Category Archives: Media

News report of “police conspiracy” missed the mark

For those of you who don’t routinely check out Civil Beat, you might be interested in the column that I wrote last week (“Ian Lind: HPU-Police ‘Conspiracy’ Report Told Less Than Half the Story“).

It was triggered by a Hawaii news Now story a couple of weeks ago about a lawsuit alleging that a former HPU professor had been “set up” by two others at HPU to be killed by police. When the story said one of those involved was an experienced former HPD officer, it gave me one of those “Did I hear that right?” moments and was just strange enough to prompt me to check out the tale.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, court records provided a lot more of the background to the case. Most of the background called into question the lawsuit’s allegations and, in fact, its overall narrative, which had been uncritically repeated by HNN.

It isn’t known just how HNN decided to broadcast the lawsuits allegations almost as if they were fact, but apparently without doing any basic independent checking.

And its not clear to me why the attorney handing the case would go so far out on a limb with allegations where there’s such a contradictory back story.

But its a case that certainly reminds us that it’s best to read actively and not assume that the news media has done their homework.

Surprised by an SPJ Award

When I saw a Facebook post by another journalist commenting on awards from the Society of Professional Journalists annual contest, I went looking for the results posted on the SPJ Hawaii website. And I was surprised to see this:

2015 Excellence in Journalism Awards
June 24, 2016
Manoa Grand Ballroom


The 2015 Excellence in Journalism contest was judged, for the most part, by the Colorado chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, with the exception of the Overall Magazine Layout, which was judged by Star-Advertiser managing editors Betty Shimabuuro and Mike Rovner.

All Media A101 Column Writing or Blog/News

First Place: Ian Lind “Ian Lind” Civil Beat Category Comment: “The winning entries all share the commonality of readability, and interesting insights into the history and culture of Hawaii, it’s people and its politics.”

Finalist: Ben Lowenthal “The State of Aloha” Maui News

Finalist: Neal Milner “Neal Milner” Civil Beat

After digesting the news, aided by a glass of wine or two, I checked in with Civil Beat Editor Patti Epler and got a list of my columns that were submitted.

It’s a pretty good selection, I have to say.

So here they are, the winning columns. And remember that the paywall has come down, so they are free for the reading.

Ian Lind: War Crimes on Kauai?
Since when did collecting taxes become pillaging and a war crime?

Ian Lind: Will Ruling In Council Case Derail Honolulu Ethics Enforcement?
The city Ethics Commission has released few details about why it dismissed charges against current and former council members, but the decisions could set dangerous precedents.

Ian Lind: Has UH Adequately Addressed Cancer Center’s Sticky Issues?
Former director Michele Carbone was often an expert defense witness in asbestos cases and sought UH grants from a frequently sued company. Conflict of interest?

Ian Lind: Dear Joe, If You’re Concerned About Ethics Problems Look in the Mirror
The Hawaii House Speaker is off-target in his criticism of the Ethics Commission for doing its job.

Ian Lind: Kahoolawe 40 Years Later
Protests over using the island as a military bombing range galvanized the modern Hawaiian movement.

The Boston Globe’s $1 a day digital subscription

My mailbox has been peppered recently with offers to subscribe to the Boston Globe. The latest round offered what it called a “revolutionary” price. I’m pretty addicted to news, and anxious that good reporting could go the way of the sets of encyclopedias that people my age grew up with, so I decided to check out the Globe’s offer.

The large print made it seem simple. 99 cents per week for 16 weeks.

So far so good.

75% off

That would be just under $16 for four months of the Boston Globe. If extended through the full year, it would be about $50. A bargain.

But there was a bit of fine print down at the bottom of the ad.

The first sticker shock. After the 16 weeks, you agree to pay $3.99 per week for the rest of the initial year of your subscription. You can cancel, but if you don’t, the $3.99 a week goes on your bill.

Okay, that’s a lot. At $3.99 a week, a full year would add up to $207.48. Pricey, but perhaps justifiable. By comparison, the New York Times has a promotional offer of $.99 for four weeks, jumping to $3.75 per week after that.

But the Boston Globe had another bit of fine print.

Fine print

Yup, that’s the bottom line hidden down in the fine print.

At $6.93 per week, the Boston Globe is going to end up costing you $30 per month, or $360 for a full year. And that’s without getting a physical, printed newspaper.

Now you’re talking real money. That’s nearly double the cost of a digital subscription to the NY Times.

The subscription prices were raised to this level in mid-2015.

Yes, I understand that the Globe is really a regional newspaper. It’s not the NY Times.

But according to a November 2015 article from NiemanLab.com, the Globe’s pricing is working.

The Globe’s analytics tell it that once digital-only readers reach the 13th month of subscription, they’re unlikely to cancel. It’s at that golden point that they see the price increase to 99 cents a day. New subscribers pay 99 cents for the first month. Then, in their first year, the price goes to $3.99 per week, or $15.96 every four weeks. At that thirteen-month point, it’s 99 cents a day.

The Globe has largely moved through a year of that pricing, and is encouraged by the results. “We have migrated the entire base of subscribers that have previously reached their one-year anniversary,” Doucette says. “We are now in the phase of graduating subscribers as they reach their one-year anniversary, and we manage these cohorts on a weekly basis.

“We do see a slightly higher churn rate for subscribers paying 99 cents a day, but only nominally so.” Doucette doesn’t specify a churn — or cancellation — rate, but we can figure it’s in the 5-percent-plus range.

If churn doesn’t go up much when you nearly double the price, what do we make of that? The experience confirms the highly aggressive print pricing publishers have put into place in the last four years: Highly engaged readers will pay more for a good news product than we had ever guessed.

I’m just not convinced, although most of us routinely pay more than $30 a month for cell phone service, and for broadband connectivity at home, and probably for digital entertainment as well.

And if you only read one newspaper, perhaps $30 a month isn’t too much. But for the Boston Globe’s national audience of readers who don’t live anywhere near the Boston area and who want to add the Globe to what they’re already reading for local and national news, the dollar-a-day price point doesn’t make sense. At least it doesn’t make sense to me, and I’m probably more willing than most to pay for professionally produced news.

I still don’t know what the answer is, or what a reasonable overall news budget would be for the average news junkie (presumably more than the average newspaper reader, and far more than the average person).

Any thoughts? In this digital age, how much should we realistically set aside to get professionally produced news from experienced journalists? When all your sources are added up, what do you spend?

Big changes at Civil Beat

In a column published early today, Civil Beat editor Patti Epler announced that the online news site is adopting a “free and nonprofit” model beginning immediately.

Epler writes:

Along with that, we have transitioned to a nonprofit organization. Our application is pending with the IRS. And in the meantime, we have joined the Institute for Nonprofit News, a coalition of more than 100 nonprofit newsrooms across the U.S., including the Texas Tribune, Voice of San Diego, the Center for Public Integrity and many, many others.

We’re also switching to a membership model, very similar to that used by other public media outlets. INN is acting as our fiscal sponsor so that, effective immediately, all contributions to Civil Beat are tax deductible.

And if you haven’t been a Civil Beat subscriber previously, this means good news for you.

As of today, the CB pay wall has been taken down, and its news resources–past and present–are available to all for free.

This means that you can read Epler’s column for yourself.

And you can also read my column today about two proposals being considered by the Honolulu Charter Commission, one of which would dismantle the city’s system of neighborhood boards. I’m quite critical of the recommendation, especially given the manner in which it was developed.

So enjoy having access to Civil Beat’s news and commentary.

Implicit in this changeover seems to be an admission that the subscription model, which aimed at allowing CB to become a self-sustaining business, didn’t get the desired results. I hope that this reset will bear fruit.

More souvenirs of Hawaii’s newspaper past

While sorting through another box of old folders and papers (one pile, trash; another pile, scan and trash; third pile, offer to other history buffs; final pile, keep), another unexpected bit of local history turned up in an old envelope.

Another remnant of Hawaii’s media history.

Recognize them?

Honolulu Star-Bulletin

They are pogs, the small cardboard pieces for the game originally played with milk bottle caps. It roared back into popularity in the 1990s, and the Hawaii Newspaper Agency, along with the old Star-Bulletin, got right into the spirit.

I’ve got eight of the dark rim version, and just two of the lighter, gray rim version.

I’ll split them into two sets, each with five pogs, including four of the dark version and one of the lighter design.

Free to the first two people who ask.