Hawaii Tribune Herald to Shut Down Printing Press – Workers to Be Laid Off

I’ve been away on a small staycation to the Hilton Waikoloa the last few days and haven’t had a chance to comment about the recent announcement that the Hawaii Tribune Herald will be shutting down it’s printing press operations here on the Hilo side of the island.

From the Pacific Media Workers Guild

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald announced on Wednesday (June 27) that, starting in August, the Hilo newspaper will be printed by West Hawaii Today, a sister paper in Kailua-Kona, which will cause several layoffs.

The Aug. 18 edition of the newspaper will be the last printed in Hilo, according to the company. The Hawaii Tribune-Herald and West Hawaii Today are owned by Stephens Media, a Las Vegas, Nev., based chain that operates newspapers in 10 states.

The Hawaii Printing and Graphic Communications Union No. 413N was informed on Wednesday that members will be laid off.

The company explained that the decision to subcontract printing to West Hawaii Today was based on an assessment that the Hilo printing press is old and in need of repair. The company also cited the consolidation of printing operations as an industry trend nationally.

Workers at West Hawaii Today are not represented by labor unions. In a staff memo on Wednesday, West Hawaii Today said the Hawaii Tribune-Herald would be printed at its plant and then transported back to Hilo for packaging and delivery. West Hawaii Today said it did not expect to hire additional press employees.

At this time, the pressmens’ union said it is working out the details with Stephens Media and had no public comment.

The Pacific Media Workers Guild, which represents truck drivers and support staff at the Hawaii Tribune-Herald who could be impacted by the company’s decision to subcontract printing, is closely monitoring negotiations between the company and the pressmens’ union.

“We understand that our industry is facing financial pressure, but we believe the company owes its workers and the Hilo community a full explanation for this decision,” the guild said in a statement.

I feel sorry for the folks that will be losing their jobs, however I question the following statement:

“The company explained that the decision to subcontract printing to West Hawaii Today was based on an assessment that the Hilo printing press is old and in need of repair. The company also cited the consolidation of printing operations as an industry trend nationally….”

The timing of this closure is almost exactly two years to the date of when the employees most recently bargained for contract comes up.  On August 10th, 2010 I received the following media release:

The Hawaii Newspaper Guild and the Hawaii Tribune-Herald have signed a contract after nearly six years of negotiations.

The two-year agreement covers all employees at the Hilo newspaper except pressmen, who are covered by a separate contract, and managers. The pressmen’s negotiations lasted as long as the Guild’s. The contracts are similar.

Both unions have bargained with the newspaper jointly for years, but the negotiations were prolonged this time partly because the company refused joint negotiations.

The contract provides the first wage increases for employees at the newspaper since Jan. 1, 2002.

During the negotiations, the Tribune-Herald was found guilty of 12 unfair labor practice charges by an administrative law judge of the National Labor Relations Board. The charges included the illegal firing of veteran reporters Hunter Bishop and Dave Smith, both of whom were union leaders… 

More here: Hawaii Newspaper Guild and the Hawaii Tribune Sign Contract After Nearly Six Years of Negotiation

I have stated for years that I think the printed version of the paper was a thing of the past.  Even when the two Honolulu papers merged I just thought it would only be a matter of time before the Big Island went the same way.

On June 6, 2010 I wrote:

“Some folks are saying that the dynamics of the the whole digital era is what really killed off the Honolulu Advertiser… I’ve been saying that for the last 6-7 years now.

Big Island papers will probably consolidate soon.  I’ve already started thinking of names.  “Hawaii Tribune Today” was the newspaper name that I think would be most feasible combining Hawaii Tribune Herald with West Hawaii Today.

The funny thing… I don’t think there would be that many lay-offs as both papers seem to use articles at will from the pool of Stephens Media writers here on the island at their expense… Silent Sunday and the Death of the Advertiser… Big Island Newspapers Don’t Have Blogs!

There are some real issues that Hilo folks may have to think about when they decide whether or not they want to continue getting a Newspaper that is driven from nearly 120 miles away from where they live.

Is it local news if its being trucked over in vans every day?  I wonder how long they will be able to afford to send a fleet of vans over to this side of the island and back each day.  Would it even be profitable?   Will the cost of the paper rise as the price of gas fluctuates?

And the biggest question… Why hasn’t the Hawaii Tribune Herald themselves tell their readers what is going on?  It’s been nearly three days since the announcement has been made.  Yep…. I understand no one wants to write their own obituary… but at least tell your readers what is going to be happening and where there favorite local journalist(s) can be found.

I will offer any laid off person from the Hawaii Tribune an opportunity to start up and learn how to make a website/blog similar to something like my site is.  I am always discouraged when good journalists just quit writing simply because they don’t have a platform or audience.

3 Responses

  1. Realistically due to expenses newspapers are a fading memory. Blogs and alternative media gives up to the minute, comprehensive and unbiased coverage. Mahalo Damon.

  2. the caption/title mis-led me. When I read it, I thought it meant that the whole newspaper is shutting down.
    Now, after reading the article, I see that it is the “press” that is sutting down, not the newspaper.

    • I updated the headline and first paragraph to reflect that. I still think it’s only a matter of time until it is one paper though.

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