Monday, January 09, 2012


Civil Beat – on paper!

by Larry Geller

Relax, Pierre Omidyar has not yet bought himself a printing press (though it would be great if he would). Tapping on the Tablet PC at 5 a.m. under the light of the full moon leads to dreamy thoughts.

20120106 Garden Island

But here it is—the front page of the January 6 Kaui newspaper, The Garden Island, and the lead story is by Michael Levine and Chad Blair of the Honolulu City Beat. Yes, CB on paper. Perhaps this is nothing new, but I wouldn’t know, since the Garden Island is not yet delivered to my doorstep here in Honolulu.

Civil Beat doesn’t compete directly with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser as long as one is Web-based and the other paper-bound. The S-A departed the web when it put up its paywall: Google does not find Hawaii articles in our newspaper of record. On the other hand, Civil Beat can’t cross the demographic divide if the many readers who still prefer to hold paper in their hands don’t read it.

There is still a chasm between paper readers and Web surfers. As time goes on, those in the older generation will simply disappear. The S-A would seem to have only a limited lifetime unless it learns to be a better netizen. It will simply die along with its older readers.

When Civil Beat first hit the scene I was both a critic of its paywall and a champion of its work. We need an alternative to the craven right-wing propaganda that passes for editorial material in our last standing paper on Oahu. The CB paywall is gone, though who knows how CB will feed itself in the future.

The S-A now has a paywall and so has disappeared from anyplace but a small island in middle of the Pacific Ocean. That’s not much of a future.

In the meantime, seeing CB in print brings thoughts of new possibilities. If this is a trend, then there is hope for print journalism. We’ll just have to figure out how to get Neighbor Island papers such as The Garden Island delivered over here.

There’s a whole other question of whether a younger generation raised under the barren No Child Left Behind educational regime will want quality journalism either in print or on their tablets. Our federal government is incentivizing mass ignorance. Civics, history, social studies, literature, language, music, art—the parts of education that my generation valued—have been suppressed. Critical thinking is anathema to politics as it is now practiced—witness the intellectual litterbox that Republican presidential “debates” have become.

Civil Beat and other local Web-based news sites face those same readers in the long run. Who knows what news young adults will want to consume even on the Web. Pierre Omidyar may be investing in the idea that some part of the current NCLB generation will still value traditional journalistic values augmented by modern media. Then there is hope for future generations, and for the country, I might add.

Watching a presidential debate twenty years from now on a tablet, sitting on the lanai under a full moon, could be a worthwhile experience. Whether anyone will read about it the next day on paper, I have no idea. But go, CB, and thanks Garden Island.  My faith in the future of journalism in Hawaii is restored, for the moment.

Now, if only Pierre would buy himself a TV station…


KITV is presenting some of Civil Beat..that is the news that I watch..

Thanks for the plug, Larry. As a former print (and radio) guy who now works pretty exclusively online, it still brings a smile to my face to see my name in print!

1 + 1> 0. In the Honolulu big newspaper business, the value of 1 [S-B] added to 1 [A] approaches 0. [S-A]

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