In this brave new world of media mergers, sales and downsizes, you certainly don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. But in the latest game of media musical chairs, it doesn’t hurt to have a map.
While I tried to take a light approach, I’m offering this column with the utmost aloha, empathy and compassion for my inkstained brethren at the Honolulu Advertiser, the latest casualty of the New Age of Journalism and the legacy media corporate lust for obscene profits. Friday is the last day on the job for many of those journalists, while a few will be lucky enough to take a job for less pay at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin in the newly christened Star-Advertiser.
Believe me, I’ve been there. In my three decades of living by the pen, I’ve been downsized, rightsized, outsized and offered the Morton’s Fork of an out-of-state transfer or a new job description. I want the latest casualties to know that yes, it hurts. You pour your all into this vocation, sacrifice a social life, a family life and better paying gigs on the PR side of the street. Your termination probably has absolutely nothing to do with your ability, your drive or your journalistic worth. But I am here to tell you there is life – and it can be a good life – afterward.
Some of it is our own fault. We became victims of our own complacency. We thought just because we read and reread our bylined stories and watched and rewatched our video clips start to finish, everyone else did too. We paid too close attention to the handful of followers applying the high gloss of praise, and not enough attention to the thundering quiet from the rest.
Enter the new media and bloggers – those pamphleteers of the New Age of Journalism.
It’s an exciting era we have entered. The Internet and personal Web sites are components of the greatest revolution in journalism since the invention of the printing press. Like the printing press, the Internet has opened publishing to a whole new class of hoi polloi. I’m glad it’s happening in my lifetime.
These New Age pamphleteers have a lot in common with their 18th century counterparts. Many are quick to opine, quick to set aside a few inconvenient facts while making their points. Some are even quick to accept free trips and gifts in return for glowing reviews. Nothing new about any of that.
Lest bloggers get too enamored of their own steadily rising numbers on the stat counters, here’s a cautionary tale about pamphleteers. Thomas Paine may have been the most famous of the lot, yet only six people attended his funeral. Some to mourn and some to make sure he was truly dead.
And then there’s Honolulu Civil Beat. It exists, says Editor John Temple, to "ask the important questions citizens might have in the face of the complex issues facing our community." In its first month, the new site has demonstrated it can do that.
But it remains, as pointed out by blogger Larry Geller, a gated community with a rather stiff ($19.99 monthly) paywall. The new venture has hired a few bright young and not-so-young reporters and their output is promising. But it still has a way to go breaking out of its annoying insularity, with employees primarily retweeting and hash-tagging only each other, seemingly afraid to credit other sources that break the news they dutifully tweet at their first opportunity.
Can it survive? Can any of us survive this shakeup of the status quo? Will the pendulum soon swing, once the public realizes the watchdogs have been silenced and government is running amok? Stay tuned.
Meanwhile, here’s your map. And, it’s already obsolete. But isn’t that the whole point? Just sayin’
Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou's victory in Saturday's special election to fill one of only two Hawaii congressional seats was just about a foregone conclusion after two Democrats split the winner-take-all ticket. Djou won with 39.4 percent of the vote, compared to state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa’s 30.8 percent and former U.S. Rep. Ed Case’s 27.6 percent.
So it's not all that surprising that the prognosticators and spinmeisters jumped on stage early to help us understand just what this newest development means to the political parties battling for control of Congress in the upcoming midterm elections.
Sure the loss, even temporarily, of a Democratic seat in this bluest of the blue states is bound to be bit of a national embarrassment for the Democratic Party, especially for the president. And the national GOP can take away some bragging rights, at least in the short term.
But folks would be wise to heed the mantra of the late Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill that “all politics is local.” This has absolutely nothing to do with the broader picture, especially in Hawaii, whose people rarely look beyond their little rocks bobbing in the great blue Pacific over to what is universally here called “the Mainland,” as if it’s just another much larger rock bobbing in the same deep blue ocean.
Instead, this all about the local Democrats, and their bitter feud to claim a seat that in their minds, is historically and rightfully theirs. It’s also about the Democratic new guard bumping up against the Democratic old guard and the battle that sees longtime kingmaker Sen. Daniel Inouye gradually losing his grip on the reins of power he’s controlled for decades.
There’s even some spin associated with that: “Finishing order shows influence of Inouye pick,” proclaims the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. In other words, says a prognosticator in that article, Inouye, by anointing Hanabusa, didn’t pick the winner, but he did pick the loser.
Which boils down to that old saw by Will Rogers, that “I am not a member of any organized party — I am a Democrat.” That is never more true than right here, right now.
Lucky for this splintered party that voters – not candidates, egos and kingmakers – will chose the Democrat who faces off against Djou in November.
Djou is right to revel in his victory. He should proceed to Washington amid congratulations for being the first Republican in almost 20 years to breach that not-so-thin blue line. But he might be wise to take out a short-term rental of an apartment there.
Because the silly season ain’t done yet. Just sayin’.
I guess if a journalist were allowed to have an opinion about anything, it would be access to public records.
So it's appropriate here to post two letters the Society of Professional Journalists Hawaii Chapter recently sent to Gov. Linda Lingle, asking her to veto two insidious bills the state Legislature passed this year. I'm the signatory on these letters, and I did write them, but they represent the opinion of the SPJ board, on behalf of FOIA-ers everywhere.
As a moonlighting FOIA lobbyist, I guess I’d better keep my day job. Lingle on Wednesday signed the bill formerly known as “vexatious requestor” and now simply known as the “birther” bill, and we can only hope that it won’t take on a life of its own and continue past its original purpose. Talk about vexatious!
Still to come – what the governor decides to do with the public’s right to know about complaints filed against their dentists, builders, real estate professionals, etc. Think HB1212 is a bad bill? It’s not too late to register your concerns with the governor’s office.
Stay tuned here or follow me on Twitter for updates on this bill and other government news. Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom. I’m just sayin.
Nancy Cook Lauer, the curator/publisher of All Hawaii News, is an
award-winning 25-year journalist who covered state politics in Florida.
Lauer moved to Hawaii in 2005, and has been actively involved in state
news coverage since. She's vice president of the Hawaii SPJ chapter and
holds a master's degree in library and information science from Florida
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