Alive and Kicking  | American Journalism Review
 AJR  The Beat
From AJR,   December 2000

Alive and Kicking   

Canadian publisher David Black buys Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

By Lori Robertson
Lori Robertson (, a former AJR managing editor, is a senior contributing writer for the magazine.      

After about 13 months in limbo, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin gets some security: The afternoon daily finds a buyer in David Black , owner of Canada's Black Press Ltd., a community newspaper company. The paper's owner, Liberty Newspapers Ltd., announced in September 1999 it would shut down the Star-Bulletin in exchange for a reported $26.5 million payment from Gannett, which owns the morning Honolulu Advertiser . An injunction, issued in response to lawsuits by Hawaii's attorney general and citizen groups, kept Gannett and Liberty from mothballing the Star-Bulletin, but the paper's future remained shaky. Now, Black, who takes control March 15, hopes to invest about $20 million in the daily, expand its circulation (now 63,500) and staff, and add a Sunday edition. The papers' 38-year-old joint operating agreement will dissolve, resulting in a head-to-head battle. Throughout the past year, staff photographer George F. Lee had been known to say, "Not dead yet, baby!" But he says it wasn't easy to stay upbeat. "It was as much of an emotional roller coaster" for him as it was for the rest of the staff, says Lee, who has been with the paper for four-and-a-half years. About 80 percent of the staff has been in "the going-down-with-the-ship camp," he says. The terms of the deal among Black and Gannett and Liberty, which had put the paper up for sale in April, were not disclosed. Lee says of the new owner, "He's going to want to make this work, and we're going to want to make this work."



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