The talk of the town this week has been the letter sent to our mayoral candidates by an Oahu Publications retail manager offering the “sale” of MidWeek’s much-read cover story at a negotiable price starting at $70,000.

Candidate Keith Amemiya took it. We don’t know yet what the campaign paid. Its amended spending report shows a $76,000 item for “publishing or broadcasting.” The next filing will show to whom and for what.

The offer was just for the first taker, so the others won’t appear before the General Election even if they wanted to. It was the first “sale” of MidWeek’s normally newsy cover in its 36 years of publication. Who wrote the paid-for  the puff piece? No byline. The Amemiya campaign says it did not do the writing. Someone, then, on the MidWeek staff? Perhaps its editor? Inquiring minds want to know!

The headline “Born To Lead” read like an endorsement.

Former Special Forces soldier Ken Berry started the publication as what’s called a “shopper” on the mainland. Advertisers obviously wanted assurance that people were reading it, not just tossing it away. So Berry began hiring  known commentary writers — me ( 32 years ago), then political guru Dan Boylan, and a later hire was Jade Moon. We were to give the shopper a newspaper image. Also, it needed a certain percentage of non-ad content to qualify for the affordable 3rd Class postage rate.

We paid columnists have been “suspended” because of Covid-caused revenue issues. Those who remain are “freebie” columnists who do it either to promote some personal enterprise or just for the exposure.

Publisher Dennis Francis (former publisher Ron Nagasawa was renamed “director of content”) is right that MidWeek is an ad vehicle. It’s best known for its supermarket ads. I’d presume it mainly reaches higher-aged readers who clip coupons. In fact, it has offered coupon clipping classes.

Amemiya might take a ballot hit because buying a newspaper or magazine cover so a pro can write about your fabulousness will strike the younger crowd as a bit sleazy. But equally — maybe not.

MidWeek has long used some of its covers to promote ad-buyer CEOs such as those at Foodland, CS Wo and City Mill. No harm because the pieces were written by staff journalists and gave us interesting insights to these successful people. It also gave covers to charities that had bought ad packages. No harm, no foul. Good exposure for the charities.

But Keith Amemiya just because he paid something perhaps a bit short of $70,000?

Can we trust future covers?

I know what happened. MidWeek and the Star-Advertiser face what could be a $20 million revenue loss because of the pandemic. They have to find money sources to keep in business until things return to normal. I don’t imagine they’re doing any sales of the in-room tourist brochures it  had been placing with hotels here.

Amemiya? If he scores in the Primary, he’ll consider those tens of thousands of dollars well spent. If he tanks, he’ll always wonder whether he made a big boo-boo.

The other leading candidates will wonder if they should have bid for that cover story first.

MidWeek will find its luster as a ” newspaper” tarnished. But so what? If the Francis move into salable cover stories keeps the business alive he’ll be a hero to Canadian newspaper baron David Black and his Black Press, co-owner of the Star-Advertiser, MidWeek,  three Neighbor Island newspapers and local military papers.

Published by Bob Jones

Journalist since age 19. St. Petersburg Times, Noticias y Viajes in Madrid, Overseas Weekly in Frankfurt and Paris, the Louisville Courier- Journal, the Honolulu Advertiser, KGMB-TV, NBC News foreign correspondent in Africa and Southeast Asia, and MidWeek columnist. LL.B LaSalle University Law. 3 years in the U.S. Air Force. Covered: Vietnam War, Iraq #1 in 1991. George Foster Peabody Award for distinguished journalism for reporting in China. Married to Denby Fawcett, one daughter. Brett Jones.

3 replies on “Perfectly Legal But Maybe Bad Juju?”

  1. So a Canadian news baron owns, controls, influences news in Hawaii and other states. I find that to be appalling, Don’t you? Where’s the investigative reporting?

  2. Very interesting. I didn’t know that Midweek sold space for front page articles. Your column gave it legitimacy, because you were a former news reporter and TV anchor. Too bad they let you go.

  3. Amemiya is a smiling puppet of the Democratic Party’s rickety machine. If he survives the primary, it will mostly be because HGEA and UPW backed him and they, Caldwell’s clinging minions, and party hacks worked on his behalf. The Midweek cover fiasco might make a little difference either way and maybe, just maybe, even be a deciding factor if the race is extremely close, but it really says more about Midweek’s total lack of ethical standards and the pathetic state of fish-wrapper journalism in Hawaii than anything else. There obviously will be no scathing editorial in the Star-Advertiser tomorrow lambasting Midweek’s disgraceful conduct. But will there be a glowing endorsement of Amemiya?

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