Day 1 Of The New Star-Advertiser

Aloha, Star-Advertiser.

Nice to meet you. Welcome to my breakfast table. I'll be inviting you to join me every morning.

A few thoughts based on our first visit:

  • The Star-Bulletin was a cleverly packaged tabloid and the new broadsheet reflects the same qualities. It's nicely put together — even if the comics are getting awfully small. The drawings used to be fun. Now they're just hard to see.

  • The publisher says the paper is designed to be "different from just about every newspaper on the mainland." I'd love to know what about it is different from just about every paper on the mainland. I couldn't tell. As a former newspaper editor, I've worked on a lot of newspaper design projects. I once had a famous newspaper designer tell me that from 30 feet all newspapers looked alike. In the end, it's the content that matters.

  • Give the people behind the paper a lot of credit. It's no easy task to switch from a tabloid to a broadsheet and do it seamlessly with all the complicated things they've had to go through as an organization. The first day's paper was meaty for a Monday, although frankly it didn't have any more "investigative reporting" than the Advertiser offered most Mondays.

  • The new website, despite the editor's promise of "a fresher, cleaner look that is easier to navigate," doesn't seem committed to breaking news and I hope that we won't see the loss of the community voices that were found on the Advertiser's website. The latest news at the top of the site at 5:59 p.m. Monday: A story from 8:58 a.m.

  • By the way, it was bizarre today to find five blog posts on the Advertiser's old site. I would have thought that readers going to either site of the old papers would have been redirected to the new site.

Now for a longer critique of the lead story:

  • What's up with the writing approach, where the reporter asserts grand promises for the future of the newspaper?

The lead story Monday began: "The merger of century-old rivals into today's new Honolulu Star-Advertiser should bring readers a stronger newspaper, with more muscle for investigative reporting and a deep perspective on the state that both papers helped shape. By joining forces, the 128-year-old Honolulu Star-Bulletin and the 154-year-old Honolulu Advertiser finally have a chance to grow after having had to shrink their staffs and cut wages to stay afloat."

That was written by Craig Gima, an experienced journalist whom I respect. But if that isn't editorializing, I don't know what is. Those are the kind of sentences that should have been written by the editor of the paper, not by a reporter. From the editor, I could have accepted them. From a reporter, I've got to ask a simple question: How could he know?

Will that same kind of reporting be applied to other topics?

The new paper is definitely going to be stronger than the Star-Bulletin was. But the Advertiser had more people in its newsroom than the new Star-Advertiser has and its website was clearly more lively than what the Star-Advertiser offered on its first day. If the newsroom is smaller than the old Advertiser's newsroom, why would it have more "muscle" for investigative reporting and "a deep perspective" on the state?

The truth is that it will have more muscle than if the city still had two papers, because both of them were struggling. Not necessarily more muscle than existed here just months ago.

It is true that the paper — because it's now alone in the market — has the chance to grow. I hope it does. That would be good for Honolulu and Hawaii. But the future economics of the paper are based on the economy of Hawaii and on how quickly the shift to digital advertising occurs. Don't hold your breath for growth. That said, I think the owner got off to an admirable start by hiring 28 journalists from the Advertiser. That's a great sign.

That's all for now.

Congratulations on your successful launch. I'll raise my orange juice to salute the second edition, too. But a warning might be in order, Star-Advertiser, since you're now newer in town than me: I like talking back to my newspaper.


DISCUSSION: What do you think about the new Star-Advertiser? Share your thoughts on the newest journalism operation in Honolulu.

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