The Honolulu Star-Advertiser is Dead to Me
December 28th, 2010
07:04 PM ET

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser is Dead to Me

HONOLULU, Hawaii (CNN) - I thought it was funny when The Washington Post joined various CNN anchors in teasing me about creating "something of a brand covering [President] Obama's vacations."

In a tongue-in-cheek piece, the Post's Perry Bacon wrote that I've been trading the "traditional news correspondent garb of a suit and tie for a seemingly endless variety of multi-colored Hawaiian shirts and flip-flops."

OK fine, you've got to be able to laugh at yourself. And what's wrong with injecting a little fun into live reports?

That's why I used to scoop up big belt buckles in Texas to cover then-President Bush's vacations in the sleepy town of Crawford. Now that a new president has brought us to a more exotic locale, the last thing I want to do is look like Richard Nixon and wear dress pants and wing-tip shoes to the beach.

But then I stopped laughing this morning when one of my colleagues at another network asked me in a semi-serious tone, "Did you see that editorial about you in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser?"

I thought he was joking until he handed over the offending newspaper editorial with the headline, "Reporting live, in my Hawaiian shirt."

The short, kind-of-whimsical editorial wondered aloud whether there's a downside to Obama having his annual holiday vacation on the Hawaiian island of Oahu in the tiny town of Kailua, about a 30-minute drive from the tourist-friendly Waikiki Beach that you see in our live shots.

I was laughing until I got to the sentence that my colleague thought was referring to me because of all the grief CNN anchors have been giving me about my wild Hawaiian shirts - which are actually known as "aloha shirts" to locals.

"Retailers here make extra sales of Hawaiian attire to the on-camera staffers (can't get the national media to call them 'aloha shirts', it seems)," said the editorial.

Ouch, I'm just a nameless "on-camera staffer" to the paper. But then came the real punch.

"The news reports themselves are fluff, but for the tourism industry, any live shot with palm trees in the background is all good," added the editorial.

Ah, a charge of fluff from a newspaper whose front page on the very same day had a hard-hitting lead story headlined "Ahi stuck here for the holidays," which bemoaned the fact that bad weather on the East Coast means less ahi tuna is being shipped out of of Hawaii. The story was so large that it was the only story on the front page.

Stop the presses.

Anyway, back to that editorial, which then leveled a little allegation at me and my colleagues for allegedly falling down on the job.

"Finally, the reporters get to claim they're working, even though most of these shots are taken in the vicinity of the Moana Surfrider, where many are staying, while the prime target of their coverage is in Kailua. Funny that they'd come 3,000 miles but forgo the last 10."

Actually the reason the media does not stay in Kailua is that it's a pretty small town that does not have a giant hotel to accommodate such a large group of reporters the way that Waikiki does. For this same reason, White House staffers also stay here at Waikiki and then shuttle back and forth to Kailua when they need to meet with the President or others in his party.

The media does the same thing. We stay in Waikiki but then every single day a rotating pool of reporters representing print, radio, and television organizations travel to Kailua to make sure that we have representatives right near the President if he commits any news.

In fact, I've had some people take the extreme opposite view of the Star-Advertiser and ask me why CNN and other organizations even bother flying all the way to Hawaii at all, let alone camp out in Kailua. "Why do you have to follow him even when he's on vacation" is the grumbling I've heard from various reasonable people.

I always patiently point to last Christmas Day's attempted terror attack in Detroit as the best example. It was important for the media to be at least near the president to gather facts on his response to that attempted attack, and be here to report on his comments on the matter over the course of the next several days.

Surely we can all agree that it makes sense for the media to at least be close to the president at all times, though we don't need to be traipsing through his neighborhood in Kailua at all hours of the days trying to report on whether he had a hot dog or hamburger at the backyard cookout. Even the president is entitled to a vacation, and there should be a middle ground where we're nearby for news but not overdoing it.

The Star-Advertiser ended its editorial this way: "Ah, well. Just as long as they pay their room tax and buy loads of stuff, all is forgiven."

And I feel the same way. I'm not really mad at the newspaper. I've taken the "hang loose" mentality to heart, which I think Alex Alvarez of understands.

Alvarez wrote that I "gave CNN viewers the Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Festivus gift that keeps on giving by sharing footage of his hula lesson" on Ali Velshi's show. And he dropped in a little detail I didn't know about Velshi's producers.

"Others at CNN labeled the following footage 'Ed’s Version of the Hula' [onscreen]," Alvarez wrote. "Someone’s clearly jealous of both Henry’s job and dancing ability."

Well I wouldn't go that far. I have to admit the dancing was pretty awful. So I can't be mad at Velshi's producers for pointing it out.

Besides, I get to enjoy the ultimate revenge with three little words.

I'm in Hawaii.

Topics: Hawaii

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soundoff (48 Responses)
  1. Sean Welsh

    Ed...a very well written rebuttal. Not bad for an "on-air staffer".

    December 28, 2010 at 7:49 pm |
    • Jan Farrant

      Sadly, we are now a one newspaper town and it stinks. I only read some of it on the internet and will never waste money for a hard copy.......

      December 30, 2010 at 12:29 am |
  2. Twirrim

    Even the locals don't like the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and its fluff coverage. There are occasional hard-hitting gems in the paper that give you hope journalism is still alive and kicking, but it seems mostly filled with either un-researched opinion pieces barely disguised as news, or not-so-cannily hidden marketing articles.

    December 28, 2010 at 7:54 pm |
  3. Maren

    Having lived in Hawaii for 25 yrs, until moving to Oregon, I and all my friends were constantly struck at the utter lack of local knowledge of the culture of our Islands. The little differences – "Hawaiian" shirt for Aloha Shirt (or knowing the provenance for that term), explaining that Kailua is on the North Short of Oahu, when it is not, etc. You do an excellent job in your Aloha shirt and board shorts, and that palm tree and Diamond Head in the live shot is seriously "Ono, brah" I personally would like to see a little of your down time devoted to Hawaii-centric stories – as background on the culture our President was born into. ;D Mahalo, Ed.

    December 28, 2010 at 7:56 pm |
  4. bleucheez

    Mock the Star-Advertiser all you want. Honolulu residents (myself included) do it all the time.

    December 28, 2010 at 8:03 pm |
  5. Erika Engle

    Disclosure: I'm a reporter and columnist for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. I'm GLAD you got to come to Hawaii to cover the president. I'm GLAD you wear aloha shirts! (Note that Tommy Bahama's shirts are often erroneously referred to as "Hawaiian shirts." The company is based in Florida, so the shirts are decidedly NOT Hawaiian, but I digress.)
    I saw your piece on the beach with the video of the hula lesson. In fact, I mentioned it in my story on visitor arrivals for tomorrow's paper (which normally would be written by my colleague and current Obama press corps member Allison Schaefers). While I don't know if the reference to you in my story will survive the editing process, I DO want to point out to you that the ahi story made the front page because ahi is a hugely important part of New Year's celebrations in Hawaii (and in Japan, where the sashimi at New Year's tradition began). What ever is happening with ahi fishermen and the retailers who sell the fish, what the prices and availability will be, etc., is crucial information to a plurality of Hawaii residents.
    I hope you have a great time while you're here and that you yourself get to come back on vacation. After all, you've already got the wardrobe. ~.^ Aloha, Erika

    December 28, 2010 at 9:11 pm |
    • Star Advertiser Lofty Plurality

      How about plurality of fact-based reporting? It's funny that Star Advertiser judges a mainland reporter not traveling from Waikiki to Kailua. I've got a feeling that most of the times, SA reporters sit and wait for news to come to them, preferably in form of Press Releases and statistics and numbers cooked up by the fox guarding the hen house. I'm throwing in 3 bonus controversies on the island in case you missed them.

      December 29, 2010 at 7:27 pm |
    • Anne Murata

      Mahalo for that business explanation of the ahi story, Erika. It's an important economic indicator in Hawaii. Not something readily understood by the Mainland press. And I, too, am glad reporters are wearing Aloha shirts. And not grass skirts.

      December 31, 2010 at 2:23 pm |
  6. Michael Swanson

    Ed, there's a typo in the article title. It's Honolulu, with two Os. But you knew that.

    December 28, 2010 at 9:23 pm |
  7. Ilima

    Just a small point, but the annual December ahi catch is actually a big deal here in Hawaii, where it's culturally important to serve ahi at New Year celebrations.

    December 28, 2010 at 9:48 pm |
  8. Notfooled

    Majority of the people in Hawaii love to have the Obama's here for Christmas. It's good for them to relax and enjoy our beautiful weather. It's home to them. Most people go home for Christmas. Here in Hawaii we respect that and wish they could just roam around freely, but also realize they need protection. Anyway we are very proud of them. Maybe some day they can come home for good. Enjoy your stay too Ed. Aloha

    December 29, 2010 at 2:41 am |
  9. Thom

    I for one am glad the media covers the President and his family while in our state. it's fun to see you and Ali going at it over the air waves. BTW here we call flip flops slippers 🙂 Keep up the good work Ed. You are doing a great job 🙂

    December 29, 2010 at 3:25 am |
  10. Malia Pacheco

    Of all the things to complain about Hawai'i's "air" time, you had to say something about the press corps – after all, they do have a bigger stage than you, Star Advertiser! There are many inadequacies of Hawai‘i’s portrayal in the media, “aloha” shirts and a location for a news briefing should be the least of your concerns.

    Poor choice for a topic, Star Advertiser! Good job to CNN’s Ed Henry for the rebuttal!

    December 29, 2010 at 4:11 am |
  11. Juergen T Steinmetz

    I would be happy to invite all of you to come out here to the North Shore of Oahu and show the surfing capital of the World – and the "Hollywood set" of the Aloha State.
    My Lanai is big enough to accomodate all of you for a day – and check out the best Thai Restaurant on the island.

    December 29, 2010 at 6:21 am |

    Thank you Ed! for your reporting, Thank you for pointing out today's headline, hit it right on the head! Also Thank you for spending your money in our State.

    December 29, 2010 at 2:10 pm |
  13. Jacob Shafer

    Wow, CNN and the Star-Advertiser trading charges of fluff and shoddy reporting - they could go on for weeks and not run out of material!

    December 29, 2010 at 2:13 pm |
  14. BigBraddah

    "He points out White House staff also stay in Waikiki and, like reporters, shuttle to Kailua when needed."
    What da... are reporters and White House personnel a girl scout troupe? Is reportage and white house presidential matters not important enough to justify people having their own cars for expediency's sake? They need to hop onto a tour van and trudge over the pali en masse?
    They are all lodged at the Moana. BUT! cannot secure individual autos for their own personal use, in order to, what I assumed was a reporter's job; "Get the scoop, get it first or get fired"...

    By now. the term "Hawaiian shirt" is redefined by mainlanders as anything with flowers on it. (which includes mainland blouses and goofy 60's/70's shirts) And most of the time, it is nowhere near being an '"aloha shirt". I don't like the revisionist history, but ya can't change their mind or educate 'em.

    CNN, et. al., As Erika Engle's Ahi point, uh, indirectly points out, Hawaii is a foreign country, albeit, the 50th State... and there always will be much about our islands that is misunderstood, misinterpreted and misdefined... so be it. Lost in translation. Just attempt to lend and ear instead when your normal reaction is to open yer mouth. You'll learn something that the nation may just be interested in, in your next news piece.

    ""Ono, brah""
    to that, kama'aina can only respond with
    Oh, No, braddah!

    December 29, 2010 at 3:06 pm |
  15. Evan Rapoport

    I have two quick comments: gratitude for respecting Kailua residents, and shared views on the Star-Advertiser.

    First, I live in Kailua just a few blocks from where the President is staying, and I can assure you that Kailua residents appreciate that everyone stays in Waikiki. Thank you for respecting our small-town feel and not turning it into a media circus. No matter what anyone tells you, Obama's visits have had pretty much zero negative impact on the town and its residents. Again, thank you.

    Second, if there is a news organization in this country that does less actual research into stories than Fox News, it is the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Earlier this year when our two daily papers (the Star Bulletin and the Honolulu Advertiser) merged, the new name they chose was appropriate; the only thing they are a "star" at, is advertising. I've written to the editors before urging them to focus on real reporting, but to no avail. Anyone wanting to see journalism in Hawaii subscribes to the Civil Beat. So, please ignore any commentary from the Star-Advertiser and just be happy they spelled "CNN" correctly.

    December 29, 2010 at 4:26 pm |
    • Civil Beat not what it makes out to be

      Not so quick. And not so true. I've been reading Civil Beat and it's not what it makes out to be. Some reporters are better than others. The ones about the blue shirts and green shirts are probably the most shallow. The reporter didn't know what he was talking about. He stuck with stereotypes and threw in some figures and information. Poof! The 'teenage' Civil Beat reporter was from New York and he does not understand much about Hawaii.

      There are many Hawaii online news and they are FREE, unlike Civil Beat.

      December 29, 2010 at 7:36 pm |
  16. Star AdvertiserSUCKS

    Haole boy, you read a good day reporting at the Star Advertiser. On other days, SA headlines recycled Police Beat or recycled press releases from rich developers who want to cement Hawaii with more subdivisions and hotels.

    December 29, 2010 at 7:07 pm |
    • Truth Hurts

      It's obvious you don't read the paper much, or even read beyond the first few paragraphs of an article. Which elementary school do you go to?

      December 29, 2010 at 10:25 pm |
      • Star AdvertiserSUCKS

        It's obvious you work for Star Advertiser. It's obvious I don't.

        December 30, 2010 at 1:33 am |
    • Truth Hurts

      Nope. Terrible guess. I'm with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
      We're keeping a close eye on you.

      December 30, 2010 at 4:13 am |
      • Star AdvertiserSUCKS

        The CHurch of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Isn't that the Mormons? So you are a member of the Mormon Mafia who keeps an eye on people? Remember the Gestapo is dead and this is Hawaii, not Germany or some Yearning for Zion Jeff Jassett Polygamy territory. Don't keep an eye on us. Keep an eye on your own crooks.

        December 30, 2010 at 4:45 am |
      • GoHome

        Disgraceful. Despicable. Detestable. Time for you religious zealots to forgo tax-exempted status. Hawaii is not a police state. Go home to Utah.

        December 30, 2010 at 8:58 pm |
  17. Burl Burlingame

    As one of the guys who had to quickly turn around the New Year's ahi-catch story, we didn't whine about it. That's because it's an annual cultural story with a real economic impact on island residents. We are not a national newspaper, nor are we part of the boys-on-the-bus entourage reportage pool. We largely focus on what affects Hawaii's citizens, particularly in their pocketbooks. It's called "localizing" the news. The twist in this particular piece was that the East Coast blizzard might have an effect on prices. We didn't expect that, it's a change from years past — and gosh, that's sort of how you define "news."
    I see that today CNN is breathlessly reporting that Flavor Flav is writing an autobiography. News you can use!

    December 29, 2010 at 7:23 pm |
    • Star AdvertiserSUCKS

      Really? Real economic impact on island impacts? The two biggest controversies is taking place in the north shore and windward Oahu. The EnvisionLaie and the Turtle Bay massive developments will have severe economic impacts. Who in the Star Advertiser is reporting about that? Have you driven by Kam Hwy and see the oceans swallowing parts of the 2 lane Kam Hwy? Have you educated the property owners and business owners along Kam Hwy about possible eminent domain when Kam Hwy needs to be widened? Have you explored the heavy-handed and the shoving of heavy weights in the area like Hawaii reserves, Brigham Young University and the Polynesian Cultural Center? Have you explored why the city and the media continue to ignore the fact that Ko'olauloa is made out of many communities and not just the oppressive and self-centered Mormon community of Laie? I think the answer lies in giving organized and wealthy developers a wink and a pass.

      December 30, 2010 at 1:47 am |
      • Burl Burlingame

        Actually, we have covered those stories. Try using the SEARCH function.

        December 30, 2010 at 5:30 am |
      • Star AdvertiserSUCKS

        I could nor REPLY to Star Advertiser apologist below. There is not a single peep to this damning news. Star Advertiser also pulled off comments not flattering to EnvisionLaie. Star Advertiser also pulled off commentary by Steven Wheelwright – Laie On the Verge (with its veiled threats.)

        December 30, 2010 at 3:20 pm |
      • AlohaNews

        You are expecting too much of Star Advertiser. They just sugar-coat and package news for their clients. Don't expect the hear the whole story. You have to look for other real news somewhere else. Star Advertiser is not a journalistic newspaper; it is a public relations vehicle for big money. The only exception is Rob Perez who is let out of his investigative and independent cage once in a while.

        December 30, 2010 at 4:39 pm |
  18. LKF

    Honolulu desperately needs another newspaper!

    December 29, 2010 at 7:51 pm |
  19. Hawaii Kingdumb

    Ed, you should go out and about and do stories about the "real Hawaii" you know, the obese, illiterate, low-brow, graffittied, trashed out, third world dump that the lucky ones (those lucky enough to leave after 2 weeks in Waikiki) never see. Hawaii truly is a horrible place.

    December 29, 2010 at 9:15 pm |
  20. Sami

    I don't know...much ado about nothing. I read the Star-Advertiser piece as being tongue-in-cheek and ironic. A CNN reporter, if he weren't on a quasi-vacation, wouldn't have bothered responding. After all, the Star-Advertiser is just a small town paper, if you're coming from CNN's point of view.

    The other thing I have to say is that of course Evan Rapoport, resident of Kailua, is ecstatic the press corps is staying in Waikiki. Rapoport, like many new Kailua residents, was flown here, not grown here. He doesn't want his idyllic Hawaiian paradise to be marred by whatever it is he escaped the East Coast for. Wouldn't be surprised if he was one of the people protesting Target's arrival in their town. Most of us REAL locals want a new employer of local labor and more shopping choices out on that side since most REAL locals don't have as much money as Tommy Bahama-wearing Rapoport.

    December 29, 2010 at 9:40 pm |
  21. carolyn

    Aloha shirt is the business wear in Honolulu. It will be more odd to see Ed Henry reporting in suit and tie as if he is in DC.

    Hopefully Mr. Henry will pronounce "shaka" properly by the time he leaves for DC again. As far as learning the hula in Waikiki, good for Mr. Henry and others! May he uncover more local things like the importance of ahi prices in Hawaii during the new year.

    'still looking for CNN to report a real "exclusive" Obama story. One that is a product of Mr. Henry's discovery while in the island. The birthing and security do not count. Both seem to be a shared news by various media outlets.

    December 29, 2010 at 10:33 pm |
  22. Truth Hurts

    Congratulations, Ed, on almost getting the spelling of Honolulu right on your first try. That's a better showing than your former colleague Rick "Geography Major" Sanchez.

    However, your wankerish jab about ahi exemplifies the cultural insensitivity some malahini, who think they their mainland viewpoint is the last word, have. And though some might think your post is well written, your passive-aggressive rant reveals more about your oversized ego than any dedication to your craft, e.g., "Ouch, I'm just a nameless "on-camera staffer.""

    Enjoy your work-cation.

    December 29, 2010 at 10:46 pm |
    • Star AdvertiserSUCKS

      Truth Hurts

      Nope. Terrible guess. I'm with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
      We're keeping a close eye on you.
      December 30, 2010 at 4:13 am | Reply

      Truth Hurts, with neanderthal outlook and religious bigotry like yours, you are a total disgrace to Hawaii and society. Shut up already, Warren Jeffs. You are not welcome anywhere, any time. You may be able to bully your own Mormon congregations with your gestapo bs, But there is a real world out here.

      December 30, 2010 at 3:32 pm |
  23. BigBraddah

    To: "Truth Hurts"
    The word is: "malihini".

    December 30, 2010 at 2:38 am |
    • Truth Hurts

      My bad on the manini malihini typo. The malihini referred to won't know the difference though, sadly.

      December 30, 2010 at 2:53 am |
      • GoHome

        No Act.

        December 30, 2010 at 8:54 pm |
  24. BigBraddah

    Misspelling of Hawaiian words should never be attributed to a typographical error. It is ignorance off the Hawaiian language. And is never "manini". This justifies the redefining and revisionist history running rampant across America with "things Hawaiian" It is a personal spelling error. They may not know the difference, but the more they see Hawaiian words misspelled, the more they feel quite comfy in their manipulation for their own ends, of 'Olelo Hawai'i.

    December 30, 2010 at 3:29 am |
    • Star AdvertiserSUCKS

      Truth Hurts is just coming up with excuses for his ignorance. He's just a bully assigned to stalk opposition to their EnvisionLaie in Kahuku. Organized religion combo developer can be a very scary thing. The Honolulu Mayor Carlisle has not caught on yet.

      December 30, 2010 at 3:40 pm |
      • EhWotChuSed

        if "organized religion combo developer" is a "very scary thing" then you must be very suspicious of catholics, jews, buddhists, hindus and muslims. all the major organized religious groups are major landholders all over the world.

        i don't know whether to tell you to take your aluminum hat off or to keep it on.

        December 30, 2010 at 9:40 pm |
      • GoHome

        The least you can do is read the comments or follow the trend of thoughts. Do you see "Catholics, jews, buddhists, hindus and muslims. all the major organized religious groups' playing dirty with EnvisiolLaie development in Ko'olauloa? Which catholics, jews, buddhists, hindus and muslims. all the major organized religious groups has a mayor by the name of Mufi Hannmemann who played dirty and play favoritism behind closed doors? Who pushed their weights around? Who speaks from both sides of their mouths? Who exploits the aina in the name of greed? Who is the most hated neighbor in the Ko'olauloa?

        December 30, 2010 at 11:34 pm |
    • EhWotChuSed

      eh, big braddah–guess that means you're ignorant of the English language, then. or that you're trying to manipulate matters for your own ends. whatever that means. conspiracy alarmist, much?

      December 30, 2010 at 9:38 pm |
  25. EhWotChuSed?

    eh, big braddah–guess that means you're ignorant of the English language, then. or that you're trying to manipulate matters for your own ends. whatever that means. conspiracy alarmist, much?

    December 30, 2010 at 2:26 pm |
  26. BigBraddah

    no. not much at all, thanks.

    December 31, 2010 at 12:49 am |
  27. Liberty

    Hey Ed, here's an idea... instead of producing touristy pieces that I'm sure anyone on the mainland would expect while you wait for announcements from Obama, why don't you go out into the communities and cover some of the socioeconomic issues that plague us? Everyone already knows you can learn the hula and hang out at the beach here, but they may not know much about the struggles some people go through while living here. It may not look pretty but at least you'd be getting a different angle on Hawaii.

    December 31, 2010 at 4:49 pm |
  28. BigBraddah

    "Everyone already knows you can learn the hula"
    no. he can't.

    " It may not look pretty"

    January 1, 2011 at 5:18 pm |