April 2001 Newsletter

Chapter sues UH Board of Regents

The Hawaii Professional Chapter, Society of Professional Journalists, has filed suit against the University of Hawaii Board of Regents for allegedly violating the state Sunshine Law.

The suit says the regents failed to itemize on their agendas any action related to setting the new president's salary. That salary is $442,000.

he chapter is seeking to void the unannounced action by the Board of Regents. Common Cause/Hawaii and UH and UH graduate student Mamo Kim joined in the action. Common Cause later withdrew from the suit.

"This is not an action questioning the amount of the president's salary,” said Stirling Morita, chapter president. “The regents have failed to let the public know about the intention to set the salary at $442,000. That means the public could not tell the board - and the media were prevented from reporting - whether that is a reasonable figure.”

“Informing the public and giving it a chance to consider and talk about a board action is a crucial component of a democratic society. If the public doesn't know about it, it can't let the board know how it feels about it. The board then can do what it pleases without being accountable to the taxpaying public.”

Carl Varady, a longtime attorney for the ACLU and who has handled Sunshine Law violation cases, is the lawyer handling the suit.

UH journalism professor Bev Keever found two instances of apparent violations:

-- Refusal by the board to allow students to testify on tuition increases although the law requires them to give anyone an opportunity to talk about any important issue.

The law says: “The boards shall afford all interested persons an opportunity to submit data, views, or arguments, in writing, on any agenda item. The boards shall also afford all interested persons an opportunity to present oral testimony on any agenda item.”

-- Failure to itemize action on increasing the president's pay to $442,000 on meeting agendas.

The law says: “No board shall change the agenda, once filed, by adding items thereto without a two-thirds recorded vote of all members to which the board is entitled; provided that no item shall be added to the agenda if it is of reasonably major importance and action thereon by the board will affect a significant number of persons. Items of reasonably major importance not decided at a scheduled meeting shall be considered only at a meeting continued to a reasonable day and time.”

There is no action at this time on the refusal to allow students to testify at the regents meeting.

Excellence in Journalism contest

The Hawaii chapter received 273 entries in the Excellence in Journalism competition for 2001.

That is below last year's total of 335.

Competition is fierce in quite a few categories.

Right now, the San Diego chapter is judging our entries.

The awards will be presented at a June dinner. Look for additional information later on.

Local journalists are now judging the San Diego entries.

Judging coordinators are:

Thank you to all the various judges who are giving up their free time to judge the San Diego entries.

Photo by Treena Shapiro

The two first inductees into the Hawaii SPJ Hall of Fame, Gene Tao, far left, and Dave Shapiro, far right, chat after the January dinner honoring the two longtime journalists. Left is Tao's wife, Julia, and right is Shapiro's wife, Maggie. Tao retired last year as editor of the Hawaii Tribune-Herald and Shapiro retired in March as managing editor of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. The roast at Hee Hing restaurant included a song from the Big Island sung by Gordon Y.K. Pang about the “House of the Rising Tao.”


Regional conference held in Anaheim

By Larry LeDoux

SPJ Board Member

Region 11 Director Mark Scarp reported that the national board is considering increasing SPJ national dues by $2 to $72 a year for professional members and $1 for students. Delegates to the recent Region 11 conference in Anaheim, Calif., balked at the suggestion.

The general response was: Dues need to go down, not up; members need to see some value for dues; national needs to market itself better: What is it doing with our dues and the other money SPJ events activities raise?

Scarp said national is also considering other options: increasing membership or reducing the level of services. National appears reluctant to reduce services because it took too long to finally get the level of services up enough to make dues worthwhile. Reducing them would not be reassuring to people that even the present dues level is worth its value.

Membership was 12,000 in 1997; today it's 9,000, but the organization's budget is for 12,000.

Dues count for a third of the budget (they used to count for more), but that's still a budget based on 12,000.

Scarp said the biggest outlay is for lobbying at the national level for all journalists in areas of ethics, access and First Amendment.

A May 7 telethon is scheduled to phone members who have not renewed. Chapters are asked to step up recruiting, especially re-recruiting of members who have dropped.

The national board is also working to:

Fund-raising and recruiting ideas from other chapters:

San Diego does a semi-annual “Payback” television show on public access or donated commercial time: Newsmakers over past six months are invited to come and praise or criticize media for the way they were treated. The San Diego chapter tries to get both professional newsmakers (politicians, local office holders) and people who were accidental newsmakers, and to mix pro and con attitudes. It sells sponsorships.

San Diego did not hold its annual essay contest on the First Amendment, but rather on school violence. The chapter is organizing a public forum on school violence at which they will present winners of the essay contest.

Bay Area chapters regularly co-sponsor writer's workshops. Other chapters reinforced co-sponsoring idea and experience: partnering with PRSA or SME or other local publishing groups or even publishers means halving the profits but also halving the risks. And partnering does not affect PR value of sponsorship.

The San Francisco chapter sponsors regular weekend seminars on current journalism issues, skills.

Bay Area chapters also recommended using student chapters to do more than collate, mail, and register for events: have them do PR for and write news reports of events, SPJ issues, concerns.

Hawaii reported on its brown bag seminar program, Gridiron Show, and professional contest. The report referred to the number of new board members and to the ongoing problems of Star-Bulletin reorganization.

Scarp is running for a third term. He welcomes other nominees. E-mail him at mscarp@spj.com


Editorial pages provide context for the news. They explore issues and seek answers to why and to how to make improvements. They are the paper's interactive pages, but they haven't changed in 50 years and they tend to appeal only to a small segment of readership who respond with letters.

Extremes on the panel: Orange County Register is libertarian paper deliberately antagonistic. Interaction happens because people get mad. Sees editorial pages as corrections to reporter's perspectives. Sees diversity as people who think differently no matter their skin color or ethnicity. (For example: there's no single local community in L.A.'s Little Saigon, with 400 Vietnamese newspapers serving a population of 300,000 people.)

In contrast, the Fresno Bee seeks balanced coverage of all sides of issues, explains complexity, gets interaction other ways - inviting community columns, for example.

The debate is large, editorial pages are narrow. Enlarge the range of the debate by involving more people from the community and utilizing Web sites and the infinity of cybersapce.

Ideas for enlarging readership: Modesto invites people from the community to sit on the editorial board to provide community perspective on issues. Two people, voting, six-month terms. Two students, nonvoting, six-month terms.

Fresno: Invite leaders or press people from local nonwhite populations (Latin, Southeast Asian) to do articles on the perspective of their communities on issues.

Put all the letters received on the Web site - no print space restrictions there.

Put on the Web site the full transcripts of interviews that were edited for print version. Put full texts of public documents and forms so Web users can apply for access to public documents.

Open up forum sites on Web site for community input on controversial issues. Organize chat sessions with public figures.

Make it easier to interact: Set up a voice mail for letters to the editor: 20 words, no profanity.

Set up a voicemail response column. Edit responses to essence and print with three-dot format. Scarp does this in Phoenix: column is called “The Vent.” Printed with no names. Two-minute time limit on the voice mail. Edited only for profanity. “My job is to get people of the couch,” he says.


Primary ideas: professional analysts - tech or financial - are often in the pay of (or at least financially involved with) the companies that they are analyzing. Ditto for think tanks - although their affiliations are usually political. We need their information, but to be objective, we have to disclose their connections. Suggestions: consult academics. Consult competitors.

This is what caused the .com bubble and what is exacerbating the .com debacle. Analysts are either sellers or buyers, and journalists have to figure out which, adjust their acceptance of the sources, and identify the possible conflicts of interest.

Good journalism tends to be counter-cyclic. We should not just reflect society but be a lamp to light it.

Other issues: corporate ownership of media: When was the last time you saw a serious ABC investigation of Disney. Or CBS investigation of General Electric. And how could CNN do anything serious on AOL or TIME-Warner?

New York Times is on a slippery slope with its book reviews on same page as a Barnes and Noble hot link: that affects readers choices (no links to Amazon, Borders, other book sellers.) This gets worse when you realize that NYT gets a cut of every purchase made through that link. That puts the paper in the position where a reader could question its objectivity. We should never do this. Our credibility is all we've got. Without it, we have no product to sell and no career.

Why is the Internet less trustworthy than the newspaper or the TV/radio broadcast?

Print and broadcast go through an editing process - sometimes several layers of it. This process checks facts and asks questions: about the relationship of the sources to the story. About other sources. About source credentials. In contrast, the Internet is self-publishing. No one checks facts, vets sources. Online data is raw data. Check it. Be a critical thinker.


Public relations, corporate communication, media relations - these are all about helping people communicate more effectively with each other and with the media. If you have to leave journalism, market yourself as someone who understands what reporters need and who is able to organize and present information - directly or by prepping executives to handle news conferences -- so that it is usable by and useful to the media.

Never stop networking. Never do anything that will affect your credibility. Lots of people can do research and writing. Honesty and integrity are the most important coin you have.

Keep up your SPJ membership.


Young journalists - students even - are on the cusp of the greatest revolution in communication since the inventing of printing. Online will not replace the other media, but it is and will become the new mass media for the 21st century.

Disadvantages: We are trained to be literal-minded and Spartan. We are not trained to augment. We are not encouraged to be open-minded to new, nonlinear ways of presenting information. The Internet is not linear. You can enter a story at any point. So we have to find new ways of telling stories. Not just print and graphics, but video and audio.

Remember the hard fact: News media are businesses. They must show a profit.

Use this shakeup time to prepare:

  1. Experiment with new ways to tell stories - learn what will work.

  2. Learn basic online skills: html is the new grammar for mass communication.

  3. Create a personal and a business plan.

  4. Assemble the skills, people, etc. that you need to implement the plan

  5. Implement it.

Fast download times are coming. Soon. And the Internet - an essentially visual medium -- will come into its own.

The gold rush is over. Now the business of the Internet will mature. The keys to profitability are:

The way people use the 'Net for breaking news. Master the inverted pyramid and be ready to update continuously. The hits on breaking news are spikes that will lead readers to your print versions where events can be analyzed.

No newsprint costs: you can add layer on layer of supplemental material - full texts of interviews, public documents, and speeches.

Non-linear: no real time element needed.

Multi-dimensional: links to archive stories, other Web sites, video clips, audio clips.

Video/audio can be fast forward, slow motion, replay

Employment tips: solid news skills.

Well-rounded: able to write, edit, broadcast, provide photos, and post to template on the Web site. Ask not “why” but “why not”?


Get it first, but first get it right.

If it isn't right, it's worthless.

If it's accurate but sloppy, it makes you look stupid.

Immediacy is the essence of the Web.

Visual is essence of Web. People don't read, they scan.

Life after the Star-Bulletin

By Ian Lind

SPJ Member

It's now been just over a month since I found myself standing outside the News Building as a parade of soon-to-be-former Star-Bulletin co-workers marched out the doors just after noon, crowded onto the sidewalk, then moved rapidly to the corner and off down South Street towards their future.

I remember Burl Burlingame following the pipers at the head of the procession while pushing a blue Star-Bulletin sales rack rescued from the heart of the old newsroom, and Gordon Pang doing the heavy lifting on a “We Make Waves” sign.

I left with nothing so dramatic. One plastic shopping bag containing several leis received earlier that morning along with a few last items removed from my desk, along with a white large kitchen garbage bag shielding an original caricature by Corky Trinidad, inscribed by departing colleagues with brief expressions of support, regret and hope.

After chronicling the emotional, political, and journalistic ups and downs in the Star-Bulletin newsroom during the 18-months since the paper was first threatened with closure, I found myself in the surprising position of being left behind, literally and figuratively.

More correctly, booted out.

“Your services will not be required by the Honolulu Star-Bulletin after the company assumes ownership of the paper.”

The nut graph of the terse five-sentence letter from John Flanagan had been a surprise. Despite clear signals that the Star-Bulletin's new management, then operating in exile down at Restaurant Row, was not amused by my online newsroom diary (now available at www.ilind.net), I had an underlying faith that such journalism, even if controversial, might be appreciated, understood, or at least tolerated by professionals.

After all, I figured, it should be obvious that one can't survive in the ranks of investigative reporters without a bit of an attitude, a proclivity to stir things up and see what happens next. Surely good editors would understand the value of that edge, or so I thought.

I was wrong.

So there I was, after the whirlwind Star-Bulletin procession departed, standing on the sidewalk exchanging empty pleasantries with a few Gannett old-timers, watching history being made by others.

I returned several hours later to collect a modest severance check, and then left the building, and perhaps the daily news business, for the last time.

It felt like graduated high school or college graduation day, when you realize those times are gone and you're being thrust inexorably ahead, for good or ill. A familiar reality falling away, replaced by both a sense of anxiety and foreboding, as well as possibilities and potentials.

So I'm living through the problems that I speculated on in my online diary back on November 15, 1999, when I recorded this entry:

“Then came Rupert's announcement and, zip, the world shifts ever so slightly, there's that feeling of the ground dropping away momentarily, and I can see or feel it all vanishing in an instant. What does an investigative reporter do without a newspaper?

There's so much investigating to do, but not a lot of ready ways to put the results into public view.

I'm rooted here in Hawaii, and am not likely to venture off to the mainland to fit into another existing newspaper job. So what happens next? It's a question I'm trying to avoid as long as possible, because it goes into territory full of dragons by forcing a series of questions: If I'm no longer Ian Lind the investigative reporter for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, who am I? And what's my identity when that security key is disabled and I've carried the last box of stuff out to the car and left the second-floor newsroom for the last time? You don't really want to visit such questions if it isn't necessary, and I keep hoping that new directions will open up without having to face the identity issues straight on. We'll see.

It's been a month, and I'm still waiting for those new directions and potentials to reveal themselves. As I said then, we'll see.

I faced an immediate identity crisis soon after being cut loose when my SPJ membership renewal notice arrived in the mail.

I admit to a moment's hesitation but, hoping for the best, I paid my dues and prepared to move on.

I've got an office now, with computer, phone, Internet access, and a place to stash my files. You can reach me a 955-1819.

In the short term, I'm slowly committing to a few freelance assignments.

I'm stopped several times a day, sometimes by strangers at bus stops or in the grocery store, asking me what it's like at the new Star-Bulletin, and I grope around for a polite explanation of my departure from the paper and a suitable description of my current pursuits.

Investigative writer and researcher, sometimes advocate, still seeking to make a difference. Suggestions appreciated.

Championship writing

Nobody knows good writing like Paula LaRocque.

She has conducted writing workshops for scores of newspapers in the United States and Canada, and she was a writing consultant for the Associated Press Washington Bureau from 1989 to 1993. She writes regular columns about writing for Quill magazine, APME News and The Dallas Morning News. She is, simply, among the most respected writing coaches in the country.

Fifty of LaRocque's best columns from Quill have been put together into her new book, "Championship Writing: 50 Ways to Improve Your Writing." This volume is packed with writing tips and insights and is a joy to read. Even veteran writers will find something valuable in each chapter.

If people order through the Hawaii chapter, 25 percent will go to the chapter and 25 percent goes to the Quill Endowment Fund. The 216-page softcover book costs $18.95 plus $2 shipping (unless you get it from a designated chapter leader).

2001 summer interns are named

The 2001 summer interns have been selected. They are:

Many thanks to John Black of Trade Publishing and Craig DeSilva of Hawaii Public Radio.

Membership changes

The chapter needs you.

Yes, the annual fee seems high: $70 plus $10 local dues. But did you know you can pay that it in two installments?

Your membership will help give more weight to the chapter's testimony and comments on legislation and possible violations of open meetings and records laws.

The chapter will:

Legislative matters

Remember the confusion over hospital personnel being penalized for releasing information about patients?

This year, the state Legislature was head toward repealing the law because federal regulations may supercede it, but a Senate committee blocked the move by holding a bill. The federal regulations would go into effect in 2003.

There also was a bill (HB 1157) to have the Office of Information Practices enforce violations of the medical privacy law.

Two years ago, the chapter testified against the state measure because it would make it hard for the news media to get the prompt medical conditions of people injured in accidents and crimes. In fact, although the measure's implementation date has been moved back, hospitals are already withholding medical conditions.

Poised for passage is HB 324. It would ask voters to give crime victims constitutionally protected rights, which includes "appropriate rights to privacy, protection, participation in criminal proceedings."

An unofficial list of legislative bills this session involving open meetings, public records and privacy that appear dead for this year:

Gridiron 2001 is coming

OK, Gridiron fans, we've tentatively scheduled the 2001 show for Oct. 19-20 at Diamond Head Theatre.

Keoki Kerr is looking for writers, performers and volunteers.

If you have something that might tickle some people from the past year's events, just e-mail Keoki at kkerr@kitv.com

If you'd like to volunteer for something, just e-mail Keoki.

Stafford Kiguchi has done such a good job of rounding up ads that he has already locked one up, Chevron, has sent the chapter a check for the 2001 performance.

Learn how to use U.S. census data

10 a.m. to noon

Saturday, May 5

Star-Bulletin conference room

Tower 7, Room 210

As new information is released from the 2000 Census, the question remains: What can you do with this stuff?

Learn how to enhance your stories with census data using the Internet or find out how to get the CD.

Jerry Wong of the Census Bureau will be in Honolulu to teach reporters and others how to find and use census

He will give a hands-on workshop at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 5, in a conference room at the new Star-Bulletin office, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Tower 7, Suite 210.

RSVP required because of security on Saturdays. Call Stirling Morita at 529-4755. There will be no validated parking.

'AHA'ILONO: reporter, messenger, bringer of news

'AHA'ILONO is a newsletter of the Society of Professional Journalists-Hawaii Pro Chapter. We welcome news stories, commentaries, letters, industry tidbits and other items of interest concerning professional journalists in Hawaii and the Pacific. Submit items to:

Stirling Morita
The Honolulu Star-Bulletin
500 Ala Moana Blvd.
Tower 7, Room 210
Honolulu, HI 96813
Telephone: 529-4755.
Fax: 529-4750
E-mail: smorita@flex.com

SPJ-Hawaii Pro Chapter
P.O. Box 3141
Honolulu, HI 96802

For the latest on local SPJ events, check out the Hawaii chapter Web page at http://www.flex.com/~spj

Hawaii SPJ