Redistricting stories shed light on process
By John Simonds
Advertiser Reader Representative
Redrawing state legislative and U.S. congressional districts is another front-page example of a story opportunity that gives newspapers an edge in the explanation of what's important.
It's one of many public-interest issues where The Advertiser extends its commitment as "a vigilant partner" in shaping the future of Hawai'i. A Page One story Monday about the 2001 Reapportionment Commission's effectively preserving a bipartisan status quo for most incumbents reported what the commission has proposed in its planned realigning of the 51 state House, 25 state Senate and two U.S. House districts in response to the 2000 census.
The story included background information reminding readers of the reasons for changing district boundaries to reflect population shifts. An intriguing subplot is the apparent political favoritism that may result in some legislators' being squeezed out of their districts or pitted against colleagues. Maps showed examples of how state House districts would change.
On Pages B6-7, in a separate activity of Monday's paper, a legal ad complemented the redistricting information presented on the front page. The paid legal notice from the Reapportionment Commission provided detailed descriptions of each proposed district for readers interested in knowing what their new boundaries might be for the 2002 elections.
Maps of existing and proposed new districts available from the commission online and for viewing in county clerks' offices and some public libraries show what the proposed districts look like. In the notice, new districts with new numbers are identified in terms of streets, streams, ridges and shorelines that form their proposed borders.
The state provided the information for the ad, but nearly two days' work by an advertising department staffer assigned to handle legal notices went into editing and preparing the content for publication. It's an example of a newspaper service that supports the total information product.
Nearly every post-census redistricting results in political casualties, when the music stops, and targeted players find their seats gone. Readers can avoid surprise next year by looking closely at the proposed new lines now. A toll-free Reapportionment Commission number is (866) 587-3902.
Some readers ask about stories they wish were in the newspaper, while others question the need for articles they consider unnecessary or unfair, and still others are frustrated by news service reports from elsewhere.
One reader asked why, after so much advance attention to Charlotte Church's Aug. 11 singing appearance with the Honolulu Symphony, The Advertiser did not carry a review of her well-attended Blaisdell Arena performance. The Advertiser, aware of the Saturday night event's big following, had to forgo it because the paper's regular reviewer of symphony concerts was unavailable.
Another reader asked why a story about an arrest for fighting near a Leeward school merited an Aug. 17 news item, when other areas of O'ahu seem rarely subject to such coverage. Although no one was seriously hurt in the incident, it drew considerable police attention with officers responding to a series of fights in the area of the school. The amount of police activity in the area was a factor in the city desk's reporting the arrest in a Police Beat brief.
Still another reader wrote of being dissatisfied with an Aug. 15 Associated Press report about government officials abusing their credit cards. The reader, a federal retiree, criticized the AP story for not going deeper into reasons why so many officials use credit cards. He ventured it was an expedient way through the red tape of requisition forms to buy needed supplies. He suggested use of the cards may have saved public money and been good for business.
And a concerned reader responded to an AP story Wednesday about a new arthritis drug found to have risky side-effects for heart patients. The reader's own doctor told her not to be alarmed, she said, adding that the article also needed such reassuring disclaimers. The story's second paragraph said critics had called the research flawed, though other experts cited its importance.