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

One-man show evolved into top-notch team

By Alan Yonan Jr.
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Alan Yonan, Jr.

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I got my first taste of business reporting as an Advertiser intern in 1981.

And I use the term "reporting" loosely. During my summer-long internship I spent a week tagging along with then-Advertiser financial editor Kit Smith, mostly listening and learning. Kit was a one-man band, covering everything from quarterly earnings to real estate deals to corporate takeovers.

More than two decades later, after reporting stints on the Mainland and abroad, I finally landed that full-time job at The Advertiser that eluded me when I was a freshly minted graduate from the UH journalism school.

Upon my return I quickly discovered how much the product had evolved since my days as an intern. What had been a few business pages buried inside the sports section had grown into an impressive standalone section, with five reporters and two editors.

There were beats: personal finance, tourism, real estate, retail, economic development, agriculture, technology and small business. And the beat reporters knew their stuff inside and out, regularly outshining the competition. It made for an easy transition to my new job as assistant business editor.

If a reporter is only as good as his or her last story, then the business section staff got better each week over the next six years.

Their in-depth knowledge of their beats, remarkable sourcing in the business community and commitment to get the story first was displayed regularly, but never taken for granted. They won awards for the big stories the shutdown of Aloha Airlines, Maui Pineapple Co. and Del Monte's Hawai'i operations, the Ameron concrete strike and the generous tax breaks handed out by the state to attract ethanol producers to Hawai'i. But there were countless other exclusives that never made A1, but helped solidify The Advertiser's reputation as the go-to source for local business news.

All of that draws to a close today with the last printing of The Honolulu Advertiser. Some of us on the business staff, including myself, have been hired to work for the business section of the new Star-Advertiser, which will include reporters and editors from both the Star-Bulletin and The Advertiser.

I'm sure the new combined staff will continue to put out a top-notch business section. But it won't be the same without the competition that reporters from both sides thrived on over the years. No more picking up Brand X in the morning to see what stories we had that they didn't, and vice versa.

Some of that competitive drive will be channeled to a new battleground the Internet where the new Brand X encompasses a broad array of information providers, including bloggers, TV stations and other news websites.

It's a challenge the new Star-Advertiser cannot afford to underestimate.