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

End unfolds with sadness, nostalgia

 •  Advertiser writes final chapter in 154-year story

By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer

Food, memories and good wishes continued to pour into The Advertiser newsroom yesterday as the staff prepared to put the state's largest newspaper "to bed" for the final time.

Reporters, editors and photographers continued to dump notebooks, reports, books and business cards, uncovering desktops that had not been uncluttered in years.

And a handful of former staffers straggled in to witness the end of The Advertiser after 154 years of publishing.

Longtime readers continued to call in to the newsroom, still unable to comprehend what was happening following the sale by The Advertiser's owner, Gannett Corp. Inc., to David Black, the owner of the rival Star-Bulletin.

Black has hired 28 Advertiser journalists and will produce a new broadsheet newspaper starting tomorrow under the name Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

As the hours at The Advertiser wound down, the staff at the Star-Bulletin was feeling a bit of the same melancholy. The Star-Bulletin, too, will cease publication today. In preparation for their new life, "Star-Advertiser" had already been painted across one wall of their newsroom.

"When they changed the 'Bulletin' to 'Advertiser,' there were some people who cried," said Star-Bulletin assistant editor Betty Shima-bukuro. "For some people, this is the only paper they've worked at, and for some that means more than 30 years."

Star-Bulletin staffers have had little time to reflect on the change as the official close of the sale marked the beginning of a furious effort to establish a design for the new paper and plan for the arrival of migrating Advertiser workers, all while continuing to attend to the production of each day's paper.

The Star-Bulletin offices showed evidence of just how much the newspaper has had to do in the short window of time. A large area toward the front of the newsroom that used to accommodate a row of offices and a mail area is still under reconstruction and a large area toward the back has been filled with tables and computers for interim use by the arriving reporters.

Star-Bulletin employees said they are still dealing with the mixed emotions that have attended the dramatic shift in Hawai'i's journalistic landscape.

Assistant editor Michael Rovner said he understood the sense of dread and uncertainty felt by Advertiser employees.

"We've been through it," he said. "We were waiting for nine years for the word (that the Star-Bulletin would be shut down). When we went to a tabloid format, we thought it would be the last redesign we'd ever do."

Shimabukuro said she expects the new paper to serve Hawai'i readers well.

"There will be a lot of energy and everybody will be committed to making it work," she said. "We understand what's at stake. It's a big responsibility being the only paper in town. It's like 'Saving Private Ryan'; we want to earn it."

Back at The Advertiser, the mood was reflective as one of the last newspaper wars in America came to an end.

Advertiser reporter Suzanne Roig, president of the Hawai'i Newspaper Guild, represents about 220 unionized journalists at both papers. While Roig won't be going to the Star-Advertiser, she said journalism is the best job she's ever had.

"I will miss the collaborative nature of journalism," Roig said. "My co-workers, those going to the new paper and those not hired, are all so talented and passionate about what they do.

"I know they are a talented bunch and will land on their feet."

David Yamada, deputy director of photography, has worked for 41 years for The Advertiser, where the people became his extended family.

"Within these walls thousands of colleagues have come and gone," Yamada said. "They shared their lives with weddings and births. We shared our kids growing up and their fundraisers no one turned down even if they didn't want it. We even shared the death of our loved ones. It will be a family we all will miss. The walls of this building will have memories until it is torn down."

Wanda Adams, the newspaper's food editor, said the newsroom was full of "serious journalists who knew how to have fun or evoke emotion, too. ... We followed our noses and poked in where we weren't always welcome, but we often made ourselves at home where we'd at first been met with suspicion. I will miss that paper as one misses a faithful companion who is gone."

Pat Glaser had one of the newsroom's most thankless jobs as an Advertiser editorial assistant for the past 28 years. It was a position that required keeping track of police, fire and ambulance calls over the emergency scanners and also required diplomacy, patience and tact in dealing with a huge array of newsroom phone calls, from angry readers to people who didn't receive their newspaper.

"I hated this place when I started," Glaser said. "It seemed heartless and anxious, full of foul words and attitude. Then one day, I can't say when, the being barraged by phone calls, scanner calls, deadlines and editors' demands for accuracy made sense. I began to relish the essential city desk art of multi-tasking."

Glaser remembers the freedom of being able to swear on the job, swigging coffee and eating doughnuts as the newsroom covered one disaster after another and providing former police reporter Terry McMurray with her daily notes of all of the scanner traffic only to hear McMurray reply with a wink, " 'Anybody dead?' because he knew it spooked me."

"I'm going to miss our big, dysfunctional news family," Glaser said, "I wish us all the very best."

Staff writer Michael Tsai contributed to this report.