Honolulu Weekly folds, Washington Post raising paywall

Two years after an unpaid $20,000 printing bill nearly swamped the Weekly in red ink, publisher Laurie Carlson has abruptly shut down the 22-year old alternative weekly.

The move caught the Weekly’s staff and freelance writers by surprise. They learned yesterday that their last day of work had been the day before. Word spread quickly after a brief note was posted on the newspaper’s Facebook page.

The Culture Bomb shared the email sent out to contributing writers yesterday by Will Caron, which seems to tell the tale.

“I’m afraid your editors at the Weekly, including myself, heard some very bad news this morning. Our publisher, Laurie Carlson, who is also the owner of the paper, has decided to shut the publication down due to financial reasons. Unfortunately, this Wednesday’s issue will be the last issue of Honolulu Weekly as we know it.

“We are attempting negotiations to find a potential buyer and there is some hope we may be able to relaunch in the Fall, but that is very much up in the air, and for the mean time, there will be no further issues published.

“I am sincerely sorry that any work you’ve been putting in for future Hot Picks and other assignments this summer will be wasted, but I encourage you to publish any stories you’ve written that have not been published by the Weekly on your own websites for clips. I wish the situation had been handled better and that we had known about this in advance, but we were all caught extremely off guard by this, so know that your editors are in the same boat as you. Best to all of you, and hopefully we can work together again next year.”

Honolulu Weekly, Pat Tummons’ Environment Hawaii, and my Hawaii Monitor newsletter all began publishing in the same general period in the early 1990s. I folded Hawaii Monitor when I accepted a position as investigative reporter for the old Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Environment Hawaii is still going strong, providing strong and steady coverage of environmental issues and agencies. If you don’t subscribe, you should.

I’ve written for the Weekly on-and-off over the years, although nothing recently. At least of my Weekly stories was an award winner. “Correctional behavior: Union rights vs human rights in Hawai’i’s only youth prison” was awarded the top prize for Enterprise Reporting for 2005 in the annual competition sponsored by the Hawaii Publishers Association.

The Weekly has tottered on the edge of insolvency many times, and has suffered from internal management tensions and high staff turnover for most of its long run. The club of Weekly formers is legendary, as are their many colorful newsroom war stories.

Still, the its loss–even if only temporary, as some apparently hope–will be felt.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post has announced that it will join the growing number of publications erecting paywalls.

According to a publisher’s note appearing today:

Whether or not you subscribe, we will not limit your ability to view The Post’s homepage and section front pages, watch videos or search classified advertising. In addition, readers who come to The Post through search engines or shared links will be able to access the linked page regardless of the number of articles they have previously viewed.

Our digital packages will be priced at $9.99 per month for access to the desktop and mobile web only and $14.99 for an all-digital package which includes access to all of The Post’s custom apps. Home delivery subscribers will continue to have complimentary access to all of The Post’s digital products.

28 responses to “Honolulu Weekly folds, Washington Post raising paywall

  1. I can hear an echo of agreement island wide regarding Burl’s comments. The reason Bob Rees stopped writing his columns is because he died unless there was some falling out before then, that I don’t remember.

  2. Alex Salkever

    It’s always sad when a publication closes. Perhaps Laurie will sell it to someone finally? She’s had numerous offers over the years, including one from PacBasin.

  3. Big Island Weekly run by Stephens Media will be the next to fold. Anyone want to take bets?

  4. This is exactly the way she handled the Hawaii Island Journal’s closure as well, unfortunately. My sympathies to the Weekly’s staff and writers; I know your pain.

  5. Burl Burlingame

    There is no good way to close a newspaper.

  6. Free Speech, Isn’t Free. A 20K Missed payment… I’ll bet I can find a digital press for that money and ship it to Hawaii. If you print on paper you’d better own the equipment. It’s like owning an Airline but not owning the Refinery. Your Advertisers need to see a return, I’ll bet they saw very little? And you P.Oed Monsanto… How dare you expose these deeds…

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