Friday, September 17, 1999


Star-Bulletin has
long served Hawaii

Bullet The issue: The Star-Bulletin will cease publication on Oct. 30.

Bullet Our view: The community will be left with one daily newspaper, which is not desirable.

THE announcement that the Star-Bulletin will close on Oct. 30 brings an end to a proud history. The Star-Bulletin had its origins in separate newspapers dating back to the days of the Hawaiian monarchy. It has served the community through the plantation era, the shock of the Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor attack, the martial law government of World War II, the postwar labor turmoil and emergence of the Democratic Party as the dominant force in Hawaii politics, the campaign for statehood, the post-statehood economic boom and the uncertainties of Hawaii in the 1990s.

During World War II, the Star-Bulletin fought to have martial law lifted. Editor Riley Allen, a crusader for ethnic tolerance, refused to let the word "Jap" appear in the newspaper at a time when such usage was common in other publications.

Info Box Under the ownership of the Farrington family -- Wallace Farrington also became governor of the territory -- and the leadership of Editor Allen, the Star-Bulletin became the most prominent voice in the islands in support of statehood. Wallace's son, Joseph, and upon Joseph's death his widow, Elizabeth, served as delegate to Congress, with statehood always their main mission. Statehood was achieved in 1959 when John A. Burns was delegate, but the Farringtons paved the way.

IN the early 1960s the Farrington heirs decided to sell the paper to a hui led by local financier Chinn Ho, who formed a joint operating agreement between the Star-Bulletin and the Honolulu Advertiser, at the time considered a failing newspaper.

Ho sold the Star-Bulletin to the Gannett Co. a decade later. In 1993 Gannett bought the Advertiser and sold the Star-Bulletin to Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership, which has now decided to close the paper for financial reasons.

Rupert Phillips, general partner of Liberty Newspapers, cited the continued decline of circulation and the inadequate returns on investment, related to Hawaii's ailing economy, as reasons for the decision. "The staff produced a very good newspaper," he said, "but the market no longer supports an afternoon newspaper."

Through these changes of ownership, the Star-Bulletin has remained committed to democracy, open government and fair treatment of all ethnic groups and women. The joint operating agreement has not weakened its competition for news with the Advertiser although noneditorial functions were combined.

IN recent years the Star-Bulletin has taken on the powerful former trustees of the Bishop Estate, publishing the devastating "Broken Trust" indictment of their conduct that resulted in a state investigation and their ultimate removal. Other notable efforts examined the causes of Hawaii's high gasoline prices, restrictions on citizen access to state government and the power of public employee unions.

The demise of the Star-Bulletin will leave Honolulu with one daily newspaper, a situation that exists in many cities but is far from ideal. Two or more newspapers provide readers with a choice of subjects, reporting and opinions. Despite critics' claims of monopoly, the joint operating agreement made it possible for Honolulu to have two competing daily newspapers for the last 36 years.

The staff of the Star-Bulletin has worked hard to produce a newspaper that could survive under the currently unfavorable economic conditions in Hawaii. We pledge to continue to produce the best newspaper possible until the last day of publication.

Prison improvements
lift consent decree

Bullet The issue: Independent monitoring of conditions at Oahu Community Correctional Center is about to end as a result of improvements at the facility.

Bullet Our view: The state must take additional measures to deal with its prison population.

IT'S been 14 years, but the state is about to be relieved of independent monitoring of conditions at the Oahu Community Correctional Center (OCCC). It's taken that long for the state to reach compliance with national standards. Two years ago oversight was lifted for the women's prison in Kailua as a result of improved conditions.

The basic problem has been overcrowding, compounded by safety and health deficiencies. In June 1985, the state entered into a consent decree on the basis of a suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union charging "harmful and intolerable" conditions at the prisons. There were 1,436 inmates at OCCC at the time. The latest figure is 970.

Building new prisons was a key to resolving the programs at both the men's and women's facilities. In addition, about 1,200 inmates have been sent to mainland institutions.

The ACLU has now filed a proposal to end the case and the state attorney general's office has joined in a proposed order of final dismissal. The order is before federal Judge Samuel P. King for approval, which is expected.

Alvin Bronstein, director emeritus of the ACLU National Prison Project, has been involved in the case from the start. He said that having correctional professionals at the head of the prison system -- which was not the case in the past -- "gives us a great deal of encouragement that they will keep things going."

However, more than just dedicated administration is needed. The state needs to summon the will to build a major new prison to end the shipping of inmates to the mainland. It must also put more money into drug treatment programs, because drugs are involved in so many crimes. But getting the prison consent decree lifted is an important achievement.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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