Commentary: Stephens Media Folds the Big Island Weekly.

by Alan D. McNarie

The rumors are true. In the E-mail this morning. “This will be the last edition of Big Island Weekly. Stephens Media, which publishes Big Island Weekly, launched the publication in 2006 as a way to offer readers and advertisers a free, alternative newspaper. The company has decided to cease publishing BIW in order to shift resources to other Big Island publications, some of which will be launched in the near future.”
I have mixed emotions about this. Several years ago, we had a thriving alt weekly called the Hawaii Island Journal, of which I was proud to be the Senior Contributing Editor. Stephens Media repeatedly tried to buy the Journal. Then owner/editor Lane Wick and owner/publisher Karen Valentine refused to sell it to them. When Lane and Karen eventually retired and sold the Journal to the owner of the Honolulu Weekly, Stephens Media started up an obvious copy-cat paper, the Big Island Weekly, to compete directly with the Journal and siphon off some of its ad sales. The strategy was eventually successful; I blame the demise of the Journal as much on miscues by its new Honolulu owner as I do on the Weekly’s competition–and the burgeoning Web probably also played a role– but the Journal did eventually fail, strengthening Stephen’s stranglehold on the island’s print media.

For a while, I wrote for the Weekly, since it was pretty much the only game in town for investigative journalism. Under then-editor Yisa Var, the Weekly and I did some good work. But Var eventually left, and Tiffany Edwards Hunt started a true alt paper again–the Chronicle–so I left the Weekly to throw in my lot with her. Meanwhile, Stephens continued to consolidate its empire, sacrificing jobs and journalism for efficiency: firing union activists, eliminating the press at the Tribune-Herald and printing it at West Hawaii Today; placing the editorship of both papers under David Bock, consolidating the editorship and offices of Big Island Weekly with that of the chain’s North Hawaii paper. I’m saddened by this latest move, but not surprised.
Saddened, because the Weekly, whatever else it was, did give an outlet and voice to a number of decent freelance writers, who are now going to be missing those little paychecks. And because, as a journalist, I now feel a little more alone this morning. The Chronicle welcomes any of the Weekly’s advertisers who want to keep an alternative voice alive on this island; if we can increase our shoestring budget, maybe we can even hire some of those disenfranchised columnists. But we’ll soldier on, regardless, and try to keep journalism by journalists for the community, rather than by MBAs for their stockholders, alive on the island.

7 replies
  1. Peter Serafin
    Peter Serafin says:

    Meanwhile, back on topic….

    I was proud to be the last editor of HIJ. We had a great staff and stable of regular contributing writers, and a very involved readership. (One of my earliest, and best, decisions when I took the helm was to make my cell phone the direct editor’s line. I welcomed calls from everyone — and boy, did I get ’em. Thank you all). Of invaluable support (and provider of irreplaceable institutional memory) was Senior Contributing Editor Alan McNarie.

    Kudos to all who made the HIJ what it was — right up to the end. In our last year we’d won half of the Society of Professional Journalists Awards we were eligible for against all other publications statewide (batting .500 is pretty good in any league). We were also admitted into the highly selective Association of Alternative Newsweeklies (which recognized and fostered true independent journalism, not the fake corporate-owned “alt weekly lite” versions sprouting up nationwide — and of which Big Island Weekly was a local example).

    BIW was started because Stephens Media couldn’t buy HIJ and began acting as though every dollar spent on newspaper advertizing on the island should go to their corporate HQ in Vegas. They launched BIW with to get the advertizing $$ that the felt were “theirs.” A well-respected local journalist I know interviewed for the position as first editor. He was told he could cover whatever stories he wanted. What about, he asked, the ongoing federal anti-labor, union-busting and illegal firing of Hunter Bishop and Dave Smith (two longtime HT-H reporters). No, BIW management said, we’d prefer you not cover this. Hmmmm….. (The only local paper to cover this important local story: HIJ). So, like any real journalist would, this fellow turned down the job.

    Anyway, they found a non-journalist to take the job of editor. Although she had ZERO journalism experience, she did the best she could. As did those who replaced her. But it wasn’t the kind of real, balanced, fact-based journalism on serious local issues the HIJ did (And Big Island Chronicle, especially Alan, still practices).

  2. CSGray
    CSGray says:

    I would love to know who wrote this article. I usually don’t care, but the words I and we are used, so I would like to know who I and we are.

    The consolidation of media into fewer and fewer hands is a real issue and is limiting the public’s ability to know what is happening locally, nationally, and globally.

  3. Alan McNarie
    Alan McNarie says:

    The ‘I’ is Alan McNarie. The ‘we’ in the second paragraph is this island community. The ‘we’ in the last paragraph is the Big Island Chronicle. ‘Sorry for the confusion. I (Alan) recently became the Chronicle’s Contributing Editor.

  4. tia
    tia says:

    So disgusting to hear HaHaHa’s for profit GMO propaganda everywhere. Go away!

    BIW and Chronicle and BI Video News are my only sources of real local news nowadays. NO TV either. Good bye propaganda mouthpieces.

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *