideways Business section, Advertiser laying off 54 workers, and wondered what kind of a paper will I get for my money in the future. I don’t know the details of who has been let go, except for Dick Adair. So you’ll be using someone else’s cartoons, I imagine, probably someone on the Mainland. Or maybe there will be no cartoon at all. That’s a loss, he’s an award winning resource for readers.

What else will be missing from my paper? Shouldn’t you offer discounts? Say, the same 9% that staff is being cut, at least?

The closing paragraphs of the story bothered me also:

[Gannett Chief Executive Officer Craig] Dubow, while noting the difficult environment for newspapers, said the current situation should not overshadow the progress in transforming the company into a world-class digital business while making enhancements to its newspaper and television operations.

As such Gannett has been building up its Internet business. Locally, the Honolulu Advertiser Web site has been growing and is now the largest online news site in Hawai'i with the most page views and unique visitors.

Good for you, you’re getting more page views! But I am paying for a print paper. You may become a digital business, but I want quality in that paper dropped at my door each day.

I expect more investigative reporting, more attention to Hawaii’s political scene. More of the news that a local paper is supposed to deliver to its readers.

As for the web page, before long you’ll be running that out of India, no doubt. There’s nothing about a web site that needs to be local. Heck, from India they can monitor Hawaii events and probably write not bad stories for the web.

It also appears that Gannett doesn’t like unions. Here in Hawaii, we do like unions. If they didn’t exist, we’d have to invent them. I wish you could get used to that. Everyone deserves a living wage with adequate benefits. If I am paying for your newspaper, I expect that it will be operated according to the values we expect in our community. You can say it’s none of my business, but someone has to buy your paper. That’s me, among others.

Remember, we have choices.

Sure, the newspaper business is under pressure in the USA, the UK, Spain and probably elsewhere as well. A paradigm shift is taking place, and audiences are shifting. I can tell you what keeps me subscribing, though: good journalism, including incisive and informed articles by experienced local hands. Take that away and you might as well fold up your presses and leave town. That would be a shame, though.

Hope you can fix this somehow and stick around. And good luck.

Larry Geller



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