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Saturday, June 21, 2008
Journal Closes (maybe)
By Andrew Walden @ 2:38 AM :: 4704 Views :: Hawaii County , First Amendment

The Hawai`i Island Journal is closed.  Its last edition, published June 14, carried only a short notice of regret from its O`ahu-based owner, Honolulu Weekly publisher Laurie Carlson.  HIJ Editor Peter Serafin told reporters he had received no advance notice before getting the bad news in a call from Carlson the morning of June 9.

At least that’s the official story.  Sources at Honolulu Weekly indicate that some Journal assets are being transferred to Stephens-Media-owned Big Island Weekly.  Carlson tells HFP that she has been approached by a buyer for the Journal.  Is Stephens buying the Journal?  Is Stephens buying Honolulu Weekly?  Carlson is mum on that and so are Stephens executives contacted in Las Vegas.     

The (possibly) last edition of HIJ carried only about 6 pages of advertising, a far cry from the 20-25 pages of advertising it carried in its heyday as publisher Lane Wick got it plumped up and primed to sell.  Wick’s last issue as editor mentioned that: “It was never about the money” about a half-dozen times. 

HIJ has pretty much been in freefall since purchased by Honolulu Weekly.  When Stephens opened BIW, the decline was accelerated by HIJ’s reliance on emotional appeals as a substitute for taking on the competition in the advertising marketplace.  HIJ’s move from Kona to Hilo merely added to its expenses while shaking loose key staffers.  In addition to Big Island Weekly, Stephens owns Hawaii Tribune Herald, West Hawaii Today, North Hawaii News, Kama`aina Shopper and Westside Weekly.  Who will report on the ongoing labor dispute at HTH or any other story Stephens finds inconvenient?  

In the end HIJ’s own socialist ideology left it unable to conceive of the possibility that a smaller company could compete against a larger one.  It’s second to last edition cover story was about garbage.  Title:  “What’s next?”  Big Island Weekly’s cover story:  Something about a “New Reality” and a photo of a $100 bill.

We at Hawai`i Free Press already miss being able to report on HIJ’s sales and marketing director showing of the movie “9-11 in Plane Site”--which argued that the US Air Force carried out the 9-11 attacks, not that nice boy Osama. 

We also miss HIJ stories by Jack Kelly and Jim Medeiros--but they disappeared from their comfortable perch in the pages of HIJ after court documents emerged online revealing the millions of dollars in “settlement” money they and other Hokuli`a defendants were allegedly demanding for themselves and their attorneys. 

A year later Hawai`i Free Press exposed sworn courtroom accusations of elder abuse and theft by Pansy Medeiros, Jim’s elderly mother.  To this day no other newspaper has reported Pansy Medeiros’ story.

Big Island Weekly is keeping up with the Journal’s record.  Just in the last few weeks BIW has done everything in its power to smear Guy Enriques as he prepares to defeat Bob Jacobson and Jacobson’s “Ka`u Preservation, Inc” gang led by a convicted drug dealer.  KPI last year tried to convince the County Council to seize Hawaiian kuleana land and a decaying resort site at Punalu`u, Ka`u and place that land under KPI management.   With that and BIW’s neat little lies on behalf of acquitted murderer and ex-Communist Party member Angela Davis, we at Hawai`i Free Press are certain that there will be plenty to keep us busy.

When BIW opened, HIJ investigated Stephens’ past record of forcing down alternative papers in other markets.  According to HIJ, Stephens would force a sale or closure of an established alt paper by setting up a new alt paper to compete against it.  When the original paper was forced out of business, Stephens would buy its name and gut the hard core leftist political content in favor of the cultural and food-related features which attract advertisers. 
If this strategy is followed on the Big Island, there may soon be an end to mindless blithering hype about purely fraudulent pseudo-causes such as opposition to depleted uranium, GMOs, and geothermal electricity.  If so, this would leave Rep Cindy Evans (D-N Kona, S Kohala) with no reason to show up for work at the Legislature.  It would also mean that several Big Island mayoral candidates have pandered to activists for absolutely no gain.  

Over the last year HIJ’s core writers migrated over to BIW in droves. Ironically HIJ became modeled on the culture-oriented business plan it accused Stephens of following—but without the boost in sales. 

Will Stephens management now grab the reins at BIW and reverse course?  Will BIW become HIJ?  What about Honolulu Weekly?   As HIJ declined, BIW didn’t exactly scoop up the “holistic-organic-sustainable” crowd which once bulked out HIJ’s ad revenues.  Our sources on BIW staff indicate that most BIW ads are sold as part of a discount package with ads in other Stephens papers.


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