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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, June 6, 2010

Advertiser's staff says farewell

 •  Advertiser writes final chapter in 154-year story

Advertiser Staff

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

With the days of The Advertiser numbered, the newsroom staff gathered for a group photo in late April. Those who couldn't be there on the building's front steps have been added along the bottom.

Honolulu Advertiser

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The air was thick with memories as the last days at The Honolulu Advertiser disappeared one by one. Here are the closing thoughts of some of our staff.

A decade with The Honolulu Advertiser as a copy editor and wire editor came to an end last night, but it was not my saddest day in the newsroom. Not even close.

Nine years ago, The Advertiser launched a short-lived PM Edition for those who preferred to read their newspaper in the afternoon or evening.

As wire editor for the PM Edition, I was the first to arrive in the office, at 4 a.m. I got the coffee brewing and started my job reviewing, selecting and editing national and world news stories.

My work actually began at 3:30 a.m. on the drive from Kailua when I would listen to CNN news on an AM station.

On Sept. 11, 2001, I pulled out of my driveway, turned on the radio and couldn't believe my ears. Planes were crashing into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon.

In the morning darkness on an empty Pali Highway, I was shaking and feeling numb at the same time. It was like learning that a dear family member had just died. When I got to my desk I immediately called my editor, Anne Harpham, who needed to be told twice what was happening. I made some more coffee and started compiling a budget of all the wire stories and information we would need for our special Extra Edition.

Within an hour almost the entire staff filled the newsroom and every television was showing the catastrophic images from New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. The solemnness was palpable, but our reporters were hard at work covering every conceivable local angle.

The headline in big, bold capital letters that afternoon: U.S. UNDER ATTACK.

So on my last night at The Advertiser, I remained strong because I'll always remember: There are worse things that happen in life.

Richard Couch
Advertiser Wire Editor

How do you sum up 27 years 18 at The Honolulu Advertiser as a newspaper reporter in such a small space?

Over the years, I've covered just about everything, from high school marching band contests to the impact locally of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Each event has left a lasting impression on me.

I'm often amazed that I lasted this long in this profession. Unlike many of my colleagues, I never aspired to be a reporter. It sort of happened by accident, or fate.

The defining moment for me didn't happen at a big news event, or at an interview with a head of state. The moment I realized I wanted to be a journalist occurred while I was a student at the University of Hawai'i and was in a bathroom at the Hamilton Library.

As I sat in one of the stalls, I looked down at the floor and staring at me was my byline in a copy of the student newspaper, Ka Leo. It dawned on me that the person before me probably saw the same thing, and, if I didn't shift the newspaper, the next guy would likely see the same thing.

From that moment, I knew that I wanted to be a newspaper reporter.

Ironically, my career seems to have gone full-circle: My stomach is upset and I'm again pondering my future.

But I can say that I cherish my years at The Advertiser. I've met a lot of good people and many of my best friends have worked here.

So as I put a "30" on my Advertiser career, I wish the best for you the readers and my friends at the newspaper.

Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

Buster Medeiros broke his neck playing high school football in 1973. He was on the kickoff team for St. Louis, and had put his head down to make a tackle.

Ten years later I interviewed him in his parents' Hawai'i Kai home. He was a young man in a wheelchair. He spoke in a calm voice about the events of that night in old Honolulu Stadium, and of the days that followed.

Everybody was coached to tackle that way, he said. I scribbled his words in a notebook, and they appeared in the paper for a story I did on a push to educate kids and their coaches about the dangers of using football helmets as battering rams.

Of all the stories I've written in 30 years at The Advertiser, that one has stuck with me the longest. "This might prevent it from happening to somebody else," I remember thinking. Perhaps Buster felt the same way. To him I am eternally grateful.

Thank you, Advertiser, for letting a kid from Kaimukī experience so much. I was sent to the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, with a big plastic press badge around my neck that let me walk into any venue, any time. I was part of the team covering Hurricane Iniki in 1992 on Kaua'i, where a Waimea family that had lost almost everything still insisted on giving us lei. I filed the story as Chaminade beat No. 1 Virginia in 1982 in what is still college basketball's iconic upset.

Thank you, my Advertiser colleagues. We worked in a big open room with 80 desks and no walls. You were smart, dedicated, lazy, courageous, fallible and funny in a sick kind of way. And I'm sure a couple of you are clinically insane, though in a way that made you better journalists.

And thank you, Hawai'i, for relying on the 'Tiser as a source of information near and far, profound and trivial. One night I answered the phone at the city desk. It was an elderly woman.

"They're showing the Playboy Channel on NGN (a Japanese-language channel). This is terrible," she said.

"Really? What time did this start?"

"I don't know, but my husband and I have been watching for 45 minutes, and it keeps going and going!"

The news, too, will keep going and going. But for many of us this is the end. Thanks for the memories.

Andy Yamaguchi
Assistant City Editor

Nobody had ever covered an overnight shift before me, not the way we decided to do it a few years ago. The feeling was The Advertiser could be a 24/7 news organization, and I was offered the chance to be first videographer/reporter in the state, but the fine print on the acceptance was it was overnight, midnight to 8 a.m.

Day 1 or Overnight 1 I turned on one of four TVs in the newsroom at 2 a.m. to find CNN talking about an earthquake and a possible tsunami coming to Hawai'i.

I rubbed my eyes, my jaw dropped. Is this normal for overnight? Do the seas change that much when we go to sleep? Why didn't anyone call?

Well, no, it wasn't normal. Nobody called because nobody knew anyone would be in the office. It was new.

Even when I phoned to wake my editors, some ignored the phone, but others had me calling to mobilize staff. In the midst of this chaos, the phone rang: It was an eager reporter from Philadelphia asking, "I know you're busy, but what's the feeling of having an impending tsunami? Are you scared?"

I hung up. Of course, the tsunami turned out to be all of 6 inches high, but it set the table for a wild overnight shift of unexpected coverage I won't soon forget.

I was involved in a police chase of three murder suspects that ended in Hale'iwa, I shot footage of wildfires as well as boats that ran aground on reefs close to shore, and I saw all too many traffic fatalities.

The flipside of the dark side of Honolulu has been the past 18 months as TGIF editor. I wouldn't trade that experience for the world. Instead of having to knock on the doors of families who lost sons and husbands at war, I've talked with Jack Johnson, Jimmy Buffett, Daniel Ho, Tracy Morgan, Jake Shimabukuro, Owl City, Cedric the Entertainer and just about every other entertainer who passed through the Islands.

That's not a job, that's the bright side of Honolulu, and I'll miss it.

Dave Dondoneau
TGIF Editor

The Advertiser has been my home, a place that kept me and my newsroom family safe for 20 years.

I started as the editor's secretary in 1990. I sat in front of the editor's office, among hard-working journalists as they typed away on clunky terminals.

Back then Bob Krauss, Wayne Harada and Dick Adair had offices right next to me. I heard all of Bob's phone conversations while he "screamed" at callers, because his hearing was bad. Local celebrities would constantly visit Wayne, and Dick would sit at his drafting table producing cartoons that made readers laugh.

Every week, school tours would walk past my desk. The kids would be in awe of the people whose names they saw in the paper. Even today, I am also in awe of the Advertiser Staff!

Whenever there was a major disaster or news event, a statewide power outage, a hurricane or the 9/11 attacks, the entire staff would come together, working as hard, long and as fast as they could. We were extremely proud of The Advertiser because it represented everyone's hard work and love.

The last two years I've written a blog and Sunday column, Island Tails, about my favorite subject pets! I thoroughly enjoyed writing about all kinds of animals, their special owners and the many animal advocates in the community. I will miss hearing from readers who would share tales about their pets. Some stories were sad, some heartwarming.

Even though we've known about the sale of the newspaper for three months, it is still difficult to accept that The Honolulu Advertiser has come to an end.

To all Advertiser employees: Please remember you made The Honolulu Advertiser the best paper in the state. We should all be proud of what we've accomplished.

Leslie Kawamoto
Newsroom Administrative Assistant

In 1993, I surprised my friends, my family, and even myself when I accepted a job offer from The Honolulu Advertiser and moved myself and my beloved cat to Paradise. We came alone and knew not one soul in the Islands.

Many times since, I have pondered that decision. Why did I come here, and more importantly, why have I stayed?

The "how" I got here is a story of its own. I had worked at the Greensboro (N.C.) News & Record for 17 years when an ad for a job at The Honolulu Advertiser caught my eye. I decided to apply, mostly because I thought I had at least enough experience and credentials to rate an interview. (A free trip to Hawai'i? Who wouldn't want that?)

I wasn't offered an interview. I was offered a job. Over the telephone. I took the job without ever setting foot in Hawai'i. I sold everything and took a leap into a new adventure.

At first, it was a nightmare. My cat and I both experienced severe culture shock. She suffered through a horrible four-month quarantine. As a naive white girl from a small Southern town, I had it even worse.

But over the first few weeks and months, I discovered that the spirit of 'ohana and the spirit of aloha were real. They slowly seeped into my life, giving me a much-needed anchor.

I found a church that welcomed me. I found friends. After all, Hawai'i is filled with people who are here "alone," with their "blood" family far away. Together, we made our own family; our own 'ohana.

So here I am, almost 17 years later, now with two darling cats, no job and some pretty serious health issues. My brother-in-law in North Carolina keeps telling me to "come home." I know he means well, but he just doesn't understand that in my aching heart, I am home.

As the final days of The Advertiser approached, I found myself searching even harder to understand why I came to Hawai'i in the first place.

Last week, I think I finally began to figure it out. I came to Hawai'i, all those years ago, to heal. I have stayed because this is a healing place. And I am still here because I still have a lot of healing to do, in mind, body and soul.

And so my next adventure begins. What is in store for me the next 17 years? I have absolutely no idea. Whatever it is, it probably won't be easy. But at least now I'm prepared for the journey.

Elizabeth House
Advertiser Page Designer

Hi, my name is Gordon. I'm a daily newspaper reporter.

My last byline was 24 hours ago, or whenever you chose to read it.

Journalism is like a drug addiction I keep needing a fix.

I live it day and night. I keep looking for that next story that's going to give me a high. And then it's on to the next story.

I remember the day I got hooked.

Bilger Auditorium at the University of Hawai'i is one of those theaters that rises high in elevation as it goes back. Large group classes are held there. I was early for a science class there one day, more than 20 years ago.

A faceless classmate a few rows down had her elbow on the table and the back of her hand on her chin, her head stooped slightly forward. She was reading intently the front page of Ka Leo, the UH-Mānoa newspaper where I'd recently become a reporter.

I got chicken skin suddenly. She was reading my story! What I wrote mattered!

That's never gotten old. Even today, a quick smile crosses my face when I see someone at Zippy's or a doctor's office reading a newspaper. Nowadays, it doesn't matter if it's my story, one written by a colleague or even a competitor.

When I was an intern at The Honolulu Advertiser, I was introduced to Minnie Fukuda.

Newsroom editors and reporters asked themselves "What would Minnie Fukuda think?"

Minnie's not real, of course. She represents you, the reader.

Each time I need to figure out whether to write a story, I ask myself "what would the reader think?"

Each time I discuss and, sometimes, argue with an editor over what to emphasize in a story, or where it should be placed, or whether to even do it at all, we do so in the name of what's best for Minnie. For you.

There are very talented people from both sides coming together to form an all-star cadre of journalists.

I hope both you and the publisher will support them for many years to come. Because yes, journalism matters.

As for me, Minnie, no worries. I'll detox and find a way to get a fix doing something else.

Gordon Y.k. Pang
Advertiser Staff Writer

One of my happiest days was when Tom Brislin, my former journalism teacher and my first editor here, told me I could join the staff.

I would like to thank The Honolulu Advertiser for being the place where I learned how much I love journalism, and for being the people who gave me a chance to do it.

Nothing can ever replace it in my memory.

The family that is The Advertiser is still connected, even the people who have moved away, and, in that way at least, it will live on.

Vicki Viotti
Editorial Page Writer

It's been a privilege to have worked as a photojournalist for these many years, covering this community, sharing in the moment, witnessing and recording history with my camera.

I have worked with very talented journalists who have made every day an adventure and enriched my professional career.

Thank you for having been a part of my life.

Deb Booker
Advertiser Staff Photographer

A last-minute call for farewell pieces no more than a paragraph or two, the editor said gives me the chance to thank some of the people I've met in my 20-plus years at The Advertiser. Some were sources, many from the days when I was the paper's labor reporter. Others were colleagues. And some are friends I made over the years. This is not an inclusive list if it was, it would fill pages.

So, here goes. I want to thank:

Alex M. Lee, Maxine and Laurelle Lee, Nadine Kam, Tommy Trask, Walt Kupau, the Gill brothers (Eric and Gary), Al Fraga, Will Hoover, Mark Matsunaga, Mike Leidemann, John Windrow, Marsha McFadden, Steve Kimura, Alan Yonan, Laurie Arakaki, Harold DeCosta, Colleen Hanabusa.

Andy Yamaguchi, Matt Schick, Paul Kuromoto, John Bender, Russell McCrory, Jason Kasamoto, Georgette Deemer, Sarah Montgomery and Elroy Garcia and all my colleagues on the copy desk, Jim Dooley, Jerry Burris, Bev Creamer, Stephen Downes, Mary Kaye Ritz.

Marisa Yagi, Bob Krauss, Bruce Asato, Bart Asato, Wayne Harada, Bill Kresnak, Esme Infante Nii, Jon Orque, Rich Ambo, David Yamada, Terry McMurray, Dean Lokken, Tom Buchanan, Wanda Adams, all the Hamakua sugar workers I ever met, Peggy Jenkins, Jim Bickerton, Kimo Morgan, Martha Hernandez, Norm Shapiro, Gordon Pang, Minette McCabe, Nick Gervais ... well, the list goes on.

Forgive me if I've not listed your name, I have to turn this in and go back to editing the copy for this last edition.

Chris Neil
Copy Editor

It had been my dream to work for The Advertiser since high school.

I grew up in a newspaper family starting with my grandpa during World War II and continuing through my dad, uncles and aunties and knew I wanted to join the family business as a freshman staffer at Sacred Hearts Academy's student newspaper.

Though I went to the Mainland for college, joining the newspaper and journalism program at Marquette University in Milwaukee, I left with my eye on The Advertiser, knowing I would return to contribute my skills and knowledge to the newspaper and the community.

I was so determined that I applied for a copy editing internship as a sophomore a full year earlier than what most journalism advisers recommend. I was rejected, but later got in when the newspaper's first choice declined.

I interned at The Advertiser my junior and senior years as well, tallying three summers of copy editing learning and know-how before I even got hired in the fall of 2007.

My time here may have been brief, but it has been filled with lessons both in journalism and in life that I will carry with me forever. I can't imagine trying to quantify how much I've gained from the professionals I've been privileged to work with the past three years.

I can only hope that wherever I end up, I'll carry on The Advertiser's legacy of excellence.

Celia Downes
Copy Editor