Monday, August 22, 2011


A peep from behind the Star-Advertiser paywall

by Larry Geller

A Star-Advertiser breaking news story today was about a Star-Advertiser news story hidden away behind its own paywall. The Star-Advertiser “breaking news” is still Google-findable.

The Star-Advertiser had a scoop this morning on a subject I am following closely—the fate of allegedly trafficked farm workers. It seems that the workers are to miss another opportunity to receive restitution because of an error made by the lead prosecutor in the Aloun Farm case.

Was this some kind of a test? It was a tiny leak in the dike, a whimper. It was an insignificant peep allowed to reporter Ken Kobayashi, who deserves better visibility than this.

Even the AP picked up on the story from the S-A. You can read a brief (very brief) outline of it on an Indiana newspaper website, The Republic: Judge grants request by prosecutors to suspend restitution to Thai workers in Hawaii case, (8/22/2011).

The much longer Star-Advertiser story appeared in the Local section along with a picture taken at a press conference called earlier by attorneys for many of the Thai farm workers. (It was a great photo op, the only chance mainstream reporters had to come face-to-face with an actual Thai farm worker. The only media person consistently interviewing workers and developing this story is Malia Zimmerman of the Hawaii Reporter.)

That Indiana article was all that Google turned up, because the S-A has taken itself off of the search engines.

But this afternoon I was surprised—a Star-Advertiser Google hit! Judge suspends restitution payments in Thai worker case (8/22/2011) was posted as “breaking news” at 1:06 p.m.

As to the story itself, it appears that this time the workers may not be entitled to the restitution. It is an unfortunate case of a man who pled guilty to avoid more serious charges that were incorrectly placed on him by the same Department of Justice attorney who incorrectly instructed the Aloun grand jury. The Department of Justice, to their credit, is responsibly following up on the implications of her mistake.

The story is important because farm slavery is not dead in this country (audio from a segment on this week’s Splendid Table program), and allegedly not dead in Hawaii. The audio segment is an interview with the author of Tomatoland and speaks of labor in chains, sprayed with chemicals, and beaten and abused. In Florida.  Check it out.

See also the Civil Beat Story by Sara Lin, liveblogger at the trial: Restitution Halted in Aloun Farms Case (8/22/2011).


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