Sunday, February 24, 2008


NEW NEWSHOUND: In the aftermath of a of a strike-vote
and in the midst of a “byline strike”
at the Honolulu Advertiser, one byline stood out in today’s paper acknowledging that yes, Kaua`i is part of the State afterall.

After almost six months of regurgitations of Kaua`i County press releases and coverage written by the paper’s city desk, former Big Island Star-Bulletin reporter Diana Leone has airlifted into Kaua`i from the big Island to do the first datelined piece
in the almost six months.. 37-year Kaua`i Advertiser Bureau Chief Jan TenBruggencate was forced- or more accurately bribed- into one of those buyout/retirement deals as part of the widespread purge of veteran reporters last summer due to “cost cutting measures” instituted by noted el-cheapo owners Gannett and their Editor/hatchetman-in-Chief Mark Platte.

The piece is pretty much a regurgitation of other news-sourced coverage of the poisoning of Waimea school children by GMO-purveyors Syrgenta and is datelined Lihu`e and bylined by Leone. According to two sources close to the Advertiser, she has never lived on Kaua`i. and is working “part-time”.

Despite her expertise and familiarity with Kaua`i, long time resident and reporter Joan Conrow lost out on the job apparently because of her blog’s investigative coverage last year of the Superferry and attempts to discredit her objectivity by forces with a direct line to Platte.

Conrow, a former Star-Bulletin and Advertiser staff writer and Reuters stringer who has lived and covered the Kaua`i beat for more than 20 years had the inside track on the permanent job until the Advertiser editors said this fall that they were just pulling her off the Hawai`i Superferry (HSf) story but the action didn't close the door on future employment they gave Leone the job, without ever interviewing Conrow for the position.

Conrow’s work on her blog and in Honolulu weekly was instrumental in uncovering State and HSf misconduct and recently exposed the military boondoggle involving the HSf and it’s defense contractors Austral.

But apparently Conrow’s earlier investigative expertise in uncovering State and Superferry evasion and misconduct was unacceptable to Platte, whose duel role as head of news and opinion sections violates most journalism ethics guidelines.

Platte seemingly has so much to do that his regular Sunday horn-tooting “After Deadline” column
takes credit for scooping other news sources’ originally reporting. Today’s column
takes credit for “breaking the news of Obama's TV ads” despite PNN’s 2/12 report
scooping the Advertiser three days before their Feb 15 article. (see #4).

PNN corrected Platte although in ridiculing sneakiness,
but has not as yet seen or heard a correction.

Welcome to the fray Diana... do us proud. Battle for your stories with the Advertiser’s “Kaua`i?... where’s that?... did somebody die?” city desk attitude....

... not that the S-B and the TV news’ aren’t even worse when it comes to not knowing we’re here unless someone kills someone or some kids are getting poisoned by GMO companies.

But isn’t that why they said they had to do these frankenfood experiments out here in the middle of the Ocean in the first place...

Diana Leone can be reached at

Update: My apologies to Diana Leone regarding her byline. According to a NY Times blog (thanks Ian Lind) the byline strike ended Friday.


Charley Foster said...

Nothing against Joan's blog - I read it all the time - but did you really use the words "Superferry" and "objectivity" in the same sentence in reference to it?

Joan Conrow said...

Hey, just because my blog isn't objective on the Superferry doesn't mean I couldn't have covered the story objectively for a mainstream paper like the Advertiser. And I was, until they pulled me off the story not because I wasn't being objective, but because they were afraid of the perception that I might not be.

Just like lawyers and judges, journalists can put their own views aside and deal with the matter at hand objectively. It's all part of being a professional.

For the record, I am not in any way unhappy that I didn't get the Tiser job. And I sincerely wish Diane good luck.

Joan Conrow said...

PS: Thanks for reading my blog, Charley.

Charley Foster said...

I agree with you Joan. I think it's possible to set aside biases and apply professional standards, and I think you are capable of doing that. And I agree that the paper's concern was the appearance of bias. That's not to say the paper's concern is mislplaced. The appearance itself is a valid concern.

And really, from your writings about the SF, I understand your opposition to be based not merely on policy preferences or procedural complaints. You talk about the issue as well in terms of moral outrage. You also at times adopt the language of the ant-SF activists so that, whether or not it's fair to see you as part of the anti-SF activist movement, there is certainly the appearance that you are.

I think these things make it more difficult to overcome suspicions that you are willing or able to be objective. And, even if that's not fair and you are able to set your personal feelings aside, they nevertheless create a fairly substantial appearance of bias.

Andy Parx said...

Objectivity is, well... subjective. What passes for objectivity in the MSM these days is finding two people to disagree and plopping their quotes in the newshole even if one is full of crap. Real objectivity requires the writer to do the research and call a liar a liar... and not be afraid to be called biased for doing so.

The use of the cloak of objectivity is actually what destroys credibility- no one is bias free so to hide one’s predilections for fear of the perception of bias is self-defeating because writers start by lying about .their views.

Charley Foster said...

There's a difference - (I'm not talking about Joan here. I'm speaking generally) - there's a difference between on the one hand being thorough and complete and skeptical and on the other declining to present certain information because, according to one's bias, it is without merit.

And I think it's just a truism that the more religiously one holds an opinion the less likely it is for the person to be objective about that issue.

While good reporting, as you suggest, requires thoroughness and skepticism, it also requires an amount of humility - a realization that one's personal opinions are not moral imperatives.

Andy Parx said...

Again objectivity is subjective- If I refuse to give credence to creationism in a science piece on DNA some will scream “that’s your opinion”.

Sorry but no it’s not. Evolution may be a theory but so is the “fact” that the sun will come up tomorrow. It doesn’t make me have to act the fool and include a sentence saying that some people think the sky is yellow and the sun is blue.. or if I do quote them to not say they are off their rockers. To me THAT’S being objective, not seeking out a ridiculous tenet of religiosity so I can “balance” my piece with objectivity.

Charley Foster said...

You and I don't disagree that objective journalism doesn't require bringing in irrelevant information. Creationism might very well be irrelevant to a story about DNA. What I'm talking about is fair treatment of information that is relevant.

Say a reporter thinks the Superferry is evil; that reasonable people simply could not recognize even one good quality in it; that anyone who has anything good to say about the Superferry is either a special interest, is bought and paid for by a special interest, or is duped by slick advertising and the guile of special interests.

And say the reporter, informed by such bias, treats any information contrary to the reporter's religiously held convictions about the superferry as irrelevant or deserving only of ridicule.

Well, first of all the reporter would be wrong. Reasonable people can and do disagree about the Superferry. And the public reading the reporter's stories would easily recognize that the information presented is dictated by the reporter's bias and would probably feel insulted. And such reporting would be worthless to a mainstream newspaper and to a public looking for as fair as possible presentation of information about issues and events going on in the world.

Katy Rose said...

You guys might be interested in the analysis of this subject by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). A representative article is here:

I began reading their journal, "Extra!," back in the 90's. I have long appreciated their analysis of the corporate media.

Charley Foster said...

FAIR has some valid criticisms, but too often their analysis seems to boil down to, "the media is not liberal enough." Similarly, there's the Media Research Center which does media criticism from the right. Both organizations have some valid criticisms, and both are sometimes just shills for their respective perspectives. It's interesting to read both.

Joan Conrow said...

Yes, Charley, your scenario would not be a good thing. It creates "newspapers" like the Hawaii Reporter.

I certainly hope you're not inferring that if I had continued to write for the Advertiser, I would have written such biased articles about the Superferry.

Charley Foster said...

I'm not inferring at all that Joan would write biased stories if she wrote about the Superferry for any newspaper. I thought about including such a disclaimer again in that comment but didn't because I had already indicated in a previous comment that I was no longer refering to Joan but was speaking in general terms.

So, yes, thank you Joan for raising that. Nothing I have said in this thread is meant in any way to refer to Joan.

Andy Parx said...

I don’t recall reporting stating the “fact” that the Superferry is “evil”. That’s a non-sequitor. And I don’t think anyone said that there were no potential benefits to having drive-on drive off ferries. But I do recall a lot of writers researching statement made by the state and HSf personnel that were regurgitated as factual – many times without attribution- by the Honolulu media cheerleaders, demonstrating that the statements were essentially untrue.

And I recall that didn’t stop those statements from being repeated based on prior false reports despite those citizen treatises.

And that’s what happens when you use the MSM definition of balance and objectivity- the practical execution involves finding someone who will say something you know isn’t true but printing it anyway because you have to be “fair and balanced”.

After a while when someone lies to you over and over and you continue to print their lies you become the liar.

I do recall some who said that the intent was being hidden and then professing the opinion that the real purpose was an “evil” one, involving military boondoggles and partisan political gains.

Charley Foster said...

Well the reporter wouldn't report as fact that he thinks the sf is evil. And it was a hypothetical to illustrate my point, not a literal example.

As to your point, yes I agree, reporters sometimes lazily collect quotes just to get the requisite two sides. Of course it cuts all ways. Sometimes reporters uncritically quote corporate interests and sometimes they uncritically quote the police and sometimes they uncritically quote environmental interests and sometimes activist interests or whatever.

I think we already agree you and I that reporters ought to practice thoroughness and skepticism.