Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Honolulu media still churning with report of staff flight at Civil Beat
by Larry Geller
It was disappointing to learn from Ian Lind’s post this morning that Katherine Nichols and Treena Shapiro have already left the staff at Civil Beat. This is a tough time to walk away from a job in journalism. At the end of the same article Ian notes that Advertiser staff are about to learn whether they will have jobs after next week.
Despite my criticism of the site as a gated community guarded by a risky PayPal-powered paywall, I had hoped that CB would grow and change into a source of news and discussion for all of us. That would mean adding reporters, not subtracting.
Math is indeed at the heart of the issue, and of how we, as outsiders, might measure the success of the venture, at least on our terms. My measure of a journalism venture is how many people have access to the news product, and how a site competes with others in the market. I’m not so attached to the discussion part because there are plenty of alternatives on the web, and it’s easy to set up a new (free) site if there were a demand for that.
Checking in with their “Feedback” box yesterday, visitors seem to agree about the membership issue:
Presumably these comments are left by non-subscribers. No matter, even if they attract sufficient satisfied membership to become profitable and therefore a success in business terms, the site still remains a private club.
If indeed something is rotten in Kaimuki, they have the resilience to survive and (I hope) to change. Maybe they don’t agree. We who might have expected something else have no stake in the project. That’s why the internet invented IMHO , to encourage discussion.
The next big media event in Honolulu will be the replacement of the two dailies with an unknown new entity, the Star-Advertiser. Their website is already in place, though the home page is just a statcounter (visit staradvertiser.com and you will be counted). At some point a real page will appear. Since Gannett provided the Advertiser’s website, perhaps it will more closely resemble the present Star-Bulletin.
(I’m trying to find out if they will accept public input on what comics to carry. Maybe it’s already decided. If I get a response, I’ll let you know.)
Whatever website shows up, it is where we bloggers and thousands of others will go at least once per day for our local news fix. It will be the best place to click for breaking news throughout the day.
Now, that will be a success from the start, because it will really be the only game in town. Everyone else must struggle to succeed.
the only thing left to merge after all the various mergers over the last 150 years would be the Midweek, Honolulu Star-Week or Honolulu Midvertiser?
Perhaps Kathrine and Treena were not able to make the committment or the style just did not fit them. They are both capable reporters but the new style of reporting didn't fit. Nothing against Peer News or them, so why try to make it otherwise?
I have no idea why they left. However, it doesn't appear to be a good thing for Civil Beat to lose two local reporters and a substantial fraction of their staff.
I offered John Temple and CB my services to cover Molokai news for little or no cost. Temple was very gracious but said they had not yet developed an "approach" to covering neighbor islands. This is a big mistake. Even people on Oahu want to know what's happening statewide, not just there. I'm not sure why they would lose two qualified reporters so early on but obviously they still have some kinks to work out.
Interesting -- I pitched Temple a Health & Addictions Beat "trial" offer for free, similar to the paid column I used to write for the Star-Bulletin and unpaid "Addicted to..." blog I did for the Advertiser a couple of years ago. He politely said no thanks, since it didn't fit their concept of reporting on civic affairs.
Today in my Advertiser blog, I wrote about the old concept of beat reporting, which I think is missing in Hawaii now. Good examples though of real hometown type reporting are what Ian Lind does when he writes about things pertaining to his part of the island, or what Larry did with his videos of the Chinatown rats. That's what I hoped Civil Beat was going to do more of -- hire local writers who have a different take on news than the old media reporters, who are used to doing things the way they did them at the Advertiser and Star-Bulletin.
Would love to have you folks chime in on this topic over at my Advertiser blog: