IMR: 1999: September: 15 —  Wednesday, 9:42 p.m.
Our Apartment, Makiki, Hawai`i

Say it ain't so!

The talking heads are reporting this evening that the Honolulu Star-Bulletin is going to be shut down. An official announcement is expected tomorrow.

Media pundits have predicted its demise for almost a decade now, of course. Its circulation has been dropping consistently for as long as I can remember, with only a brief plateau during an agressive advertising campaign last year. And afternoon dailies are a dying breed nationwide — they either go out of business or convert into morning papers (impossible in towns like ours where there's only one press).

But I can't believe it. I don't want to.

It feels as if there have been two major dailies in Honolulu since the beginning of time. Hell, there was a day when the Star-Bulletin had to bail The Honolulu Advertiser out of bankruptcy.

Even though the "two voices, one press" JOA agreement established between the two in 1993 makes people smirk, I knew they were always independent. And frankly, I always felt the Bulletin was the better of the two.

Sure, some of my good friends work there, and tonight my thoughts turn most frequently toward them. But as a journalist, I'm more troubled by the fact that we'll be left with a one paper town — a Gannett paper, no less.

The extra protective layers between the Star-Bulletin and its corporate owners, to me, made it a more ambitious, freer community-focused newspaper. Instead of mainland wire stories with only the lede tweaked to have a local slant, the Star-Bulletin — probably toward its detriment — made the extra effort to get out into the streets, to keep its ear to the ground.

The Star-Bulletin was the only paper that regularly tackled issues with in-depth, multi-part investigative pieces. They gave serious coverage to many marginalized groups, from Native Hawaiians to the transgendered. And they were one of the earliest papers in the country to have a nearly full-content online edition (winning awards as far back as 1995).

The Bulletin was the more progressive, more experimental, more genuine and personable voice. And now Joe Moore, of all people, is telling me its going to be silenced.

I hope the fallout from this is massive. I hope the Advertiser adopts some of the decidedly better talent from next door. I hope the Honolulu Weekly does right with its awkward new standing as our second largest publication. And I hope my friends make it through this okay.

Got back from New Zealand alive, obviously. Nine hours headling almost due north to touch down on the reef runway at one in the morning on Monday. Considering the Air New Zealand adventures encountered on this trip, the landing was almost frighteningly smooth.

Mom, Jen and Katie were waiting for me. Jen came bounding up and nearly bowled me over with a greeting reminiscent of the end of naval war movies... much to the great amusement of my coworkers. Then, Katie squirmed down out of mom's arms and came running up to me, arms flapping, shrieking and laughing hysterically.

It's the best homecoming I've ever had. You'd think I was actually missed!

Last night I finally unpacked the large sheepskin I'd bought during our tour to Rotorua. Katie quickly ran up, bent down to pet it, and proudly said, "Arf! Arf!"

We returned to work yesterday to see little progress had been made on the construction in the office, the only change being a thin layer of white dust all over everything. ("Was George Bush Jr. in here?" someone quipped.) Today, however, the contractors went at it with a vengence, leaving most of us deaf from the hammering and feeling a little bit happy from the carpet glue fumes. Out of nowhere, it looks like we might have our new offices and conference room ready by next week.

Of course, with three of our full-time staffers leaving us in the next ten days, we're going to have too much space for a while. And while there's been no shortage of resumes coming in, just about as many rejection letters have been going out.

It's a crazy time. With our Hong Kong and New Zealand meetings finally out of the way, we're supposed to be working full-bore on the Honolulu conference next March. First, however, we need to get the office layout worked out, then find the people to fill it.

At least the first glimmer of light came today with Gov. Ben Cayetano announcing that Pres. Bill Clinton has all but committed to appearing. Bad news for commuters, but good news for us.

© Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: · Created: 15 September 1999 · Last Modified: 19 September 1999