COPY!: After twenty-five years plus of providing unending targets for ridicule it was a bit uncomfortable for us to gush over anything remotely related to our joke-of-a-local-newspaper during the brief period that saw reporter Mike Levine waste his talents on Kaua`i.
But if it’s possible, with Mike’s departure, the paper might just be the worst it’s been in at least a decade or more with the addition of Leo Azambuja who has quite apparently never seen the inside of a basic newswriting textbook.
As if the flighty fluffmeister “Business Editor” Coco Zickos and the always incomprehensible “police and courts reporter” Paul Curtis weren’t bad enough, Azambuja seems totally baffled after being hired to cover the all important “government beat”.
A new article is supposed to have what’s called a lead- or lede as it’s spelled in the trade. A good reporter sits down to file a story and takes a breath to come up with the most important thing that that happened and put it at the top- all in 25 words or less.
The rest of the story follows what’s called the “inverted triangle” and tells a story- another important element- with the more important information nearer the top and the less important depth and background to follow.
It’s kind of the opposite of normal writing and a writer who is not a journalist must unlearn everything he or she knows in order to be a good reporter.
In covering a meeting the one thing you don’t want to see is a chronological regurgitation of what happened and a lede something like “A meeting of the county council was held yesterday at 9 a.m. in the council chambers at the county building”.
But apparently Azambuja either missed that day’s lesson or never attended a class.
Take his wrap-up of the budget hearings- which individually were a minute by minute recap with no context or narrative. Here’s his lede:
NAWILIWILI — Kaua‘i County Council members have been keeping busy since April 9, reviewing Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.’s proposed $146.29 million operating budget for Fiscal Year 2011, which starts July 1.
Classic. It the type of thing that a frst day student might turn in- one who hadn’t bothered to do the reading or pay attention in class.
Another skill is deciding the most important story to report if there’s more than one. But today. while Azambuja was filing a somewhat disjointed report from yesterday’s planning commission meeting about an ongoing, weeks-old story about an art gallery permit in Hanalei, Joan Conrow was reporting about the Transient Vacation Rental (TVR) bill that was passed out of the planning commission- a bill will basically ditches all the restrictions the council placed on TVRs last year and could, if passed by the council, have repercussions for decades to come.
Perhaps the most egregious thing one can do is to “bury the lede”, waiting until halfway through the article until you report the most important thing.
Azambuja’s story last Thursday on the “dog path” bill started with the end, calling the deferral of the bill to allow dogs on the entire bike path a “surprise” and regurgitating much the testimony of the “dog ladies”.
Finally 634 words into an 874 word story in the 22nd paragraph of a 27 paragraph report he writes that
The Parks and Recreation new plan suggests leashed dogs be allowed from Kealia lookout to the north end of Kuna Beach, popularly known as Donkey Beach.
United Public Workers Business Agent Trina Horner said the union supports leashed dogs on the portion of the path proposed by Rapozo, because allowing them on the entire path would put an extra burden on maintenance workers.
And that was it- no other reference to the administration’s official recommendation that dogs be allowed only on the extreme northern section of the path rather than the entire path as the bill currently calls for. There was no reference at all to an all important grievance filed by the union that could make the use of the entire path as a dog walk difficult without a resolution to the filing.
Seems that the workers are willing to perform the added maintenance duties on the northern portion for now as a compromise. They could have said no to any additions since new job descriptions cannot, by law, be imposed on them unilaterally and must be negotiated.... especially, apparently, the job of picking up dog poop.
But you’d never know that from the story which only mentions the administration’s position in passing as if it had no consequence when in actuality it very well could cause the first veto of Mayor Bernard Carvalho’s administration.
Though the story ranted on and on about the survey there was no mention that it was as nonscientific as could be or that the information was gathered by dogs-on-the-path zealots and so predictably found that “everyone” wants dogs on the path- apparently including those who have been bitten or harassed by or just don’t like being around huge unpredictable animals.
Which leads us to the “surprise” deferral- one that was, as Parks and Transportation Committee Chair Lani Kawahara said, done to allow for the committee to decide on an amendment to give the administrations proposal it’s due consideration and then either accept or reject it... and do so in committee where council’s “work” is supposed to be done.
These are just a few examples of the piss-poor job being done by the one person who this community relies upon to inform the public of governmental doings via the self-proclaimed “newspaper of record”.
There’s no shortage of excellent reporters in the state and even the island and a slew more out-of-work journalists to come with today’s announcement that the merger of the Honolulu Advertiser and Star Bulletin will proceed, initiating mass layoffs as the two staffs combine into one.
But hiring one of them would entail actually paying them a living wage, something the local paper avoids at all costs according to many past employees.
We don’t like denying anyone their job. But the tracking of the doings of government for the community is too important to be left to amateurs.