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

Highs, lows, memories and a new start

By Sean Hao
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Sean Hao

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Several events and memories stand out from the experience of covering business and government in Hawai'i.

There was the time a sitting mayor unsuccessfully tried to banish me from attending his news conferences. Then there was the time a retired governor said I was the type of reporter who just regurgitated quotes.

There also were the midnight vigils covering the state Capitol as lawmakers inevitably waited until the last minute to finalize key legislation. And there was that entire weekend spent digesting and writing about the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the city's train project. The study was released just days before a November 2008 referendum on the project.

Then there were the lowlights of my time at The Honolulu Advertiser, which ends today. Most recently, those events include receiving two layoff notices in just two months.

Between the time I started working for The Advertiser on Dec. 16, 2002, and now I wrote nearly 1,500 articles. The first story was about bankruptcy filing rates and this is the last.

Most of those stories written in between are a blur, though some do stand out, including a daily grind of articles that chronicled Hawai'i's failed experiment with gasoline price controls in the fall of 2005. There was also Aloha Airlines' surprise New Year's Eve bankruptcy filing in 2004.

In addition to ongoing articles about Honolulu's planned $5.5 billion rail project, there were stories documenting the erosion of the state's livestock industry as well as steady coverage of controversial technology investment tax credits, and most recently, the federal stimulus program.

What I remember most about my time with Gannett Corp. are numerous behind-the-scenes news gathering initiatives that were aimed at spurring readership. They came and went and carried names such as "mainstreaming," "Real Life, Real News," "News 2000" and the "First Five Graphs."

It's not clear how much that cookie-cutter approach to reporting helped readership, but I certainly won't miss them.

I will miss the eclectic newsroom memorial for The Advertiser and possibly even the eerie newsroom collection of voodoo dolls. I'll also miss the personalities and camaraderie of the 100-plus newsroom staffers that strived to make The Advertiser the best and biggest paper in Hawai'i.

Now I look forward to maintaining some of those relationships and building new ones as I join our former competitor in the creation of the new Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Together we'll be competing in a converging and evolving media market in which the lines between newspapers, TV and the Internet continue to blur.