Friday, June 25, 2010

The Implications of Being a One-Newspaper Town

I saw what happened in Denver. Now I'm seeing what's happening in Honolulu, when one newspaper — in this case, the new Honolulu Star-Advertiser — is the last daily standing in a city.

Being a one-newspaper town has implications for journalism, the commercial vitality of a city and for its public life.

In a free article on Civil Beat today, I share some reflections. We're going to hold a Beatup on Thursday where I'll talk about this issue further.

Here's the top of that article. To read the rest, go to Civil Beat.

I'm getting used to the fact that Honolulu is a one-newspaper town. Just like I did in Denver, after the Rocky Mountain News closed.

And I can't say I like it anymore here than I did in Denver.

That's not to say that the good folks at the Star-Advertiserhaven't tried to step up and produce a bigger — and better — newspaper than either of the city's two previous titles. But the new reality has disturbing implications for the city's journalism, commercial vitality and public life. There's something depressing about not being able to compare the coverage in two competing papers to try to understand what's going on in a city.

Let me give you a small example from Thursday's paper.

The black front-page above the fold headline in the Star-Advertiser said: "Veto of civil unions bill is not group's position." The italic sub-headline said, "The Business Roundtable clarifies its statement, reacting to internal dissent and other pressures." The article was on Page B3. The headline on the B3 article was fine, but the lede (the first and most important paragraph) was flat-out wrong. It read: "The Hawaii Business Roundtable clarified yesterday that it has not taken a position on a civil unions bill, responding to internal dissent and under pressure from gay rights advocates for urging Gov. Linda Lingle to veto the measure."

The Roundtable has taken a position on the civil unions bill. What it hasn't taken a position on, it now says, is the concept of civil unions. The group wants the governor to veto House Bill 444 because it believes there are "administrative challenges to the implementation of H.B. 444 in its present form."




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