Friday, May 7, 2010

City Responds, Says Politics Drives Complaint

Yesterday’s procurement “news” is disputed by the city in today’s story (actually refuted, it would seem), and the beat goes on. Once again, one newspaper reports a story that’s ignored by the other daily paper. (Unlike the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, which allows free access to stories back to 1996, the Advertiser doesn't archive all its stories beyond a few months. If you're reading this in the summer of 2010 or later, you may have to purchase these articles.)

Civil Beat, the online subscription news service that’s been up and running for a couple weeks, is evolving as a news operation that lets readers communicate easily with its journalists about local issues. Here’s our post on the site today:

“Since Civil Beat is a different kind of journalism, maybe CB will examine the ‘journalism’ of rail coverage. This procurement story is one of many in which one newspaper flays the heck out of an issue on page one and the other prints not a word about it. The Advertiser does the flaying on rail and the Star-Bulletin does the ignoring. What's that about -- terrific reporting or gotcha journalism that editors elsewhere dismiss as non-news?”

“You’re All Puffed Up!”

We think it’s the latter – Star-Bulletin editors watching carefully what the competition reports and deciding it’s not up to their standards. We call it Puffy Shirt Journalism – stories that are less than what they seem, like Jerry’s “all puffed up” look despised by Elaine in a particularly funny Seinfeld episode.

The Advertiser’s examples over the years are numerous – repeated (misplaced and overwrought) concern over alleged under-performing GET revenues, the paper’s page-one splash of an at-grade rail proposal, the Runway Protection Zone story that quickly evaporated and now the alleged procurement violations story, which also is going away.

There’s a pattern here, and it’s going to be instructive to see which style of journalism survives in the new Honolulu Star-Advertiser after the Star-Bulletin completes the acquisition of its rival.

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