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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, May 13, 2001

After Deadline
ADB let Advertiser staff show its stuff

By John Simonds
The Advertiser's reader representative

Coverage of the Asian Development Bank's meeting here provided The Advertiser with another well-planned opportunity to inform Hawai'i's readers and the world about Hawai'i.

Though activists continue to target the ADB as part of the planet's problems, the conference seemed to be a chapter with a happy ending. Protesters had their day in the street, topped with formal presenting of grievances to the bank. ADB officials and guest speakers conducted business in pleasant Hawai'i, where the good nature of people seems to match the weather.

For The Advertiser, coverage focused on two stories. The inside activities at the Hawai'i Convention Center occupied the attention of as many as four reporters assigned by Business Editor Judi Erickson to cover ADB officials, the economic impact of their presence in Hawai'i and decisions for the Pacific region.

The outside story was the job of the city news staff. A team of seven reporters working under Ken Kobayashi, deputy city editor and longtime local news reporter, pursued activities away from the ADB agenda, including Wednesday's organized street demonstration. Photo editor Seth Jones deployed four staff photographers for Wednesday's peak action.

Business section writers prepared for more than two months for the session and the issues expected to come before it. Visiting news organizations covering the conference included Dow Jones, Bloomberg, the Financial Times, Associated Press, Reuters and Asian newspapers. Advertiser coverage provided immediate detailed reporting of events for those attending the conference, expanding the daily audience that reads Hawai'i's Newspaper.

It was the biggest story of its kind for Advertiser business writers since the annual Pacific Basin Economic Council (PBEC) conference last year. PBEC, based in Honolulu, is an organization of business leaders representing more than 1,000 corporations in 20 countries around the Pacific. But that gathering did not attract the international attention — or anticipated resistance — of this one.

News reporters and their editors prepared for months for ADB. This included two major planning sessions for editors, briefings with the Honolulu police, legal advice on journalists' rights in the event of street arrests, staying in touch with protest leaders, conversation with a newspaper editor in Seattle, and even the acquisition of gas masks and respirators for photographers and reporters — just in case.

The good news was that many security precautions and disaster preparations proved unnecessary. But host news organizations have to prepare for bad-case scenarios, just as police, National Guard and emergency medical agencies do.

It was an exceptional week for Advertiser teamwork, achieved under the challenging conditions of an News Building renovation to house additional staff. It's been a nonstop international year for everyone; the pace continues.

No laughing matter

Letters to the editor and opinion columns on the editorial pages showed a wide range of local views on the ADB conference, but for many readers, the hottest issue at the start of a busy Advertiser week was not the world economy but the Monday comics.

Many among scores of callers expressed anger at seeing the same comics on Monday as Saturday. Production and communication errors caused the problem, as Monday's comics were printed by mistake on Saturday and again on Monday. The Advertiser published a corrective note on Tuesday, and the Saturday, May 5, comics appeared in Thursday's paper on a page facing Thursday's comics.

Comics are supplied, combined and transmitted by mainland companies. They arrive here electronically as part of a single document. A page designer reviews the content and forwards the comics page to an electronic file where the production department has access to it and paginates the daily strips all at once.

This streamlined process works 99 percent of the time. In this case, one error was compounded by a misunderstood instruction that led to reprinting Saturday's comic page on Monday.

For many readers the comics mix-up was no laughing matter, especially on a Monday. Several urged publishing the missing day's comics. One reader, Barbara Schilling, called to thank The Advertiser for doing so. "I'd like to thank you for taking my suggestion ... and for running two pages of comics," she said. "We need a lot of lightheartedness."