It was just over two weeks ago, on March 15, that I shared with you how the Honolulu Star-Advertiser is striving to provide you with the most up-to-date, complete and factual information about the coronavirus pandemic, including online updates and live coverage throughout the day. Both our digital and our print readers, including those who read our digital print replica, are receiving full in-depth coverage of this fast-moving crisis every day.
News publishers nationwide are proud to accept the tremendous responsibility of being an “essential business” during this time when readership is soaring as citizens seek life-or-death information about the coronavirus.
Our 78 journalists are working tirelessly, most from home, under very difficult circumstances to keep up with this constantly evolving crisis, particularly as it affects our island community.
Last week, the president and CEO of the News Media Alliance, David Chavern, and the CEO of America’s Newspapers, Dean Ridings, representing thousands of local newspapers across the country, wrote a letter to President Donald Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The letter included the following points about their member newspapers:
“These publishers are on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis, providing their communities with critical news and information about health, welfare and safety.”
“Unfortunately, many local news publishers are now facing an existential crisis of their own. In particular, the rapid contraction of advertising markets is dealing a brutal blow to an industry where business models were already deeply difficult.”
“Obviously, independent journalism and government action have an inherent and necessary tension, and we should look for solutions that maintain a separation of interests. But, we also all have a mutual need to sustain local news publishing so that it can collectively get us through this crisis … and the next one.”
Since my March 15 letter to you, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser has lost over $3.4 million in advertising revenue. We expect the losses to increase significantly the longer businesses stay closed. This loss has forced us to furlough 46 employees and to reduce the hours of 149 others. Our business is heavily dependent on advertising.
The changes we initially implemented are being revisited as the pandemic evolves.
Our mission, however, has not changed one iota: We will continue to deliver essential in-depth statewide news and information 24/7 throughout this crisis.
To continue our unparalleled local coverage of the coronavirus statewide, we have added coverage in some areas and cut back in areas where there is less news:
>> We have added a large index on the front page devoted to local, national and international coronavirus news and information.
>> With so many people at home, we have added a “Review” story on A2 Monday through Saturday. These are reviews of performances, movies, books and entertainment available online, including through Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, Hulu and regular television stations.
>> Most days, we have combined the Nation and World pages on one page instead of devoting a single page to each topic, creating more space for coronavirus coverage.
>> Sports coverage now consists of two pages folded into the Local/ Business section Monday through Saturday. Sports remains a separate section on Sunday.
>> We initially reduced Play, the weekly entertainment guide, from 10 pages to two pages, but now we have suspended it because there are no entertainment activities and events happening.
>> We reduced the Travel section on Sunday from eight pages to four pages and folded it in with Detours in one 10-page section.
>> We are preparing to downsize Crave, which is published on Wednesdays, to an as-yet-undetermined number of pages.
We are with you and for you. Mahalo for your support and understanding as, working together, we all do our best to get our island community through this dreadful pandemic.
President and Publisher, Honolulu Star-Advertiser