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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, March 14, 2010

First-rate news staff maintains its focus

By Mark Platte

An air of uncertainty hangs over The Advertiser newsroom, and the rest of the News Building on Kapi'olani Boulevard, in the wake of the Feb. 25 announcement that Gannett Co. has agreed to sell the operation to Canadian publisher David Black and his Oahu Publications Inc., which produces the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and MidWeek.

The Advertiser hasn't missed a beat as stories get covered, www.honululuadvertiser.com gets updated, ads get sold, the presses keep rolling and the paper is delivered on time each morning. But the employees are working with heavy hearts as they worry about where they will be working next, either in this field or another. At a minimum, lives will be uprooted, careers will be altered and personal finances will be closely scrutinized.

We are proud of the work we do, and it is a testament to the quality of The Advertiser that a competitor recognized our value and approached investors to buy a business that he believes will prosper. The only sad part is that it is unlikely that many of those who made it such a success will be part of the new venture.

Although the Star-Bulletin has a room full of talented journalists, ad sales people, pressmen, circulation folks and marketing employees, the Advertiser has more than its share of top-notch employees who should be given full consideration if Black and his team intend to bring the best of both news organizations under one roof.

It remains to be seen what he has in mind, and most everyone is operating on less-than-solid information. Advertiser employees would like to have jobs, but they would also like to know what kind of company they will be working for in an industry known for downsizing: one that is committed to continuing the quality that made us an industry leader or one that is looking to cut itself into profitability.

Will the new "Star-Advertiser," the name Black's Oahu Publications has registered with the state, become a community leader, challenging the status quo, or will it allow powerful interests, including its local investors, to call the shots?

Will the editorial pages name names and call our elected leaders on the carpet, as The Advertiser has recently been doing, and will the new organization allow the clear, strong voices of our columnists  notably Lee Cataluna and David Shapiro and the top journalists in town continue to help keep our leaders honest?

The new owners have a tremendous responsibility in taking over the state's oldest and most dominant newspaper and one that loyal readers and advertisers have built into a powerhouse in print and online. Take a quick survey of any restaurant or coffee house each morning and look at what people are reading.

But we didn't get there by accident. We got there through the hard work of 600 employees who are now uncertain about what comes next. I'm confident that an owner who has made a multimillion-dollar investment in the future of this operation can see the wisdom of choosing the team that made The Advertiser worth the money he paid for it.

Mark Platte is senior vice president and editor of The Advertiser. Reach him at 525-8080 or e-mail him at mplatte@honoluluadvertiser.com. Or follow his Twitter updates at www.twitter.com/markplatte.