Category Archives: Media

Good series on road maintenance by the Star-Advertiser

Star-Advertiser reporter Marcel Honore deserves credit for his excellent package of stories on the sad state of island roads, which was also well illustrated and presented to readers.

The stories went beyond a catalog of issues and feel like they got a lot closer to the underlying issues

After years of neglect, crews race to fix roads

Oahu behind the times, road repair experts say

‘Roads in limbo’ compound upkeep problems on island

There are familiar patterns here, and you can almost feel the common factors emerging.

And I especially liked the way Honore undercut the way road repair issues are usually spun.

Here are the takeaways that I found very useful.

1. Hearing elected officials bragging about how many potholes they’ve filled is not good news.

Filling thousands of potholes is “not anything to be proud of,” said Larry Galehouse, director of the Michigan State University-based National Center for Pavement Preservation.

The repairs are temporary, stopgap measures to keep failed roads afloat, and in large numbers they indicate that an agency isn’t keeping up with maintenance, Galehouse and other experts say.

And:

the city’s 37-member pothole-repair team is scrambling to complete tens of thousands of annual repairs across Oahu.

To keep up, the team uses the fastest but least-durable methods to patch potholes on aging streets still waiting to be repaved. That often means it has to return to potholes it fixed because the problem has resurfaced.

“We’re not repairing them in a fashion that you would normally repair defects. We don’t want to fall too far behind,” Department of Facility Maintenance Director Ross Sasamura said.

2. Chronic budget shortfalls have hampered both state and city road repair efforts.

(DOT spokesman) Sakahara said in an email that DOT’s Highways Division “does its best balancing its limited budget and time to ensure that it can meet its highway related duties.” Its needs have “historically exceeded its resources, which is a trend that is expected to continue,” he wrote. DOT officials did not respond to requests for further information.

3. The State Department of Transportation continues to lack transparency and accountability, despite Gov. Ige’s rhetorical support for increased transparency.

The state DOT did not respond to Honolulu Star-Advertiser requests to interview Edwin Sniffen, who heads the highways division, or to emailed questions over the past several weeks.

Refusing to respond for “the past several weeks”?

Hey, the legislature is in session, maybe legislative committees can get more answers? In the past, the problem has been that much of the funding for highways and airports is dedicated funding, and doesn’t rely on routine legislative largess. So DOT has learned that it can essentially ignore pressure from legislators.

4. Poor management is a big part of the problem with road maintenance. A proper maintenance program needs careful planning.

Simply put, local maintenance officials need to do a better job (or in some cases, any job) extending the life of roads by treating them regularly with rubberlike sealants — materials that other places have used for more than 40 years, the experts say.

Moreover, maintenance crews need a detailed program to manage all the work, as well as the leadership and budget to ensure it’s done right, industry experts add.

Remember the UH maintenance backlog? Until relatively recently, maintenance requests were tracked manually using index cards. That’s a management issue.

Anyway, thanks to the S-A for a job well done on this. I definitely recommend wading through the stories.

Missing links to Honolulu Advertiser stories

I started writing iLind.net back at the beginning of 2000, while still working at the old Star-Bulletin. It’s been a long time.

And, over the years, I’ve linked to tons of articles that appeared in the S-B or the Honolulu Advertiser.

Since the merger of the two newspapers in 2010, the joint online archive has been maintained by the Star-Advertiser.

The old Star-Bulletin links still work, displaying the articles in their original online format.

But the Advertise links are broken. Well, I don’t know if all of them are broken, but that seems to be the case. All the ones I’ve tried have returned this error message.

Missing links

Google searches will still find the old articles, but the links don’t work. If the Google item includes the date the story appeared, you can visit the Star-Advertiser archive page, locate the issue by publication date, and manually search for the article.

I suppose that’s still a lot easier than in the pre-digital world, where you first searched for stories by subject in a printed index, and then retrieved the microfilm for that publication and time period, loaded it into a microfilm reader, and then fast-forwarded the microfilm to the publication date.

The broken links are a reminder of the difficulties we face in keeping digital history alive and well.

Is Hawaii really that bad for retirees?

Sometimes reading the news makes me crazy.

Take yesterday’s report that a “personal finance website” ranked Hawaii as “the third worst state for retirees, just above the District of Columbia and Rhode Island.”

First, of course, there’s the question of the source. What is WalletHub and why are we listening to them? That’s never explained.

Second, there are the criteria. I have to scratch my head. If Hawaii is so bad for retirees, why is it that those retirees can look forward to living longer in Hawaii than any place else in the country? Isn’t staying alive the most important thing, not something to be mentioned in an aside?

And what about weather? Somehow Hawaii wasn’t ranked among the cities with the best “mild weather” rankings. Instead, the top spots went to Glendale, Riverside, and Bakersfield, all in California; Scottsdale, Arizona; and Henderson, Nevada. Summer temperature in Scottsdale are over 100 degrees. I don’t think Honolulu has ever reached 100. And exactly who would rather live in Bakersfield than Honolulu?

And my cousin, who is a professor at Boise State, must be rolling her eyes at the idea that Boise is a more attractive spot than Honolulu. I guess if you don’t mind a really crazy state legislature, low pay, poor health insurance, guns at every turn (including in classrooms), miserable summer and winter weather….then maybe Boise is your place!

Okay. I can see Hawaii, and many other favorite destinations, getting high marks with an asterisk (* “if you can afford it”). But a flat out low rank? That raises a long list of immediate questions and red flags.

It looks like Wallethub put out a news release which was pick up and uncritically reported by local media, including KHON and the Star-Advertiser, as well as media across the country.

Okay, report this as “entertainment,” like comic strips. But if you’re reporting it as news, shouldn’t there be at least some semblance of critical thinking?

An update after a week using Amazon Cloud Photo Storage

Here’s a brief update on my experiment in backing up photo files to the cloud.

In an earlier post, I explained my choice of the Amazon Cloud for this effort.

In the first week, I’ve uploaded 354 GB of digital files to the Amazon Cloud Drive. These files were on two portable hard drives and a high capacity thumb drive.

That includes about 44 GB of video files, 286 GB of photo files, and another 25+ GB of miscellaneous other files. I had to shift to a $5 per month data plan to accommodate the video files, since the free storage for Amazon Prime members maxes out at 5 GB.

This comes to about 43,000 digital or scanned photos, 700 video files, and 7,300 other files.

I’m getting used to the upload process. It’s relatively easy to organize files into a folder structure. And Amazon automatically sorts them by date when accessing via Amazon Cloud Photos.

The upload has been slow, hampered by a slow USB 2.0 portable drive. But since I’ve devoted a laptop to the upload process, it’s relatively painless.

And accessing a particular folder, or searching for a single photo (by name or date) is pretty fast. I’ve shared links to particular photos with several people, and that seems to work smoothly. I have not explored bulk downloading of files from the cloud backup. That’s for a future experiment.

So far, I don’t think I would give Amazon Cloud storage an “A” grade, but certainly a solid “B” or even “B+”.

Spotlight: There’s still time to catch this great journalism tale

We finally went to see “Spotlight,” which tells the story of the Boston Globe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation of sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy, and how it was known but covered up for decades not only by those within the church, but also with community, political power structures, and even the media.

If you haven’t seen it, the film is still showing at the Kahala theaters.

It’s really an extraordinarily good portrayal of an investigative team in action. The reporters combine the pursuit of human sources with the documentary power of public documents, while confronting the question of how such things could have gone on for so long without being disclosed and confronted publicly.

Michael Keaton was perfect in the role of the team’s leader, and he wasn’t alone in treating the viewers to a fine performance.

The film was focused more on the process of journalism than the underlying crimes against children.

One review in the Atlantic points to the film’s powerful “moral of humility.”

There are so many things that we don’t know, so many assumptions that we don’t recognize as such, so many questions that we haven’t even thought to ask. Spotlight cautions us that we almost never know the whole story, if such a thing is even possible. It’s a worthy reminder, and not only for journalists.

Yes, always a good thing to keep in mind.

Of course, as investigative journalism becomes a scarce commodity, Spotlight’s depiction of an newspaper investigation done right takes on a rather poignant quality for those who have watched, or experienced, the gutting of the news over the past couple of decades.

If I had read the reviews before seeing the film, I might not have been surprised to see Pierre Omidyar as part of the executive producer team for the film. Omidyar is the founder and continuing backer of Hawaii’s Civil Beat as well as First Look Media, home of The Intercept.

In any case, Spotlight is an excellent film that provides an engaging portrayal of what turned into a major investigative project. The movie winds up its run on Thursday. But today and tomorrow, it is showing at the Kahala and Dole Cannery theaters.