The merger of century-old rivals into today’s new Honolulu Star-Advertiser should bring readers a stronger newspaper, with more muscle for investigative reporting and a deep perspective on the state that both papers helped shape.
By joining forces, the 128-year-old Honolulu Star-Bulletin and the 154-year-old Honolulu Advertiser finally have a chance to grow after having had to shrink their staffs and cut wages to stay afloat.
There are changes in the look of the new paper and the new website, www.staradvertiser.com. But many of the reporter and columnist bylines and newspaper features should be familiar.
Frank Bridgewater, editor of the Star-Advertiser, said he expects the new paper to do more enterprise and investigative reporting and to break stories.
"I think people will see more news," he said. In recent years, Bridgewater said, "both papers have had to shrink because of the economy."
More than two dozen Advertiser newsroom staffers start work this morning on their first day at the Star-Advertiser’s offices in Waterfront Plaza, a short walk down South Street from the now-empty News Building on Kapiolani Boulevard.
JOINING THE STAFF
Former Honolulu Advertiser employees who are joining the staff of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser today:
» City editor: Marsha McFadden
» Assistant city editor: Dan Woods
» City desk reporters: William Cole, Derrick DePledge, Dan Nakaso, Michael Tsai, Rob Perez, Mary Vorsino
» Columnist: Lee Cataluna
» Business editor: David Butts
» Business reporters: Andrew Gomes, Alan Yonan, Sean Hao
» Deputy editorial page editor: Stephen Downes
» Editorial page writer: Vicki Viotti
» Deputy sports editor: Curtis Murayama
» Sports reporters: Stephen Tsai, Ann Miller, Ferd Lewis
» Page designers/copy editors: John Bender, Matt Schick, Joe Guinto
» Artist: Martha Hernandez
» Photographer: Bruce Asato
» Features editor: Christie Wilson
» TGIF editor: Elizabeth Kieszkowski
» Film/TV reporter: Mike Gordon
» Online content manager: Scott Morifuji
"We hope to bring together the best of the people and put out a great newspaper," said the Star-Advertiser’s majority owner, David Black. "It’s quite important that the paper continues to have elements from each of the dailies. We want readers to feel comfortable."
The influx from the Advertiser will increase the Star-Advertiser newsroom staff to 117, making it the state’s largest news-gathering organization, Bridgewater said. Overall, the Star-Advertiser will have 474 employees, following job cuts totaling 356 at the Advertiser and 97 at the Star-Bulletin.
Curtis Murayama, who worked for the Advertiser from 1978 until yesterday, said today is bittersweet.
Murayama begins his new job as deputy sports editor at the Star-Advertiser, but other former Advertiser staffers will not be joining him.
"You feel for them but I have to move forward," Murayama said. "It (the Honolulu Star-Advertiser) is a new venture. It’s like a new journey."
"I’m kind of looking forward to the morning, just to see," said Rick Meinel, a loyal Honolulu Advertiser reader who used to deliver the paper in Waikiki as a boy. He said he is waiting to see whether the new paper "will be as good as it was before."
"I really don’t want any changes," said Lew Flores Jr., an Advertiser subscriber for 40 years, but he noted that the Internet is taking away readers and the economy has not been strong.
"I understand why a lot of it is going on," Flores said.
He said he wants to see what the new paper looks like and whether the stories are just as good.
"I think people expect us to provide more news and greater coverage," Bridgewater said. "I think we’ll put a lot of pressure on ourselves."
There will be some tinkering during the first few weeks of the new paper and the staradvertiser.com website, Bridgewater said. He expects to hear from readers about what they like and do not like about the Star-Advertiser, and there might be adjustments.
In the Star-Advertiser newsroom yesterday, Star-Bulletin staffers put out the first edition of the new paper since most Advertiser workers hired at the new paper do not start until today.
Walls have been torn down, and technicians spent yesterday setting up computers for the new staff members.
Kahu Curt Kekuna of Kawaiahao Church performed a blessing for the new venture, urging staffers to care for each other and to work together to make the new paper a success.
Star-Advertiser reporter Helen Altonn worked at the Star-Bulletin for 55 years and is no stranger to upheaval at the newspaper.
In her time at the Star-Bulletin, the Farrington Estate sold the paper to a hui of local investors led by Chinn Ho; the Star-Bulletin and the Advertiser formed a joint operating agreement; Gannett bought the Star-Bulletin; Gannett sold the Star-Bulletin and bought the Advertiser; Liberty Newspapers bought the Star-Bulletin; Liberty Newspapers and Gannett tried to shut down the Star-Bulletin; David Black bought the Star-Bulletin with local investors; and now the Star-Bulletin purchased the Advertiser and is putting out the new Star-Advertiser.
She was in the Star-Advertiser newsroom yesterday on her day off to be with her colleagues at the start of a new era for Hawaii journalism.
"I came because I wanted to bring in a cake and hear the blessing for the new paper," Altonn said. "And I guess it is a blessing that there is a newspaper. The good part of it is that there is still a surviving paper in this town when many papers have folded."
Star-Advertiser reporter Allison Schaefers contributed to this report.