Friday, June 20, 2008


BAD BREATH IN DOGS: Well wha’d ya expect?

Did anyone really think The Garbage Island newspaper was ever going to go back to the Jean Holmes era?

Any vestige of pretense at being a relevant voice of the community was obliterated with the news of the firing of columnist Juan Wilson and the squelching of the only real community voice in what has traditionally been the luna’s mouthpiece.

Now we’re down to one local voice in the paper, Walter Lewis’s “on one hand, on the other hand; pardon me for bringing this up” style weekly bland-ishment against taxes and government secrecy and lack of ethics, which apparently doesn’t bother anyone since government has been successfully forestalling and stonewalling these matters for many years.

We actually deluded ourselves into thinking, for the briefest of periods a year and a half back, that the then-new Editor Adam Harju’s lip-service to good journalism and providing a “community voice” might actually be genuine and he’s interested in having a lively, respected newspaper on Kaua`i.

We certainly didn’t expect that any one of PNN’s half dozen “on spec” articles would see the pages of TGI but we didn’t expect the blunt answer from the real luna- Publisher Mark Lewis- saying “if we print that we’d never have another advertiser”.

Admittedly submitting a scathing, researched critique of Derrick Kawakami’s Big Save’s employee salary and policies, comparing them disfavorably to even Wal-Mart at the time was not going to endear us to the receptacle of most of Big Save’s advertising dollars. And it didn’t help that it was at a time when Kawakami was financing if not leading the anti big box legislation fight to stop the Walton’s from putting in a competing supermarket.

You can bet that Wilson wasn’t fired for the content of the columns as far as Harju and even Lewis were concerned. And you can bet that Lewis and Harju did get a slew of phone calls from advertisers complaining about the columns.

We have asked some questions of Harju and Lewis via email but do not expect a comment so we’re really not about to wait longer for one here. They might seem a bit rhetorical but the questions we just had to ask:

Why was Juan Wilson fired?

Did you receive complaints from government officials and/or advertisers? If so what did they say and did you act on those complaints?

Why is there so little local commentary in TGI?

How many people have asked to have regular columns?

What is the criteria for allowing people to have columns and how did Wilson violate those standards?

Do advertisers have any say whatsoever over the content of TGI, either news or opinion?

As of press time, there has been no reply.

While the quality of reporting has improved in many cases a bizzillion percent under Harju the papers is still a modern version of the elitist business community rag that Charlie Fern paternalistically maintained until he handed over the reins to an egalitarian woman from Maryland, Jean Holmes, in the 60’s

Being a mainlander she was taken aback at the, even by pre-civil rights movement standards, racist backwards attitude of Fern and the plantation bosses and as soon as Fern retired completely she started doing things like giving non-whites names in the paper instead of referring to them as “Mr. Wilcox’s Filipino gardener” or a “A Japanese laborer for Lihu`e Plantation”.

And she also actually reported on the various crimes of the bosses, starting with the Leadership homes scandal, through the Billy Fernandez boondoggles and published articles regarding the Nawiliwili Tenants Association and Nukoli`i community uprisings, allowing issues to be fully aired with- gasp- letter to the editor from anyone and everyone.

But after her retirement in the early 80’s the paper got back to it’s roots with the next editor rejecting any and all news that the new plantation bosses in the hotel and resort industry wouldn’t like.

The editor in the 80’s Julia Neal actually told us that the job of the newspaper was to “smooth things over between government and business and the community, not create or report on conflict” which ended our local newspaper career after one article regarding a bait and switch scam by the organizers of the County Fair.

Apparently nothing has changed and Harju- the current occupant- will insure that because he is probably tired of being “on the circuit” as journalists refer to it, moving from small paper to small paper to slightly bigger paper, working their way up from reporter to editor and trying to break into the “big time”, leaving after their good journalism has worn out it’s welcome among advertises and government officials.

Harju apparently loves surfing so is that much more willing to throw integrity and the community under the bus.

Wha’d ya expect. Juan can still be read at Island Breath. Lewis and Harju don’t deserve him.


Anonymous said...

The GI has improved; Nathan, Rachel, Blake, these young people have been doing a good job and mostly getting it right. Now if Adam would let them loose for feature stories with some additional depth we might have something. How about investigative reporting?

Anonymous said...

Not going to happen.

When they reported on the BS at KIUC, the yakuza/business crowd lost 2-3 seats. It's taken them 2 years now to get those same folks back in their chairs.

It's about money. Which is why no one should bother to buy the damn thing. Just read a bit on line and wait for the neighbors recycle bin for the ads.

Anonymous said...

Rachel is lame.

Andy Parx said...

Blake, Nathan and seemingly the new court/police beat person Michael are really professional and excellent reporters, as is Adam. But they all know how far they can go which isn’t exposing corruption and investigative reporting... even if they had the time. And don’t forget that the KIUC series resulted in the firing of Michael Gross, a message that can’t be lost on the current crew so don’t expect and without fear or favor stuff at TGI.

One more note I had forgotten- Juan joins a long proud tradition of people who lost commentary columns in TGI for content challenging the rich and powerful . The last I remember was Gary Hooser who’s firing led directly to his election to the County Council because of the public outrage.