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Hawaii’s World

By A.A. Smyser

Thursday, January 20, 2000

Yes, we're open

Star-Bulletin story
needs to be told

ONE of my regrets about the Honolulu Star-Bulletin is that there is no book fully recounting our rich history.

I particularly refer to the period begun in 1912 with the merger of the former Bulletin and Star, two quite different papers, after which we became the Territory of Hawaii's major voice for better education for all citizens, for equal rights, meaning eventual statehood, and for Americanization.

The Honolulu Advertiser has "Presstime in Paradise," a fine review of its history from 1856 through 1995 by George Chaplin, former editor-in-chief.

A big-picture overview of all the diverse media in Hawaii from 1836 into the 1990s is provided in "Shaping History -- the Role of Newspapers in Hawaii" by Helen Geracimos Chapin, former vice president of Hawaii Pacific University. Both were published by the University of Hawaii Press.

The best the Star-Bulletin has is a thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of master of arts at Brigham Young University. It was completed in 1967 by Paul Alfred Pratte, a one-time Star-Bulletin staff member who later became a professor of journalism at BYU.

Titled "A History of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and Its Antecedents from 1820 to 1966," it was never published in book form. It chronicles our owners and editors over the period and some of their challenges. It does not put much flesh on their bones or integrate them adequately with Hawaii's rich history. This was never its intent.

Chaplin focuses almost entirely on the Advertiser. Chapin's "Shaping History"is indispensable if imperfect as the only overview of the rich variety of Hawaiian, Japanese and Chinese papers published in Hawaii along with major English papers. It describes their contests with each other, the monarchs and the political leaders. Still lacking is a full focus on the Star-Bulletin.

I was one of those who asked Riley H. Allen, our editor from 1912 to 1960, to write the story after a court moved him out of the editorship in 1960 by naming him a trustee of the estate that owned the paper. He said then he no longer trusted his memory and was too old (76) to undertake the required research to check his facts. At 79, I give the same answer to similar requests.

In 1952, a nationally known author and writer for magazines including the Saturday Evening Post was commissioned by the Farrington family, which then controlled the Star-Bulletin, to write a biography of Wallace R. Farrington, Star-Bulletin publisher for many years and governor of Hawaii from 1921 to 1929. The author, Boyden Sparkes, came to Hawaii for research and interviews but died in 1954 at age 64 before his book was written.

MY small contribution is a 1972 series of articles on Chinn Ho. This rags-to-riches venture capitalist became our principal owner after the Farrington Estate felt obliged in the interest of its beneficiaries to sell the paper in 1962.

Ho led the then-dominant Star-Bulletin into a joint operating agreement that saved the Honolulu Advertiser, of which he formerly had been a director. In 1971 Ho and his partners sold their stock to the Gannett Co., which in 1993 bought the Advertiser and sold the Star-Bulletin to Liberty Newspapers.

My articles were published by Ho's Capital Investment Co. as a short booklet titled "The Saga of Chinn Ho."

I think immodestly they put flesh on Chinn Ho's bones in a way I hope a future writer still may do for the Farrington family and Riley Allen, the principal movers in Star-Bulletin history from 1912 to 1962, and on our leaders of the subsequent years under Gannett and Liberty. I hereby volunteer to help whoever will do it.

Paper's shutdown on hold

A.A. Smyser is the contributing editor
and former editor of the the Star-Bulletin
His column runs Tuesday and Thursday.

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