Today, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and The Honolulu Advertiser fall away as two, and become one. It is a milestone day — heavy with history, with societal significance and with rededication to do right by our island community.
Hawaii’s two daily newspapers had long been rivals, their staffers both competitors and friends. Hawaii is a big small town — or is it a small big town? — and the loss of the Advertiser as an important news institution hurts. What emerges today as the hybrid Honolulu Star-Advertiser — with Star-Bulletin roots and Advertiser shoots — is an enterprise that will need to adapt to economic realities while holding firm to idealistic values of free speech, watchdog wariness and ethical goodness.
It’s a huge responsibility — one that nobody in this operation takes lightly nor for granted. This particular economy of scales hits too closely to home: As much as we’ve reported over the years on mass layoffs due to Hawaii’s ailing economy, the fact that almost half of the local newspaper workforce is losing jobs is grim. Some 430 people, of 880 total, lost their jobs.
Sadly, it’s a newspaper industry trend showing scant signs of easing. Daily newspaper readership peaked in 1984, when daily circulation reached 63.3 million, according to the Newspaper Association of America; by 2008, circulation had dropped to 48.6 million. Much blame went to the Internet boom, which sucked away readership — especially among the younger set — as well as to shorter attention spans and changing habits of readers with less time.
Another factor cited in a new study by the University of California at Davis, entitled "Next Generation Unionism and the Future of Newspapers: Networking, Entrepreneurship and Hybrid Ownership": Newspapers since 2000 have had a precipitous drop in advertising revenue. The study concludes that the newspaper industry does have a future, but must embrace sweeping change that could include a public-private ownership model and a more mutually cooperative relationship with its workers’ unions, instead of the traditionally adversarial one.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser realizes next-stage evolution is happening today. We, as a newsroom, will leave the financial conundrum to the business wizards. We trust them to do their jobs, as they trust us to do ours.
There is so very much on our journalistic radar, including the fall elections to choose Hawaii’s leaders to guide our collective lives over the next few years, the ailing state budget, development and land use, and improving education for our children’s sake.
We will strive mightily to be on the side of angels. We will work constantly to do, and shout, the noble thing.
To be, as the National Conference of Editorial Writers’ recent president David Holwerk wrote: "A strong, consistent, fair and independent voice, a voice attuned to both the issues of the day and the needs of the future."
Today, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and The Honolulu Advertiser fell away as two, and became one. There is lingering poignancy over loss, that’s certainly true. But just as true: There is much hope and a powerful, renewed sense of purpose. To do what we’ve all been trained to do; to push ahead with what we are entrusted to do. And that is to serve our cherished community in the best way we as journalists know how: with our observations, with our words and art, with our commitment to you.