Tuesday, October 19, 1999

Star-Bulletin closing after 117 years

should stand,
state argues

Readers 'vitally concerned'
about losing 2nd voice

By Debra Barayuga


The owners of Honolulu's two daily newspapers have failed to show why the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals should intervene and lift an injunction barring the Oct. 30 shutdown of the Star-Bulletin, the state says.

In a response to an emergency motion filed by Gannett Pacific Corp. and Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership to overturn Judge Alan C. Kay's court order, Deputy Attorney General Rodney Kimura said, "We felt Kay's decision was well-reasoned and thorough, and they hadn't raised anything that warranted extraordinary relief."

Granting a stay of Kay's decision would effectively shut down the Star-Bulletin, which would be inappropriate, the state argued.

Lisa Munger, one of Gannett's attorneys locally, said she was reviewing the state's response but hasn't received any communication from Gannett, owner of the Advertiser.

A group of Honolulu newspaper readers called Save Our Star-Bulletin asked the appeals court to uphold Kay's order keeping alive the Star-Bulletin, owned by Liberty Newspapers.

Readers are "vitally concerned about the loss of competition," the group's lawyer, Ernest Gellhorn, said in court papers.

He said the publishers' claim of an emergency surrounding the Oct. 30 deadline "is about money and nothing more. Liberty is concerned that it will not get its money on Oct. 30 ... and Gannett Pacific is concerned it will not get its newspaper monopoly on Oahu."

He also said Kay's order would not interfere with the newspapers' ability to choose editorial content.

Save Our Star-Bulletin has circulated petitions to keep the newspaper open, filed a suit of its own and suggested that the city of Honolulu consider condemning the Star-Bulletin and selling it to a new publisher.

The state also opposes the newspapers' request to expedite the newspaper owners' appeal because the efforts that they claim are being disrupted are carrying out an "illegal agreement."

A panel of appeals judges could issue a ruling on Gannett's emergency motion and the motion for an expedited appeal as early as tomorrow.

Gannett's filing came within hours of Kay's dismissal Friday of their motion seeking to lift his Oct. 13 order preserving the status quo at the Star-Bulletin.

The state argued that Gannett's motion, which included a declaration by Advertiser Publisher Mike Fisch, "confirmed" the court's finding that the state was likely to suffer irreparable harm because substantial steps already had been taken to implement the planned shutdown of the Star-Bulletin. The state, which filed suit Oct. 6, alleges the agreement between Liberty Newspapers and Gannett to shut down the Star-Bulletin in exchange for a payment violates state and federal antitrust laws and amounts to a conspiracy to monopolize general circulation newspapers on Oahu.

Fisch cited action Gannett and the Hawaii Newspaper Agency have taken in anticipation of the shutdown. They include plans to dissolve the Hawaii Newspaper Agency and create a new entity to rehire or transfer about 700 to 800 employees, sending out termination notices to newspaper carriers and dealers, and redesigning Advertiser circulation routes to accommodate former Star-Bulletin subscribers.

Star-Bulletin closing Oct. 30, 1999
Kay issues preliminary injunction
Text of preliminary injunction
Text of refusal to lift injunction

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