DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Friends of the Honolulu Advertiser, led by Richard Port, yesterday explained the goals of the organization. This newly formed group includes, left to right, Darrow Aiona, Port (speaking), Randy Iwase, Ah Quon McElrath and Byron Bender.
Advertiser ‘friends’ step in
A newly formed group asks the paper's editor to postpone a round of planned layoffs
A group of prominent citizens calling itself Friends of the Honolulu Advertiser is asking Gannett Co.
, publisher of the Advertiser, to postpone laying off workers until a settlement is reached, while asking the union not to move forward with a strike.
"We're basically asking the two sides to negotiate in good faith," said Richard Port, co-chairman of the group, at a news conference yesterday before the steps of the Advertiser office on Kapiolani Boulevard.
The Friends earlier met with Lee Webber, president and publisher of the Advertiser, and Mark Platte, senior vice president and editor.
They asked Webber to hold off on planned layoffs until a settlement is reached, but were told by Webber that he could not. Webber also indicated that he did not believe there would be a strike, said Port.
Port said it was important to keep Honolulu a two-newspaper town.
Maintaining two quality newspapers, two editorial boards and two competing ad rates is important in Hawaii, particularly for small businesses, said Port.
The Friends also stepped in to save the Star-Bulletin eight years ago in a campaign called "Save Our Star-Bulletin."
Webber said in a written statement yesterday that "the steps we are taking to reduce our expenses are difficult, but necessary if the Advertiser is to remain competitive. To refuse to face the economic realities of the newspaper business, as well as the broader national and local economies, would put the long-term survival of this important community institution at risk."
Webber said the newspaper industry faces major challenges as readers shift to the Internet, while advertising revenues lag behind, and that the Advertiser's future depended on taking prudent steps now.
The Friends also met with Wayne Cahill, administrative officer of the Hawaii Newspaper Guild, one of six unions representing Advertiser employees.
Cahill told the Friends that the previous publisher of the Advertiser, Mike Fisch, had won a Gannett award for producing one of the most profitable newspapers in the chain, whereas the current publisher, by his own admission, is bringing in marginal profits that require the pending layoffs.
Cahill said the number of laid-off workers, which originally was announced to be 54, may be closer to 45 now, after some discussions with Gannett.
Members of the Hawaii Newspaper and Printing Trades Council, meanwhile, plan another rally at noon Friday, the last day for their laid-off colleagues.
The next bargaining session is scheduled for Aug. 25.
The council has a petition in which it is asking supporters to cancel their subscriptions until a labor contract settlement is reached. It will be collecting those pledge cards — 100,000 of which were distributed — on Friday.
The Friends, meanwhile, will monitor the situation and take actions as warranted, said Port, but he would not elaborate what those would be.
Friends of the Advertiser include 21 concerned citizens, many of them labor activists and education board members.
They include Port, former state Sen. Randy Iwase, Amy Agbayani, Darrow Aiona, Nancy Aleck, Byron W. Bender, Tom Brislin, Charlene Cuaresma, Carolyn Golojuch, Michael Golojuch, John Grove, Edward Hasegawa, Faye Kennedy, Jean King, Joy Kobashigawa Lewis, Ah Quon McElrath, Josette Rosof, Lou Rosof, James Shon, Tracy Takano and John Witeck.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Lee Webber, president and publisher of the Honolulu Advertiser, made the statement representing the newspaper in this article. The story said it was made by Mark Platte, senior vice president and editor.