The Maui News took a couple of nasty hits this month. First there was the loss of City Editor Brian Perry and reporter Chris Sugidono, who left the paper to work in Mayor Mike Victorino’s administration.
Now, the paper has announced that its opinion pages will decrease due to “budgetary considerations.” Instead of publishing five days a week, the publisher’s column, editorial cartoon and reader letters will only run Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday. The paper is shrinking. Will there come a day when it simply disappears?
We may be competitors, but the Maui News’ continued decline is significant and painful to us at MauiTime, and should worry everyone here, whether they subscribe or not. Sure, the paper is owned by a mainland company, and a conservative one at that. And everybody has an opinion on how news should be presented – we get plenty of complaints ourselves. However, the News is the only source of daily information for Maui Nui.
Certainly our radio stations and Akaku community TV outlet aren’t equipped for steady news generation. We love the Maui 24/7 Facebook page, but it’s focused on immediate public-safety information like accidents or fires. The O’ahu-based radio and television stations barely give us a mention unless a whale is entangled or a swimmer dies. Some folks may say that the coconut wireless and social media are more primary sources for island info than the paper these days, but that thinking overlooks the fact that many blogs and posts rely on the paper to generate the fodder for those conversations in the first place.
I wrote to Maui News publisher Joe Bradley, asking if he might be willing to discuss the paper’s challenges, but received no reply. If he won’t talk about what’s happening with this sympathetic reporter (and subscriber), perhaps his paper could ask one of its journalists to detail the situation.
If the trick to keeping the Maui News functioning is more subscribers, perhaps it could take a cue from what happened recently at the Portland Press Herald in Maine. After the newspaper announced the cancellation of locally-written reviews of books about Maine or by Maine authors, Stephen King, the state’s most famous resident, decried the decision to his five million-plus Twitter fans. The paper responded by suggesting that if King could persuade 100 of his followers to sign up for digital subscriptions, it would reinstate the reviews. King tweetingly obliged and the paper received 200 new subscribers within 48 hours, according to the New York Times.
Come on, Maui News. No one can help you if you won’t tell us what’s wrong. If it’s a subscriber problem, how many will it take to nurse you back to health? And who out there will help with a plug on their Twitter feed? I vote for Steven Tyler (1.73-million followers). And if it’s not just subscribers, but something more systemic, please communicate. Nobody wants the day to come where the Maui News simply sinks beneath the waves without letting us know first that it was in distress.