This was a short, but dramatic, week.

First, there was the governor’s veto of the civil unions bill on Tuesday.

Then the next day we learned that she and the state’s two U.S. senators had cut a deal to get her back on the side of the Akaka Bill, which could face its last-best chance of passage for many years this summer.

How we covered these events should tell you a lot about Civil Beat, as should a two-day series, “On the Hook,” I want to tell you about that we’ll be launching on Monday.

Let’s start with civil unions. One of our goals at Civil Beat is to save you time. If you looked at The Civil Unions Decision: What’s At Stake before Gov. Linda Lingle made her veto announcement Tuesday, you’d have found a basic primer to what was at stake, with links to key documents and the topic page about the issue we’ve built over the past few months.

When the news of her veto broke, reporter-host Chad Blair was tweeting a steady stream of updates from her offices and sending me information from the scene for an article that was up on the site almost instantly. That article, Hawaii Gov. Lingle Vetoes Civil Unions Bill, was updated more than half a dozen times over the next few hours, adding responses from concerned parties and links to key documents, such as her statement and her veto message to the Legislature. Outside her chambers, Noelle Chun, Kimberly Lee and Katherine Poythress were capturing the scene with video, Civil Unions: Video of a Day of Drama; still photos, Civil Unions: Photos of A Day of Drama; and words,Capitol Alive on Day of Civil Union Decision .

That afternoon, reporter-host Michael Levine, working from the office, not only gathered all the key documents responding to the decision, Hawaii Reacts to Civil Unions Veto, in one easy-to-use place for readers, as well as national reaction, National Pundits Pile On Civil Unions Debate; he also wrote an article, Civil Union Proponents Promise Lawsuit, exploring whether, as it appears almost certain, the next step will be a lawsuit.

The next morning, the town’s newspaper came out with an article that acted as if nobody had heard the news. Its headline was “Lingle vetoes civil unions bill” and the article began: “Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed a civil-unions bill yesterday after concluding it was the equivalent to marriage, which she believes should be reserved for a man and a woman.”

By that time, Civil Beat had already gone further, providing original perspective, Lingle Dodges Civil Unions Issue.

One of the huge differences between working online and working in print is that we’re able to continually update what we do. We mean it when we say our topic pages are living pages, for example. We updated our topic pages related to civil unions and to the Akaka Bill as soon as there were developments. Another huge difference is that we can save you time by linking you directly to resources where you can go further to learn more about an issue. And we can do it quickly. And after a few hours of reporting, we can provide you insight to help you understand important local issues.

The next day saw the the surprising emergence of a compromise that brought bring Gov. Linda Lingle back into the camp of supporters of the Akaka Bill. We went through a similar exercise. Twitter. A continually updated story, Hawaii Senators Resolve Differences with Governor on Akaka Bill. Analysis, Hawaii Leaders Unite Behind Revised Akaka Bill.

Speed has value. But it can create its own challenges journalistically.

For example, if you place a call to someone and he doesn’t respond immediately, it isn’t really fair to give the impression that the person didn’t return a call or was unresponsive. We’re working to make that clear in the way we handle such things. So, for example, on Friday, after it emerged that the governor had gone on a radio show and told listeners that civil unions weren’t a civil rights issue because first cousins also weren’t allowed to marry in Hawaii, our reporter put in a call to her spokesman. And this is what we wrote when we didn’t hear back from him: “Lingle spokesman Russell Pang couldn’t immediately be reached for comment this morning to respond to Civil Beat’s questions about the governor’s comments. (We will continue to seek further explanation of the civil rights analogy she used.)” In other words, we took responsibility for the lack of comment, and didn’t try to put the blame on the person we couldn’t reach.

As I said, it was a newsy week. Enough to wear a guy out. But we’re heading into next week ready to take on two other challenging topics — the state’s pension system and its health-care system for retirees.

We hear a lot of talk about the federal deficit. But what about the financial commitments the Hawaii state government has made to public employees?

The state of Hawaii is on the hook for pension and health-care costs for retired public employee to the tune of more than $16 billion. Monday and Tuesday Noelle Chun and Greg Wiles will explain how state officials are dealing with these unfunded liabilities.

In both our breaking news coverage this week and our coverage of these difficult financial issues next week, our reporter-hosts asked the tough questions we think you’d want us to ask. And they’re trying to give you the resources to help you understand important local issues.

That’s our job.

About the Author