Honolulu paper to fold

By: Lucia Moses

Afternoon Star-Bulletin breathes its last Halloween Eve

Citing declining circulation and revenues, Liberty Newspapers Ltd. announced Sept. 16 it will stop publishing its afternoon Honolulu Star-Bulletin Oct. 30.
The move ends Liberty’s joint operating agreement (joa) with the Gannett Co. Inc.-owned morning Honolulu Advertiser. The joa was scheduled to expire in 2012. The Star-Bulletin’s Web site, starbulletin.com, also will cease operations. Details of the termination agreement between the joa partners were not disclosed.
Hawaii’s steady economic decline took a toll on earnings at the afternoon paper, Liberty general partner Rupert Phillips told the Star-Bulletin. He added that improved earnings were not possible.
Afternoon papers, while they still outnumber morning papers, are also declining nationwide, reflecting readers’ growing preference for a.m. papers. Ten years ago, there were more than twice as many p.m. papers as a.m. papers. Today, their numbers are almost even.
The Star-Bulletin’s average daily circulation fell 3.3% to 66,700 in the six months ending March 31, compared to the same period a year earlier. During the same time, the Advertiser’s average daily circulation gained 0.6% to 106,938.
The afternoon Star-Bulletin, founded in 1882, publishes Monday through Saturday. The morning Advertiser publishes Monday through Saturday as well as its Sunday Advertiser.
Employees received official word of the paper’s demise the morning of Sept. 16, but many Star-Bulletin staffers heard the news the night before, when a local tv station broke the story.
“People were pretty emotional,” said sports editor Joe Edwards, who has been at the paper six years. “There’s a lot of camaraderie around here. We took pride in being the local paper. That’ll be the biggest thing that’s missed.
“Now we have a cookie-cutter, same-old, same-old, newspaper,” he added, referring to the Advertiser.
The Star-Bulletin reported it won 12 top Excellence in Journalism awards in a Society of Professional Journalists competition this year, to go along with 15 Pa’i awards from the Hawaii Publishers Association.
Meanwhile, the Star-Bulletin reported on its Web site that more than 80 employees of the newspaper and an undetermined number at the Hawaii Newspaper Agency ? the business agent for the joa partners ? will be affected by the closure.
The Advertiser said it estimates it will hire 20 to 30 Star-Bulletin employees. Staff members were told severance packages would be offered.
Liberty bought the Star-Bulletin from Gannett in 1993 for an undisclosed amount after Gannett sold the paper to comply with federal antitrust regulations. Gannett bought the Advertiser from Persis Corp. in a $250-million deal.
The sale led to an amended joa
between the papers, cancelling the former 60-40 profit-sharing balance and 50-
year agreement in favor of a 20-year
payout schedule for the Star-Bulletin.
The amended arrangement called for Liberty’s share of the profits to increase from $1.4 million in 1993 to $2.5 million in 2012, when the agreement was scheduled to expire. It also gave Gannett the remainder of the profits, minus certain other expenses.
Bill Kwon, a sports writer and 40-year veteran of the Star-Bulletin, said because of the six-hour time difference, the afternoon paper was able to publish East Coast news. But, in addition to changing reader preferences, earlier deadlines hurt the paper in recent years. Also eroding the paper’s prosperity was a provision under the joa that did not allow the Star-Bulletin to solicit subscriptions on neighboring islands, Kwon said.
In March 1998, the Hawaii Newspaper Agency said it would lay off about 5% of the agency’s 630 employees. Gannett said at the time that the job losses were due to falling advertising revenues related to public- and private-sector layoffs.
The Honolulu joa, created in 1962, was one of 13 remaining of the 28 that were approved by the federal government.

(Editor & Publisher WebSite:http:www.mediainfo.com) [Caption]
(copyright: Editor & Publisher September 18, 1999) [Caption]

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