Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Honolulu Advertiser, thanks for the memories

The newspaper where I spent a career as a reporter is about to disappear.

Something will rise from these ashes, but unlike a phoenix, it won't be the same. The new Star-Advertiser will be a hybrid, maybe even better, but certainly not the same. For one thing, most of the people will be different. The community memory largely gone.

There is a poignancy for me in the paper's closing. Some of the most memorable events of my life came as a direct result of working at The 'Tiser.

I once lit a cigarette off a boulder that rolled off the front of an 'a'a lava flow above Kalapana.

Held the pectoral fins of an eight-foot Galapagos shark as researchers attached a satellite tag, and the beast turned its head to snap at mine.

Steered the voyaging canoe Hokule'a up and down mammoth open ocean swells south of Mokumanamana.

Sat with a cocaine-snorting commercial fishing boat captain as he explained how he stayed awake when the fish were biting.

Smelled the blood of human beings killed in various accidents and intentional events.

Chased goats with Maui Mayor Elmer Cravalho and Lt. Gov. Tom Gill across Kahoolawe, as military escorts stood frozen with fear of losing one of them to unexploded ordnance.

Waited with protesters while officers with riot guns approached.

Watched black pigs and white sheep running in a single herd on Niihau.

Blistered the paint under an airplane's wings while viewing a 1970s fountaining eruption of Kilauea.

Strapped on three syringes of atropine while inspecting chemical weapons destruction facilities at Johnston Atoll—to be jammed into a thigh in case of a nerve gas leak.

Recoiled at the grease spot on the ground where an air crash victim's body had burned.

Drifted weightless in the cabin of a diving Hawaiian Air jet on a test flight.

Held up a wooden chair to protect my head from flying debris while trying for a photo during Hurricane Iwa. (Never got that shot.)

Those kinds of events punctuated the bread and butter of civic journalism: endless hours sitting in government meetings, poring over documents, challenging public officials, writing and rewriting. And most of the time, I worked alongside or was supported by a strong journalism team. My own 37 years at The Advertiser represent just a quarter of the paper's 154-year life. But all considered, it was the most eventful time of mine.

The Advertiser, eventually, wasn't an institution so much as a bunch of people working with common purpose. That's why folks are talking about the death of the paper. The name may go on, but the brothers and sisters are mostly being disbanded.

They were The Advertiser to me. Jim, Sandy, Jane, Twigg, George, Buck, Pat, Mike, Anne, Doug, Peter, David, Barbara, Wade, Martha, Gerry, Jerry, Helen, David, Elizabeth, Mark, Sandee, oh shucks, Adam, 'Nando, Greg, John, Birch, Ron, Ken, Leslie, Rick, Marsha, Robert. Some alive, some gone. These and more, the names keep flowing.

To all of them, to all of you, thanks for the memories.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2010


Doug Carlson said...

And you were among the best, Jan.

John Temple said...

Nice post. Captures the life of a journalist and why the work is so memorable. Of course for an editor a lot of our memories are more internal, related to working with people like you.

Ellen ten Bruggencate said...

Keep on writing, cousin Jim.


Anonymous said...

Honolulu Advertiser published an article in 1882 about a Nerve gas leak then on the Atoll. Is this still avail to view? Can anyone send it to me at
Was no truth to it. I was there 1982-1983 when this article came out.

Anonymous said...

I was on J I between 1982 and 1983. Honolulu Advertiser published an article about a Nerve Gas leak on the Atoll that was a mistake. Is this article avail to view? can anyone send me a copy??
Or post a copy? Thank you!!

Jan T said...

Re nerve gas at Johnston Atoll, there were numerous leaks/releases over the years, and the Army was cited numerous times, but I can't recall now whether 1982 was one of them. The newspaper database from back then is available on microfilm, but I don't think it's available online. You can get a lot of information on the subject with an internet search of Johnston Atoll nerve gas leaks.