Friday, July 30, 2010


Journalistic erasure continues at new Star-Advertiser as it deletes candidates from forum

by Larry Geller

At least they didn’t Photoshop the candidates out of the picture. The photo caption is the only place that our new “newspaper of record” noted the participants in last night’s gubernatorial candidate forum:

Participating in the forum sponsored by the Waikiki Neighborhood Board were Neil Abercrombie, left, John Carroll, Daniel Cunningham, Hannemann, Arturo Reyes, Miles Shiratori and Van Tanabe.

Anything that was said except by the newspaper’s anointed two was excised from the story by selective reporting.

Abercrombie and Hannemann shared the stage in Waikiki with several lesser-known candidates for governor and were asked four questions each selected by the neighborhood board. The questions -- on tourism promotion in Asia, airport beautification, unemployment and the homeless in Waikiki -- did not elicit any significant new public-policy proposals from the two leading candidates.   [Star-Advertiser, Candidates exchange barbs, ideas at forum, 7/30/2010]

Exactly why are there several “lesser-known” candidates? Because the newspaper makes them so. Maybe they had ideas on tourism promotion, etc., but we’ll never know unless some other source reports it.

No doubt the reporting on Abercrombie and Hannemann was accurate. But is a story accurate if it omits news selectively in favor of two particular politicians? Is that what the Star-Advertiser thinks is “fair and balanced?”

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Disgusting! Is the Star-Advertiser against Democracy? Thanks, Larry.

I don't know what the answer is, but I think your implication that the S-A is being arbitrary, unfair or working to promote certain favored candidates is a bit unfair.

Do you propose that all vanity candidates should get equal coverage? Or is there some reasonable standards news organizations can use to focus resources on "important" candidates. I used "quotes" on "important" because I believe it is fruitful to discuss whether there can be criteria for determining which candidates deserve what level of support from news orgs and/or community orgs sponsoring debates.

I am not sure from your brief comments here whether you agree there might be criteria for making such a determination or if you think the act of filing papaers and paying a fee entitles any individual to equal column inches/ minutes of on-air face time as the other candidates.

Are the se "minor" candidates only minor candidates because the corporate media are trying to shut them out of the debate? Or are they shutting them out of the debate because even if these candidates got full, equal coverage, they would still receive hardly any votes in the professional opinion of the journalists and therefore, rather than waste the time of news consumers, the S-A is correctly focusing on the "major" candidates, the ones the vast majority of voters want to hear about.

There is a RISK of "self-fulfilling prophecy" here, but how great of a risk is it in this race? To show I understand this is not a simple matter, I will agree Rafael Del Castillo deserves more coverage in the Congressional race. What is my reasoning? First, I think his involvement raises the level of the debate. He gives thoughtful, creative answers to the questions and I think that is a benefit to those paying attention. In the Democratic primary, his (visible) presence would force Colleen Hanabusa to come up with more nuanced, creative answers of her own than she would have to provide in a debate against Djou.

Kolea, we're on the same track, and thank you for your excellent comment.

I agree there needs to be some criteria for coverage. Ditto on "vanity" candidates, and thanks for introducing that term. I think it is accurate for many. And then there is Rafael del Castillo, who was similarly erased by the same reporter from runoff debates even when allowed to participate.

Still, the reporter was covering an event and chose to intervene by selective reporting on that event. The decision on which candidates to invite to a forum or a debate was made by the organizers. The organizers let them fully participate and respond. Although there may be "major" and "minor" candidates (including the "vanity" folks), the organizers chose the democratic path. Perhaps some time is wasted, but the public gets to hear and decide.

So in my book, the event was not properly covered by the newspaper. Of course, they can do whatever they want, but I disagree that they have performed a service by taking away readers' ability to make their own decisions on what the candidates said.

It's not like the S-A is short of space, they expend an awful lot of it on giant pictures, white space, and unnecessary illustrations.

Larry, have you ever worked for a newspaper? Not a criticism, just a question.

No, I never worked for a newspaper.

I was copy editor and later managing editor of our college newspaper, but that's a different thing. I've some experience working with radio news, but not much. I was also an associate member of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan and secretary of Honolulu's media council. So lots of osmosis but no real newspaper experience. In Japan I worked on newspaper publicity for our joint venture, also a different thing.

I have read them all my life, though, and was raised on the daily and Sunday New York Times and the original Village Voice as alternative press. That's gotta count for something, I hope.

ok, I'll throw in that I could operate a Linotype machine and a Ludlow headline setter. We had fun. Until one day I forgot to set the side clamps on the Ludlow machine, hit the foot pedal, and watched a huge wave of molten lead rise a couple of feet in front of my face... after that, I wasn't allowed to play any longer.

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