By: AUDREY McAVOY/The Associated Press
(AP) The Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Monday started its first day as Hawaii’s largest newspaper and as the lone major daily in Honolulu.
“Aloha. Star-Advertiser unites Oahu’s 2 daily newspapers,” read the banner headline across the first issue.
The paper is emerging from a long newspaper war between the city’s former two major dailies: the 128-year-old Honolulu Star-Bulletin and The Honolulu Advertiser, which dated to 1856. The battle ended with Oahu Publications Inc., the Bulletin’s owner, buying The Honolulu Advertiser from Gannett Co. and merging the two operations.
The circulation of the Star-Advertiser is expected to be about 135,000 daily and 150,000 on Sundays.
On Monday, 28 former Advertiser journalists joined their former archrivals in the Star-Bulletin’s old newsroom, bringing the new paper’s newsroom staff count to 111.
Their first challenge was logistic, as the newsroom didn’t have enough desks. Managers improvised by setting up folding tables in a former conference room.
“We’re trying to find seats for everyone,” said Editor Frank Bridgewater. “There’s relief that we got to this spot finally, and there’s anxiety and there’s excitement and nostalgia.”
Former Advertiser reporters spent much of the day learning how to use their new computers and software.
“From the minute we walked in the door, everyone was very gracious, welcoming, helpful and did their best to get us set up and oriented a little bit,” former Advertiser military reporter William Cole said. “It’s been a good experience for those of us lucky enough to come over to the new newspaper.”
Bridgewater welcomed the former Advertiser reporters at a midday staff meeting.
“I said we wanted them and needed them to put out the kind of paper we wanted to produce,” Bridgewater said.
He said he wanted the paper to focus on enterprise, investigative and analytical stories. The new paper should be able to devote more resources to this kind of reporting because it has more staff and there will be less overlap, he said.
For example, instead of two papers sending two reporters to cover a city council hearing, the one paper can send one reporter to city hall and the other out on an enterprise story.
“In that way, people will be getting more news, better news, more in depth news,” Bridgewater said.
Bridgewater said the Star-Advertiser would add more breaking news to the new paper’s website, which by 10 a.m. had already gotten more viewers than the Star-Bulletin website would normally get in an entire day.
Star-Advertiser publisher Dennis Francis said the paper may begin charging non-subscribers of the newspaper a modest amount to access the full website.
“Frankly the revenue from advertising on most newspaper online sites just hasn’t reached levels of what newspapers expected,” Francis said. “So I think it has to be supplemented by pay for content.”
Subscribers to the print edition of the paper would not have to pay for online access, he said.
“We will have a lot of unique content that only we have. In my mind there’s a value to that,” Francis said, noting the paper has a much larger newsgathering operation than anyone else in the islands.