To Our Readers


Sunday, September 30, 2001

Seeking some direction
on a new road

This is my last Letter to Readers as editor in chief. In my new job as contributing editor, I'll write three columns a week, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. We'll call them "Talking Story." My focus will be Hawaii news, politics and personalities. I'll try to take them seriously, but not solemnly.

In preparation I've been rereading my grandfather's family newsletter, The Maple Street News. On April 13, 1939 he wrote about another writer:

"J.P. Flanagan enjoyed a visit with E.B. White at North Brooklin, Maine today. Mr. White is with the New Yorker magazine and until recently wrote most of the Talk of the Town paragraphs.

"Mr. Flanagan having recently bought Mr. White's latest book, 'Quo Vadimus,' wrote asking if he would autograph it if Mr. Flanagan should call on him.

"The reply: 'Dear Mr. Flanagan: This being a free country I don't see how I could stop you -- although maybe my dogs can. I have ugly moods and am intensely suspicious of admirers, whose taste I question. Scratch an acquaintance and find an insurance salesman.

"'They will tell you at the North Brooklin post office where my house is. I am exceedingly grateful to you for buying my book: It sets you apart from all but a few hundred other people in the United States.'"

My one-time boss, J. Taylor Buckley, taught me a lot about writing. His style was terse, self-deprecating and humorous. His ideas, outrageous.

Buckley once did a column on gun control. First, he bought an AK-47 rifle at a roadside gun shop in rural Virginia. Then, he stacked some cinderblocks (what Hawaii calls hollow tile) on the end of his mother's boat dock and tried it out.

A few rounds turned the blocks into a heap of rubble and made his point: The Kalashnikov isn't a sporting gun. Buckley liked to ask political candidates, "If you were an automobile, what make and model would you be?"

Well, if my column were a car, it would be a 1993 red Subaru wagon with door dents and squeaking brakes.

Wait a minute -- that's my wife's car.

No, my column would be one of those GEM electric cars, made in Hawaii and driven by a politician so passionate about "reducing taxpayer costs and helping our environment" that she took a part-time job demonstrating it.

For free.

For real.

For heaven's sake.

John Flanagan is editor and publisher of the Star-Bulletin.
To reach him call 529-4748, fax to 529-4750, send
e-mail to or write to
500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-500, Honolulu, Hawaii 96813.

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