Big Island media mavens chatter and twirl about the demise of the Hawai`i Island Journal and the very predictable removal/departure of 9-11 troother Kristine Kubat as editor of Big Island Weekly. But the Stephens Media purchase of 808 Classifieds has gone completely unnoticed—and the acquisition raises questions about the tactics Stephens will use against competing newspapers.
Las Vegas based Stephens Media owns the Hawaii Tribune Herald, West Hawaii Today, Big Island Weekly, the North Hawaii News, Kama`aina Shopper, Westside Shopper, and 808 Classifieds. Hawai`i Free Press is the only island-wide newspaper not owned by Stephens Media.
Former 808 Classifieds publisher Steven Schwartz has a checkered history in the free newspaper business. In early 2007 Hawai`i Free Press expanded its circulation to Maui and Kaua`i Counties. HFP distribution personnel discovered over 40 stolen Hawai`i Free Press and possibly some Hawai`i Island Journal news racks were being used on Maui and Kaua`i by 808 Classifieds.
This reporter attempted to interview Schwartz about the stolen news racks at a chance encounter in Pahoa in early 2008. But Schwartz ducked behind the First Hawaiian Bank building and just kept running. Fortunately HFP was able to obtain Schwartz’ mug shot from an unrelated 2007 conviction to use with this story.
The discovery of stolen news racks was followed quickly by the collapse of 808 Classifieds’ distribution on Kaua`i and Maui. HFP personnel spent a day in June, 2007 following 808 Classifieds entire distribution route looking for stolen news racks on O`ahu as well. They found none, but also determined that 808 Classifieds had not been distributed on O`ahu since March, 2007. When HFP personnel expanded HFP distribution to Lana`i and Moloka`i in early 2007, they could not find any copies of 808 Classifieds in any stores or on any news racks.
In spite of this, 808 Classifieds continued to represent itself to potential advertisers as “serving the Big Island, Maui, Moloka`i, O`ahu, and Kaua`i”. While publishing only one edition per month, and sometimes stretching that, it claimed to be “…printing 2 times per month on every island in Hawai`i….” After the collapse of all of its off-island operations, it continues to represent itself as “Hawai`i’s fastest-growing classifieds”.
Schwartz is currently listed on the 808 Classifieds website as a contact person for “Sales and Advertising Information.”
According to Hawai`i DCCA records, ownership of 808 Classifieds was transferred to Stevens Media on June 27, 2008. Records maintained by Network Solutions internet domain registry show that the www.808Classifieds.com website was transferred to Stephens Media on June 29, 2008. It is not known if any stolen property was included in that purchase.
The Hawai`i Island Journal last issue was the June 15-29, 2008 edition.