Three former governors of Hawaii are asking the leadership at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser not to go forward with their plan to lay off half its newsroom.
John Waihee, Ben Cayetano and Neil Abercrombie sent a letter on Monday to David Black, owner of the Star-Advertiser’s parent company Black Press, and publisher Dennis Francis. The former governors asked the recipients to reconsider their decision to eliminate 31 jobs including photographers, the entire graphic arts department, columnists and veteran reporters.
“As former governors, we know how much democracy depends on a free press,” they wrote. “Please support them so that Honolulu’s only daily newspaper can weather this
economic crisis and come back strong. We cannot afford to lose it.”
Since March, newsroom staffers have been furloughed one day a week, and eight were placed on indefinite furlough. Last Thursday, a list of Pacific Media Workers Guild members were “abruptly” told they are being let go.
The union has been asking Star-Advertiser management for months to agree to a rotating furlough program that would share the sacrifice among staff, preserve jobs and minimize the impact to workers, families and news coverage, according to a news release. The guild said it will continue to seek an agreement that recognizes the economic impact of COVID-19 and “maintains the news coverage our community deserves.”
In an emailed statement, Francis said the pandemic has been devastating to businesses in every sector, and newspapers are no exception.
“We are fighting for our survival,” he said. “It’s that simple.”
He said the ex-governors should be asking local advertisers to return to the paper, which would provide needed income to cover operating costs.
“Local retailers and all businesses are reeling,” Francis said. “No one knows where this is headed but certainly our hope is it all will be temporary and we can return to a level of revenue that can sustain a workforce of nearly 400 employees. I appreciate our journalists and the extremely important work they do. I appreciate all of our employees who over the years have contributed to our success. I remain hopeful that we can minimize the impact to our journalists and the impactful work they provide to our community. The dialogue remains open.”