Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Which Is it, Advertiser – Flat or Better Times?

As the Honolulu Advertiser counts down the final days of its existence before becoming the Star-Advertiser in early June, the paper’s not going down without more “view with alarm” stories on the Honolulu rail project.

Today’s paper features not one but two Sean Hao stories above the fold on page one, and both are examples of the paper’s ongoing VWA approach to covering rail.

We’ll leave it to you to decide whether today’s stories deserve their double-splash on the front page. As you do, consider these excerpts from a story in the paper two days ago:

“It’s good to have some good news to report,” (Governor) Lingle said at a news conference at the state Capitol….. “The revenues are improving,” Lingle said. “I’m happy to be able to report this, and I wanted to thank the people all across the state for the patience that they’ve shown during this time as we tried to meet our obligations to have a balanced budget, to be conservative in how we budget, but also try to get their (tax) refunds out as quickly as we could….” “I think it’s a good sign,” (State Rep. Marcus) Oshiro said of Lingle’s decision to release tax refunds. “It’s a positive sign that the economy is turning around.”

Taking the Economy’s Pulse

Here are a few headlines from the Honolulu Advertiser’s Business section in the past several days (plus some updates since this posting), and a few more from Pacific Business News:

• 5/21: Hawaii's jobless rate falls slightly
• 5/20: Advertiser columnist Dave Shapiro: "I'm starting to get the same feeling about the local economy, that it may finally be starting to turn after the deepest recession in most of our lifetimes."
• 5/19: State raises outlook for tourism this year
• 5/19: HMSA lands back in black for 1st quarter
• 5/18: Castle Group returns to profit
• 5/18: More Isle residents pay bills on time
• 5/15: Isle-based Barnwell posts profit of $1.5M
• 5/15: Government data shows solid recovery, but concerns remain
• 5/14: Pacifica Honolulu gets back on track
• 5/13: Whole Foods’ income up in 2nd quarter
• PBN, 5/21: Shopping center vacancy rate drops to lowest level since '06
• PBN, 5/14: Hawaii jobless claims drop sharply
• PBN, 5/13: Maui sees big jump in hotel occupancy
* PBN, 5/11: Hawaii hotels show signs of recovery

These stories and more add up to evidence that Hawaii’s economy is steadily rebounding from the depths of 2008-09, so it’s legitimate to question the paper’s decision to sensationalize its stories on the rail project’s revenues by giving them top position on page one. Given the same facts about rail and the economy’s improvement, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin obviously has concluded there’s nothing to sensationalize.

Readers are left to weigh the same facts and then decide which newspaper seems to have the more reasonable perspective. We’ll put our money on the Bulletin, which will be the successor to the Advertiser when the newspaers' merger is complete on June 7.

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