Oahu Publications, Inc. (OPI), which publishes the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and MidWeek, has gained control of Kauai print media with its recent acquisition of The Garden Island newspaper.
Kauai residents had mixed reactions, ranging from hopes that the sale might improve the quality of the island’s oldest newspaper to fears that the paper ultimately will be closed and coverage relegated to the Star-Advertiser.
“This could be the end of a newspaper here, even if it is a pretty crappy one,” wrote Andy Parx, a Kauai journalist and blogger, in an email to the Weekly. “I’m just worried there will be even less local Kauai news. The Star-Advertiser ignores us now and doesn’t even have a Kauai correspondent. The question is whether it’s better to have the current editorial control by the Chamber of Commerce–as they freely admit internally is the case now–or to have the broader corporate control of Conrad Black.”
OPI is purchasing the paper, which was founded in 1902, from Lee Enterprises. Terms of the sale were not disclosed, and the deal is expected to close on Feb. 11. An employee of The Garden Island said all staff members must reapply for their positions. OPI announced that 14 Kauai jobs will be eliminated when production and printing functions are moved to the Star-Advertiser’s Kapolei facility.
Laurie Carlson, publisher of Honolulu Weekly, expressed concerns over yet another independent press being closed down in the Islands, consolidating the printing monopoly of larger operations. “One of the ways that smaller newsprint publications are disadvantaged is lack of a competitive printing market in Hawaii,” she wrote in an email. “On the Big Island, the operators of the two dailies will print no other publications that would compete with them. On Oahu, the Star-Advertiser, like Gannett before them, offers prohibitive pricing for competitors. That is why the Weekly prints on Maui,” Carlson said.
OPI first gained a foothold on Kauai in May 2010, when it bought The Honolulu Advertiser and replaced its popular weekly publication, Kauai People, with MidWeek. At the time, MidWeek editor-in-chief Don Chapman said OPI planned to weaken The Garden Island by aggressively pursuing the weekly supermarket advertising inserts that were the newspaper’s bread and butter