Jodie Chiemi Ching
When I read the news about the Honolulu Star-Advertiser giving notice to lay off 31 workers across all departments, I felt heartbroken and afraid. But, just a couple of days ago, on June 30, Pacific Business News senior editor, Janis L. Magin, reported that the Star-Advertiser and the Pacific Media Workers Guild, the union representing the newspaper’s editorial staff, have come to an agreement to reduce the number of layoffs from 31 to 12, via furloughs and other employer actions.
“The 12 layoffs are a combination of those who had received notices on June 11 from Oahu Publications Inc., the newspaper’s parent, and others who volunteered to be laid off,” Magin wrote.
This less severe set of personnel cuts by Star-Advertiser owners seems to have resulted from people in the community speaking up, including former Govs. George Ariyoshi, John Waihe‘e III, Ben Cayetano and Neil Abercrombie, who wrote a letter to Dennis Francis, president and publisher of the Star-Advertiser and David Black, owner of Oahu Publications’ parent company, Black Press Ltd.
Our general public depends on the news media for reports about the coronavirus, the community and our government. As Hawai‘i Herald editor I feel the same threat to our community publications, arguably under even tougher economic conditions than mainstream publications like the Star-Advertiser (for the national state of newspaper survival since the start of COVID-19, see this page).
I also feel motivated, asking myself, what can I do? How can we use our publication to best support our readers? Even here at the Herald, I feel our jobs are not guaranteed to be here next month — maybe even next week. But while we are around, I want us to do what we can for the community. Supporters of the Star-Advertiser reminded us that if we speak up collectively, we can make a difference.
We have no shortage of stories to publish, but because we also had to cut down on expenses due to COVID-19, we have fewer pages in our issues. The Herald team will continue to gambaru and give you as many informative and inspiring stories as we can. This is an opportunity for us to show our strength as a community-media service.
The free press has always been a way to keep our government accountable, get us essential health information and connect us with support and resources in times of need. If we are faced with fewer journalists asking our leadership the hard questions and covering essential stories, then we have to ask ourselves what we can do as individuals in the community to engage those topics. We can take our fears and frustrations and turn them into motivation to act with aloha.
For as long as I am the editor at The Hawai‘i Herald, my team (all five of us plus our freelancers) will do our best to bring information, wisdom and inspiration to our readers. I am grateful for all the support the Herald receives.
We can each do our part in small but impactful ways. Consider examples from this issue’s contributing writers: Kacie Yamamoto reflects on her first year in college which was cut short by the virus but finds gratitude for friends and family; Dan Nakasone writes about his quest to fill a big puka in his identity; Dr. Chad Sato’s new column teaches about self-care and Ryan Tatsumoto urges support of our local small businesses.
Our next issue is our special edition on the primary election. Herald staff writer, Ida Yoshinaga, is connecting with people in the local community in various careers and backgrounds. She will ask small business owners, healthcare workers, arts administrators, students and more what their challenges are and what kinds of support they need. Honolulu’s mayoral candidates will answer questions I curated to determine what drives them and what their values are.
Author Glennon Doyle once said, “We don’t have to fix the whole world but we can put our grocery carts back.” Let’s continue to wear our masks and wash our hands when going out; check on our neighbors who live alone; call friends; spend time with the family with whom we live and remember to vote in this year’s elections.
We are still here for you. Take care of yourselves and one another.