Hugh Clark, former Big Island bureau chief for the Honolulu Advertiser and, later, columnist for the Chronicle, passed away from cancer this morning. He was 73.
Clark, who reported for the Hilo Tribune Herald for five years before before joining the Advertiserand staying for over three decades, was a old-fashioned hard-news journalist. Although he could and did write passionately about sports, he was most in his element when covering a court case or dissecting a political race.
“He was an old-school newspaperman, a mentor and a friend, and he will be missed,” wrote Tribune reporter John Burnett, announcing the death on the Big Island Press Club’s Facebook page.
Clark “trained himself to remember arcane details of news stories and personalities, and what he couldn’t remember was contained in a remarkable filing system that half-filled his second-floor walkup office in the century-old Hilo Drug Building overlooking Hilo Bay,” wrote Advertiser reporter Jan TenBruggengate when Clark retired from the paper in 2002. “He is a journalist of the old school, and held out against computer technology for as long as he could, comfortable in the days when bureau reporters pounded on clattering teletype machines, a telephone cradled on one shoulder and a pencil behind the other ear.”
“I am not a techy, and really have no desire to become one,” he once admitted in a letter to the editor.
But Clark couldn’t get the ink out of his blood, even in retirement, even in the electronic age. He began writing his “Hugh-isms” column for for the Chronicle’s Web site in 2012 and learned to exercise a talent that he had kept carefully in check over his reporting years: a knack for expressing strong personal opinions, often with an acidic wit. Comparing the 2012 county elections with those in 1976, for instance, Clark noted that both elections featured “Plenty of ornery debate, threatening and juvenile conflict and… acrimony that seemingly never would end.” In another column, Clark groused that the Transportation Safety Administration had “done far more to terrorize American travelers than any Muslim group.” In an open letter to New West Broadcasting’s Chris Leonard, he wrote, “Just read you have fired [conservative commentator Rush] Limbaugh. I always liked you and now I know better why.” Commenting on an attack by the Tribune-Herald on alocal politician, he remarked, “Did (Hawaii Tribune-Herald editor David) Bock have the decency to forewarn you guys he was going to declare war? Or was this a Pearl Harbor event?”
Cancer has finally stilled that curmudgeonly, honest voice. Rest in peace, Hugh.