Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Newspaper meltdown 3: No alternatives

by Larry Geller

To produce a public print newspaper generally requires a printing press (though one can conceive of alternative technologies, they're not here yet). So competition is hard to find; new papers can't just spring up to compete with old.

In the past, a reporter might go elsewhere. With 6,000 newsroom layoffs in the past few months, there may be no elsewhere anymore.

The work of the 54 Advertiser staffers to be axed by Gannett likely will be largely lost to us as news consumers. So no more Dick Adair cartoons, at least in print (I'd like to be wrong about this).

We can expect the paper to be filled with more imported stories like the feature today on boutique chocolate, taken from the LA Times. It omits anything about Hawaii's own chocolate industry. Not a mention. But I guess it's cheaper to buy the story than to pay a reporter. Couldn't we have had even a tiny little box on the state of the local cocoa bean biz? Nothing.

But check the back of the Taste section, the one with the chocolate article: A full page ad on the Advertiser's 2007 Journalism awards. A space filler. Yup, Dick Adair's name is there, he's an award-winning cartoonist, the kind you want to have in your daily paper.

Speaking of cartoons, don't miss cartoonist John Pritchett's color thumbnail of his Lee Webber caricature. You can find it in Ian Lind's story, here. I like it better than the original.

No alternative press either

Speaking of alternatives, Hawaii is also suffering a meltdown in the alternative press department. First the loss of the Big Island Journal, and now the Honolulu Weekly. Has the Weekly gone out of business? No, but it's not looking very much like an alternative any more.

It still has the ads, movie reviews and is a good reference for movie, music and art schedules, but I wonder whether it can be counted as an "alternative" paper any longer.

This week's article on the scramble to file election papers is already old news and has been covered better in the dailies and the blogs. The other feature informs us that they are playing classical music on Fort Street Mall near Hotel Street, and there's a mini-article about babies booming at Tripler, 9 months after four 25th Infantry Division units came back from Iraq. Hey, hot alternative news! Babies!

And a strange quote from Mufi about how rail transit bids will be broken into packages so that local firms can get some of the work. Gee, Mufi said a lot last week but I somehow missed that, good thing it's in the weekly, where all the contractors go for their alternative transit news.  Sorry. I'm caught up in grieving over the loss of my alternative political news.

In retrospect, we never had much, compared to other cities with fatter weeklies, chock full of local news and features.

What's supposed to fill the vacuum, as the dailies become less local? TV? We're doomed.


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