Tuesday, February 10, 2009


MOVE OVER ROVER: Tomorrow will mark our 365th day doing whatever-the-heck-it-is-we-do.

Whatever you call it- reporting. political rabblerousing, activism, advocacy or just plain blithering jabber- we can’t help but see it as an outgrowth of the “new journalism” that’s now celebrating it’s 50th anniversary

“They” call it blogging now so we’ll stick with that and keep searching for an adjective to separate it from the social blather of the facebook and my space ilk..

And after this week is over we may just take a weekday off every once in a while whether it’s to do some research, attend a meeting or otherwise put a little leg work into more formal reportage or just watch some basketball on the tube.

But one thing we have done in the last year as the now-perennial low man on the Hawai`i news and political blogging totem poll, is figure out the pecking order in the world of daily on-line news, analysis and opinion.

And we mention it because there never was a better microcosmic case in point than a few posts over the past few days to provide a model of how news travels- and is impeded- in these days of battle between the emerging democratic and the dying corporate models of news delivery.

To pick it up sort of in the middle it all started over the weekend when one of the big three in Honolulu, ”I’m just a blogger” Doug White at Poinography, who works as a paper shuffling grunt at the legislature every year, discovered that new Chair of the House Judiciary Ricki Karamatsu’s usually bland politician-type blog had a post that Doug described as

A tour de force in bizarro rambling! Now, a post like that is less amusing coming from the Chair(!) of the Judiciary Committee than if it were from some random powerless “everyman,” but it still cracks me up.

Now Karamatsu has this thread of religious mumbo jumbo, very Buddhist in nature. But this post described his attempts at inner calm and “compassion” during a meeting in his office, when an elected official he called “5P8C” came in and immediately threatened him if he didn’t capitulate and pass through his committee the mystery man’s “law enforcement package” of bills.

Although as of our press time Karamatsu has put up a sort of zen notice at the permalink of his post that “the page you are looking for does not exist” it is still there on the main page at least until he discovers it.

In part it reads:

On Thursday, February 5, 2009, I had a meeting with 5P8C at my office at his request. I was ready to work with him with an open mind. However, his actions instantly changed my view. In his own words, he threatened me that he will come after me if I don’t agree with him like he did with the Judiciary chairs before me. I was shocked, considering this was my first meeting with this guy who is a couple decades older than me. Now, this is a person who fights for good against evil, yet is arrogant and mean-spirited like those he is fighting against. I just met this guy and he is already threatening me and trying to push around what power he has or thinks he has. He really tested my will.

Now it didn’t take a genius to figure out that it was Honolulu Prosecutor Peter Carlisle- especially since there’s five letters in Peter and eight in Carlisle.

But if Ricki was no Nazi Code Writer, the commenters at Doug’s post were no Navaho Code Breakers themselves with one even speculating it might have been Lt. Governor Duke Aiona despite the apt description of Carlisle as one who “fights for good against evil, yet is arrogant and mean-spirited like those he is fighting against” and especially when he added “childish” to the depiction.

Anyone who’s followed Carlisle didn’t even need the alpha-numeric clue.

Now a post by Doug or others of the three Honolulu wise men- former pro reporter Ian Lind and world-weary-traveler and discoverer Larry Geller of Disappeared News- usually gets the panties of we low-lifes and geographically-challenged neighbor-islanders in a bunch rehashing and analyzing their pearls.

But every once in a while there’s a hole in the filter and you-know-what floats to the “top”. And no time more so that when one of the mere mortal bloggers’ stories gets picked up by Honolulu Advertiser Capitol correspondent Derrick DePledge at his officially sanctioned “Notebook” blog at the Advertiser’s web site.

This time with little ado DePledge- who gets his phone calls returned and apparently lives at the legislature when it’s in session- lost little time in confirming the identity of 5P8C with Karamatsu and Carlisle himself

It seems like if the real political news- the stuff that doesn’t make us yawn- is actually reported, it’s in mainstream reporters’ blogs these days.

Notwithstanding the unequivocal comments from political reporters Richard Borreca of the Honolulu Star- Bulletin and Denby Fawcett of KITV on a KHET’s (PBS) “Island Insights” program a couple of weeks back that there is “never any news on the blogs” so they simply don’t read them and ignore anything that might have originated there, it doesn’t take a genius to see the self-fulfilling nature of those kinds of projections.

Now to be fair there are mainstream corporate press reporters like former S-B Editor Dave Shapiro- who was on the same program defending blogs- along with DePledge who can see past their cloistered employment to see the inevitability of the changes in news distribution to an electronic platform.

But for the most part it seems that until the budget cutting axe that we’ve seen at all the Honolulu newspapers and even TV news-providing station falls on them, most are content to live in their antiquated mid-to-late 20th century paradigm, seeing themselves as the gatekeepers who live by the motto “news is what we say it is”, as every first term J-School student is taught.

Only when the, to steal Larry’s term, ”Disappeared News” bubbles up so furiously that the steam fogs up their fish-eye lenses does it gets through to most of those gatekeepers and the public find out about the real news.

But then again even if the “news” is reported by DePledge in a corner of the Advertiser web site does it make a sound? Or does it serve as a dead end cul-de-sac where it reverberates in a sort of isolation booth?

You would think that a report of the Honolulu Prosecutor Carlisle intimidating and threatening the House Judiciary Committee chair Karamatsu would be, if not plastered on the front pages of a real newspaper and leading the 6 o’clock news, at least getting a little play.

But we’d bet dollars to donuts that the item will live and die it’s quasi-MSM life in DePledge’s blog albeit a slightly higher profile death than it would have died in Poinography.

How long can the corporate press editors survive by ignoring real news as “too much ‘inside baseball’”, as they are wont to tell their reporters and instead present a mélange of prepackaged competing quotes, rewritten press releases and regurgitated news from another member of their incestuous brethren.... and call it THE news?

When the last newspaper prints its last print edition some will, as they do now, bemoan the lack of the tactile pleasure of paper and ink. But few will bemoan the loss of their 21st century no-real-news “content” to a medium that has exploded in a much more democratic- if temporarily less conveniently transportable- medium.

When the actuarially inspired death of modern mainstream journalism comes, the current crop of gatekeepers will, with a few exceptions, have no one to blame but themselves for riding the corporate model dinosaur express to oblivion even as the dust from the asteroid settles in the cogs and shuts their presses down.

1 comment:

Doug said...

For the record, make that "former paper-shuffler." I worked at the Lege for ten years, but 2006 was my final session.

Nice amateur cryptanalysis with the 5-letter, 8-letter thing! Obvious, in retrospect.