Dave Shapiro, managing editor of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin

Enshrined: Jan. 20, 2001

Comments by John Flanagan of the Star-Bulletin


Lucinda Fleeson of American Journalism Review has a story in the current issue about the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, the saga of its ownership and near demise and about "Broken Trust," the story that probably saved it.

"It was the kind of story that makes journalists salivate like hungry dogs," Fleeson wrote. She described the essay that launched the state's investigation into Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate and how it was first offered to the Advertiser. When that paper didn't react quickly enough, Randy Roth, one of its authors, offered the piece to the Star-Bulletin.

"That was Thursday," Fleeson wrote. "The professor took the story to the smaller, scrappy Star-Bulletin. There, editors read it overnight and met with the professor the next morning. On Saturday, Aug. 16, 1997, the newly named essay "Broken Trust" was splashed over three full pages of the Star-Bulletin's Insight section.

"It was the story that rocked Hawaii.

"Two days later, Gov. Benjamin J. Cayetano directed his attorney general to investigate the Bishop Estate. The estate's five trustees were ousted. Trustee salaries were slashed to a ninth of their previous level. State Supreme Court justices stopped choosing Bishop Estate trustees."

Fleeson went on, "To many, publication of 'Broken Trust' defines the contrast between Hawaii's two major daily newspapers. For the spunky Star-Bulletin, it was another chapter in a 118-year history independent stands that have challenged the establishment. While retaining its motto as "The Pulse of Paradise," the paper soon adopted a new slogan: 'We Make Waves.' The story reinvigorated the Star-Bulletin staff, which has since broken so many news and enterprise stories that the paper dominates local newspaper awards and garners national prizes as well."

I'd love to take the credit for that renaissance, but I can't. Although many people share the responsibility, the person we're here to honor tonight was its driving force.

As Fleeson wrote, "There are many heroes in this story of a small newspaper fighting Goliath Gannett, but there is one in particular who stands out ... David Shapiro, 52, the Star-Bulletin's managing editor from 1987 until late last year."

Fleeson recounts how Randy Roth "remembers the Friday morning that Star-Bulletin Managing Editor Shapiro and Editorial Page Editor Diane Chang wore big smiles on their faces when they said they would print the story, then huddled together to rip open the paper."

"In the middle of the frenzy, Shapiro looked up from the copy he was editing. To no one in particular, he said, 'God, I love this job.' "

After Dave decided to resign because of his health last November, I wrote a letter to readers about him. I can't improve on what I wrote then:

"If there's a more savvy, warm-hearted, curmudgeonly newspaper man alive than Dave Shapiro,I haven't met him. Image Ed Asner's Lou Grant as played by Wilfred Brimley, throw in the political instincts of a Lyndon Johnson, the righteousness of a Tom Paine, a self-deprecating sense of humor and a passion for newspapers and the people who inhabit them. That wouldn't be Dave, but it'd sure put you in his ballpark.

"I met Dave in California in 1986. By then, he already had eons of experience as a reporter and editor, covering volcanic eruptions on the Big Island, space shots at Cape Canaveral and lots of territory in between.

"We came to the Star-Bulletin together in 1987. Dave had left Hawaii in 1978 as the paper's Washington correspondent, returning nine years later as its managing editor. Last month, he willingly stepped down for health reasons.

"For the past 13 years on the table of organization I was his boss, but the heart, soul and brain of this newspaper lived in his office, not mine. There have been few decisions much more important than what to have for lunch that I haven't bounced off him over those years. I didn't always take his advice, of course. I have the scars to prove it.

"Eight years ago, I described Shapiro this way: 'Focuses on results, remains calm in a crisis, defends what he believes in passionately and speaks his mind ... enthusiastically committed to the Star-Bulletin in a way that commands the respect of the staff."

His city editor 22 years ago wrote: "Dave Shapiro may be the best all-around reporter on the staff -- fast, dependable, competent on any type of assignment ... he exudes confidence in his judgment and the ability to handle his beat on his own."

"Today, I'm happy to call him friend, colleague, confidante and counselor."

If I were caught in a fight some night in a dark alley, I might not want Dave beside me, but I'd sure as hell want him writing the story."

Mary and I were out at the Sony Open today, watching some talented people play a very demanding game. We watched group after group play their shots to the 18th green, a long par 5.

To get a good score on 18, a golfer has to hit a long driver over the corner of the dogleg, but not too long or the ball will go through the fairway into the rough. Then he has a choice.

He can play it safe, lay up with an iron and then try to pitch the ball close enough for a tough birdie or an easy par.

Or he can go for the green with a fairway wood. It's a chancy shot, but if the ball gets to the green in two, there's a chance for an eagle.

This afternoon, we didn't see many eagles, Most golfers were laying up. With so much on the line, it's always better to play it safe.

Dave and I used to golf together fairly often. They say golf is a game that defines a man's character.

I never once saw Dave Shapiro lay up.

Hall of Fame

Hawaii SPJ