Thursday, October 21, 1999

Star-Bulletin closing after 117 years

Expert: Victory
for Star-Bulletin
at appellate court

Berkeley law prof says action keeps
the paper operating until the court rules

Council resolution backs paper

By Debra Barayuga


A decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejecting a bid for an emergency hearing sought by the owners of Honolulu's two major dailies is a moral and legal victory for supporters of the Star-Bulletin, says an expert on journalism law.

"It's not surprising that the court of appeals would just let things stand as they were until they can hear the real appeal," said Stephen Barnett, law professor at the University of California at Berkeley, who has been monitoring the recent efforts to shut down Honolulu's afternoon daily. "It means the Star-Bulletin will keep publishing until the 9th Circuit can hear and decide the appeal."

While refusing an emergency hearing for the Gannett Pacific -Liberty Newspapers appeal of the District Court's order barring a shutdown, the 9th Circuit did put the appeal on the fast track. Gannett owns the Honolulu Advertiser, Liberty the Star-Bulletin.

A three-member panel could review the arguments on both sides by mid-November.

Barnett predicted that Liberty and Gannett will lose their appeal of U.S. District Judge Alan Kay's Oct. 13 order, which also prevents them from taking any action that would adversely affect Star-Bulletin's subscribers and advertisers.

The owners announced Sept. 16 they were ending their joint operating agreement, which was to expire in 2012, and ceasing publication of the Star-Bulletin on Oct. 30. "As things stand, unless they put the Star-Bulletin on the market, the deal is a straight-out antitrust violation," Barnett said.

Rupert Phillips, principal investor of Liberty Newspapers, said at the time he announced the closing of the Star-Bulletin that he had not tried to sell the paper. "We're obviously pleased with the ruling but it certainly indicates there's a lot more work to be done," said Deputy Attorney General Rodney Kimura. "This battle is not over."

Kay's order remains in effect until the appeals court rules. Meanwhile, the state, besides complying with a Nov. 3 deadline to respond to the newspaper owners' arguments, will seek a permanent injunction, Kimura said, but declined to disclose details. "We're going for the whole ball of wax."

No trial date has been set yet for the state's suit, accusing Liberty and Gannett of violating state and antitrust laws by agreeing to shut down the Star-Bulletin in exchange for a termination payment to Liberty and of conspiring to create a monopoly.

Entire Council backs paper

The effort to keep the Star-Bulletin open has received a boost from the City Council.

A resolution urging Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership to find a purchaser for the Star-Bulletin was approved yesterday 8-0.

"This is a community issue," Councilwoman Rene Mansho said. "The people would like their voices heard."

About 20 employees and supporters of the nonprofit Save Our Star-Bulletin organization attended the Council meeting in a show of unity.

Lance Kamada, a Star-Bulletin circulation district manager who's worked for the paper 22 years, told Council members he felt "betrayed" when Liberty Newspapers announced the closure last month.

Some 600 people would be out of work if the Star-Bulletin closes, said Jerry Ahue, president of the Newspaper Printing Trades Council and also the Honolulu Typographical Union/Communication Workers of America.

Shutdown announcement
Text of injunction halting shutdown
Text of refusal to lift injunction
Emergency stay denied

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