David Shapiro
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By David Shapiro

Saturday, September 18, 1999

Star-Bulletin closing after 117 years

Saying aloha to the
job of a lifetime

I lucked into the job of a lifetime.

When I first approached former Star-Bulletin Big Island correspondent Jack Bryan about a job, I was a 19-year-old Hilo college kid with a scraggly beard, a torn pair of shorts and old rubber slippers.

I'd never taken a journalism course in high school or college, but I needed work and Jack needed someone to run errands for him. There were no other applicants and he gave me a shot. Jack told me years later that he didn't figure I'd last long.

I lasted with the Star-Bulletin for nearly 32 years. Jack gave me more than a part-time job. He gave me a calling.

I haven't answered the phone all week to duck TV reporters seeking comment on the Star-Bulletin's closing Oct. 30. I couldn't possibly say how I feel in a sound bite.

But as the reality sets in, one thought keeps screaming out: Through all the ups and downs, I loved every minute of it. Every single minute.

I loved the way journalists could dress like slobs, act like babies and get paid good money for disrespecting authority figures from our editors to the president of the United States.

I loved the small role I had in making Frank Fasi so mad for so many years that he dragged his foolish old fanny to our parking lot Thursday to gloat before the TV cameras about our demise.

I loved working for a newspaper with a history of great courage. We fought discrimination against Japanese Americans during World War II, battled for Hawaii's statehood and, more recently, exposed the corruption of the Bishop Estate that infected our judiciary and political institutions.

I loved interviewing Jimmy Durante on a baggage cart speeding across the tarmac at Honolulu Airport.

I loved the readers who called to tell me that our stories touched them in ways I never imagined.

I loved covering the gutsy Big Islanders who seemed to be forever overcoming volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis and floods.

I loved spending wonderful days tromping around Waipio Valley, the Kona coffee fields and Mauna Kea's summit -- and putting it on my time card when I inevitably found a good story.

I loved chasing Hawaii's congressional delegation through the halls and tunnels of the U.S. Capitol.

I loved the crushing deadline pressure of working rewrite on the Challenger disaster, the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan and the Jones-town suicides. There's no greater satisfaction than calmly typing words into a computer to rush out the news while dealing with phones on both ears bringing updates from reporters in the field, three TVs blaring overhead, a huge stack of scribbled notes and a half-dozen impatient editors.

I loved readers of Volcanic Ash for indulging my fondness for writing about my dog when I didn't have anything important to say.

Gov. Ben Cayetano observed a few weeks ago that he couldn't care less whether Honolulu has one newspaper or two. He cares. He just doesn't know it yet. It was an example of the flaw that holds him back from becoming a great leader: He lets his observations go straight from his eyes to his mouth without passing through his brain.

Cayetano should listen to Linda Kato, who left a message on my voice mail between all the TV reporters.

"I've read the Star-Bulletin for over 30 years -- every single night," she said. "I can't imagine an evening without the newspaper."

Neither can I.

David Shapiro is managing editor of the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached by e-mail at

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