The Media Monopoly Grows


Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.

A. J. Liebling

Oahu Publications to buy 2 Hawaii Island daily papers

By Star-Advertiser staff

Oahu Publications Inc. announced today that it has agreed to acquire the Hawaii Tribune- Herald (Hilo) and West Hawaii Today (Kona) on Hawaii Island from Las Vegas-based Stephens Media LLC.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but Dennis Francis, Oahu Publication's president, said both newspapers will continue to be published daily and will be editorially independent from the company's daily newspaper on Oahu, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. The transaction will close Dec. 1.

"We are pleased to bring local management and ownership to these two quality newspapers," said Francis, who is also publisher of the Star-Advertiser, "and our first priority will be to ensure that the two newspapers continue to serve the needs of their communities."

"We purchased The Garden Island newspaper on Kauai last year under similar circumstances, and that turned out to be a good experience," Francis said. "It was good for the newspaper, good for employees and good for the residents of Kauai. We were able to bring back the Saturday edition, improve technology for the digital edition, and ensure the needs of the community would be served by a strong daily newspaper on Kauai for decades to come."

As for the Hawaii Island papers, "We're publishers and we are always interested in taking a look at an opportunity," Francis said. "We are committed to ensuring that each island community retains a strong, local newspaper."

Francis said that the two newspapers' editorial and advertising sales functions will continue under existing staff, and that the papers will continue to be printed at the West Hawaii Today printing facility in Kona.

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald has a circulation of 16,000 Monday-Friday and 18,000 on Sunday. West Hawaii Today's circulation is 10,000 Monday-Friday and 12,000 on Sunday. Subscribers to the two papers will have free access to premium content at and

As part of the deal, Oahu Publications is also buying Stephen's interest in

"We want Hawaii Island residents and readers of both newspapers to know that Oahu Publications is committed to quality journalism and maintaining the excellent relationship that both papers have with their communities," Francis said.

In a related transaction, Sound Publishing, a subsidiary of Black Press, purchased the Aberdeen, Wash., Daily World and three weekly newspapers from Stephens in Washington state. That transaction closed today.

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Media, Money & Democracy: Political Campaign Advertising and Hawaii Television News in the 2012 Elections

In March, Media Council Hawaii and Common Cause Hawaii released their study, "Media, Money & Democracy: Political Campaign Advertising and Hawaii Television News in the 2012 Elections." The study shows that Hawaii voters saw more ads than information when watching televised news broadcasts just prior to the primary and general elections in 2012. Not surprisingly--the news media does not like to talk about how its business intersects with news coverage--the study got little attention in mainstream print and television news. But, we're in the middle of another election cycle, and it seems the study is as relevant as ever. So, if you're interested you can find the study here along with a companion news release from Chris Conybeare, president of Media Council Hawaii, about the study. Media Money release 3.29.14

Media and Money Project report 3.20.14Media and Money Project report 3.20.14

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Journalists are losing access, but the public still expects the story | Poynter.

Are the media losing the fight to cover the news in the face of escalating efforts by government and private companies to limit access to information. Read what Butch Ward of the Poynter Institute has to say: Journalists are losing access, but the public still expects the story | Poynter..

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Public's Right to Open Court Proceedings

Here's a link to the Hawaii Supreme Court's ruling in Oahu Publications v. Ahn. It's an important case that everyone, including reporters who cover the courts, should read for what it says about Hawaii's tradition of open proceedings and why actions by Ahn in the past and Ahn's decision to conduct a closed chamber conference to conduct a retrial for Christopher Deedy is of concern (see our earlier post, The Sleeping Watchdogs).

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U Win Tin: Courage and Inspiration

7A47A47A4by Chris Conybeare, President, MCH  

On April 21, 2014, Burma journalist and democracy advocate, U Win Tin died at age 85. He was arrested in 1989, imprisoned and subjected to torture for speaking out against the military regime and in support of human rights. He was finally released in 2008, having become a worldwide symbol of courage.

U win Tin was the chief editor of the Hanthawathi news paper and among the leading members of the National League for Democracy (The NLD is the Party of Aung San Suu Kyi.). The military rulers continually added to his sentence. So that an initial 3 year sentence was eventually extended to 20 years!

Despite declining health and enduring some of the world’s worst prison conditions, U Win Tin continued to write, using ink made from brick dust, he wrote poetry, and commentary. He wrote a report documenting prison conditions that was smuggled to the outside world and was incorporated in the report of the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Burma.

U Win Tin was awarded the prestigious Golden Pen Award in 2001 and has received numerous other accolades for his journalism and leadership in the struggle for democracy. Media Council Hawaii made him an honorary member of its Board of Directors in 2007.

He was offered release from prison if he would sign a pledge to withdraw from the NLD and cease activities as a journalist. An offer he steadfastly refused. Even when it was apparent that he and other political prisoners would be freed, it is reported that he protested being released without concurrent dropping of all charges against him.

He was finally released from jail in 2008,and in 2009, Media Council Hawaii was proud to have him speak at its Sunshine Week, Media Justice Conference, via SKYPE. When asked; “What are the most important qualities for a young aspiring journalist?” he replied, “A journalist should be part of the community and tell the truth!”

I met with U Win Tin in Yangon in 2010 and asked him about the changes taking place, and the regimes promise to transition to democracy. He answered, “They say there is light in the tunnel, but we do not know the source. What we really need to do is break out of the tunnel!”

His wisdom and courage should inspire all of us to a renewed commitment to ideals of freedom of communication and democracy. Our actions will be the best, most fitting and lasting tribute to this courageous journalist.

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The Sleeping Watchdogs

Few reporters seemed to think it was important enough to even mention, and the Associated Press mentions it only in passing in the third graf of its story below, but Judge Karen Ahn conducted a hearing on a third trial for Christopher Deedy "in her chambers." That means it was a hearing to which the press and public were shut out, a closed proceeding. You may recall that on July 17, 2014, the headline in Civil Beat was that the Hawaii Supreme Court "rebukes" Deedy judge over closed proceedings. But it doesn't seem as if any reporter felt compelled to complain about the closed proceeding involving the third trial, much less deem it worthy of mentioning in their stories...except in passing. or perhaps calling the judge on snubbing her nose at the Hawaii Supreme Court. Is this what happens when the watchdog media falls asleep?

Judge sets a date for U.S. agent’s possible third trial

August 30, 2014

The Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) - A judge is tentatively scheduling a possible third trial for a federal agent recently found not guilty of murder in the shooting death of a man in a Waikiki fast-food restaurant.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Janice Futa said after the jury acquitted Christopher Deedy of murder that she'll recommend another trial for manslaughter and assault. The jury wasn't able to agree on those lesser charges. The first jury a year ago deadlocked and a mistrial was declared.

Judge Karen Ahn met with attorneys Friday in her chambers. According to court minutes, Ahn scheduled trial for the week of Sept. 8 if the defense doesn't prevail in motions to stop another trial. Defense attorney Thomas Otake says he plans to file motions to dispose of the charges and avoid another trial.

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NYT report - Different Channels, Same News - Sound familiar?

Today, Brian Stelter has an interesting article in the New York Times today that highlights the pitfalls of new content among shared services agreements (SSAs). If you watch television here in Hawaii, you may be aware of these concerns seen in the SSA that lives here. While it's unsettling to see the same exact content across channels like a hall of mirrors, the FCC's reaction is particularly troubling. The government office apparently doesn't have complete data on the number of such agreements across the country. Thankfully, the NYT sources University of Delaware Professor, Danilo Yanich's research as we have done elsewhere in the blog.


#DUITalk on Civil Beat's State Integrity Project, Storified

Thanks to Civil Beat, Kanu Hawaii, Common Cause Hawaii and the League of Women Voters Hawaii for another informative evening!  Last night was focused on the State Integrity Project that Civil Beat helped conduct for Hawaii. Associate Editor, Sara Lin gave remarks, and diligent tweeting by Kanu made for an easy Storify which you can see after the jump:

Hawaii's First Sunlight Foundation Chapter Meetup

Great first meeting of the @SunFoundation Honolulu community!... on Twitpic Last night, shortly after their show on HPR, Ryan Ozawa and Burt Lum, lead the first Sunlight Foundation Hawaii Chapter meet-up. The Sunlight Foundation is a"non-profit, nonpartisan organization that uses the power of the Internet to catalyze greater government openness and transparency, and provides new tools and resources for media and citizens, alike." The meet-up came on the heels of the state's Office of Information Management and Technology of their strategic plan release. In particular, conversation and dialogue from the chapter meet-ups will be added to the OIMT's public forum on how to better their services.

In other government offices, the City & County of Honolulu's recent work with Code for America and the CityCamp are examples practical, day-to-day data usage. The Honolulu 311 and Da Bus smartphone apps are indicators of this work to make public data available and put to work for citizens. Since the bar has been raised by the city, now it's time for the state to reach up and raise it.

A goal of the Hawaii chapter is to work with with government agencies to make their public data sets more easily accessible and searchable online. While a number of government documents exist online, scanned PDF files are difficult to extract data from, or translate into a usable format for data collection and public comprehension. For example, making the Campaign Spending Commission data more easily available online, has allowed programmer Jared Kuroiwa to create an innovative campaign donor database. With infographs and clean search quires, users are able to see which organizations are funding candidate campaigns, and possibly influencing policy decisions.

The Media Council's interest in the Sunlight Foundation Chapter stems out of our efforts to get broadcast political Ad data online and with greater availability to the public. The Sunlight Foundation is studying this area, as Pro Publica's Justin Elliot mentioned in last week's episode of On the Media. Elliot cited specific problems with the FCC's recent decision to require broadcasters to put this information online:

There was an analysis by the Sunlight Foundation looking at where the top 50 broadcast markets are compared to the swing states, and they found that in some markets in Virginia, some markets in Pennsylvania that are expected to see a lot of political advertising, they don’t fall into the top 50. Those political ad files are still gonna be stuck in paper files at the stations until 2014, when all stations around the country have to come into compliance.

Hawaii is both not in the top 50 markets, and something of a swing state during elections, allowing our broadcasters the ability to evade this rule until the next election cycle. We're currently developing a methodology to collect this data from local broadcasters and share it. We'll keep you posted on this project and our involvement with Sunlight Foundation Chapter. Also, if you'd like to participate in our station visits and data collection efforts, please let us know.