Molokai Times closing its doors
The new owners of The Molokai Times
are shutting down the paper after just a four-month run, citing a debt of $12,000 owed by advertisers in the economically challenged isle.
In an article posted on its Web site (www.molokaitimes.com) Monday titled "The Molokai SAD Times," owners Lester Kunani Keanini Jr. and Eric Wong said due to the poor economy and advertisers' failures to pay debts, they no longer had the financial means to run the paper.
The Molokai Times will shut its doors in Kaunakakai tomorrow, said the pair, for at least one month until it has collected all it is owed.
"We have put all of our own personal money into this business and not taken a cent out since we took over," said Wong.
Meanwhile, the Molokai Times has filed paperwork to obtain 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, after which it plans to come back.
Both Keanini and Wong openly asked the public for donations to support the newspaper. Neither could be reached for comment by press time yesterday.
The paper is staffed by a full-time editor, David Lichtenstein, and four to six interns from as far as Canada and the Czech Republic, who write stories for the weekly newspaper. The interns are unpaid, but get free board in a five-bedroom house in central Molokai, along with an old Camry, Jeep and several bikes.
The interns will be dismissed with the closure, according to Sav D'Souza, an intern from London.
The paper originally was founded as the Molokai Island Times in December 2004 by Brennan Purtzer and Darrell Williams with a small loan from computer guru John McAfee.
In January 2007, it become the Molokai Times, with Tim Kline as a new operating partner.
The Molokai Times, usually from 20 to 24 pages, covers everything from local news to sports, business, island life and politics, with online ads and classifieds.
Keanini and Wong, nicknamed the "movie guys," took over ownership of the Molokai Times from Kline on May 16, even though neither had any experience in the newspaper industry.
The pair together has experience in auto sales, diesel mechanics, head restaurant cooks and theater management. When Molokai Ranch shut down in April, Keanini and Wong lost their jobs at the Maunaloa Theater. But both had mortgages to pay for homes they had just bought in Maunaloa, and families to support.
When the opportunity to buy the Molokai Times came up, they decided to do it.
"I believe in this paper, Eric believes in this paper and we know the community also believes in this paper," said Keanini in his article, "but with no funding it can't happen."