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Editor's Desk // Column
Don Chapman

A Personal ‘MidWeek’ Love Story

Volume 1, Issue 1 of MidWeek

Volume 1, Issue 1 of MidWeek

With MidWeek celebrating 30 years of publishing, we’ve asked contributors to share their personal MidWeek “experience” in this issue. I am impressed with, and greatly appreciate, the depth of dedication and professionalism each brings to their particular contribution. This is my story. It is, in many ways, a love story.

When MidWeek published its first issue in July 1984, I barely paid attention. After all, I’d been a daily columnist at the Honolulu Advertiser for nearly five years, and our circulation was booming. The Star-Bulletin — and rival columnist Dave Donnelly — was my competition. The only reason I noticed the first MidWeek was because my Columbia Inn Roundtable All-Star softball teammate Joe Moore was on the cover in his uniform. Otherwise, it was just another little shopper.

That changed within a few months when my boss Bucky Buchwach told me my travel budget — my sweet deal at the Advertiser included six Neighbor Island trips a year and one to the Mainland — was being suspended because MidWeek had “stolen” all the grocery store ads that were so profitable for the paper. The travel budget would be restored, but MidWeek was on my radar.

And more so when another softball team I played on changed sponsors — to MidWeek. That association led, quite directly, to MidWeek founding publisher Ken Berry giving me my first freelance opportunity after I left the Advertiser in 1992. I loved being able to write more than a couple of sentences on one topic, as had been the case in my 12 years of dot-dot-dotting, and two years later he hired me as editor.

The funny thing is I’d never aspired to be an editor. In fact, I held to the notion expressed by a fellow who retired from the New York Times after 40 years as a reporter. As told by the trade magazine Editor & Publisher, at his going-away party someone asked the old reporter why he’d never worked his way up to editor. To which he replied: “Editors are those people who separate the wheat from the chaff, and throw away the wheat!” Having had my copy terrorized by dimwitted editors in multiple states, I was in full agreement. So over the years I have tried to edit with a light hand, maintaining the voice and intent of the writer, whether I agreed with them or not, and to suggest other possible angles and sources. I also try to pair the right reporter with the right story. You’ll have to ask them if I’ve succeeded in any of this.

The first thing I did as editor was to organize the flow of stories through the paper — it had been sort of a jumble. The second was to start lobbying then-press chief Russ Retynski for color on more pages — at that point only the cover was color. In the early days, it was common for me to write the cover story, the Newsmaker feature, the Old Friends feature and a column — all in the same issue. These days, I’m in the fortunate position of writing only when I have something to say. Anyway, it wasn’t long until MidWeek became as much known for doing good journalism and winning awards as for the money-saving ads.

One of the things of which I’m proudest is that within a year of my becoming editor, MidWeek surpassed the Advertiser in readership — eyes on pages has always been my driving motivation. You do that with compelling stories, photos and design, and yes, human interest.

We continued to add new content, and after Ron Nagasawa took over as publisher in December 2001 that accelerated. Dennis Francis became president of Oahu Publications Inc. in June 2004, and has likewise been the source of several innovative changes. As you may have noticed over the past couple of months, we continue to tweak MidWeek content. Being the best-read publication in town — about half a million people on Oahu pick up MidWeek each week — isn’t good enough.

One of my great satisfactions is hearing from readers who say they love MidWeek because of the good news. Of course, columnists such as Bob Jones, Patrick Buchanan and yours truly, among others, cover serious topics. But there’s plenty to feel good about in our pages as well. As I tell young journalism students, don’t believe it when someone says good news doesn’t sell. It does.

Readers also say they appreciate the broad political spectrum our local and syndicated columnists represent — though in the past week one reader complained the paper is too liberal and another complained it’s too conservative. As an independent, I took that as a compliment.

This is something of a momentous year for me. November will mark 20 years as MidWeek editor. October will mark 35 years since Bucky Buchwach brought me over from the San Jose Mercury-News. I’m old enough to do so, but have no plans to retire. I like the job and the people I work for and with. Journalism, as I like to say, is a team sport, and I appreciate being part of one of the strongest media companies in the U.S. Plus, I can’t imagine anything more personally fulfilling — or fun — than putting out a newspaper. I’ve heard it said it’s not healthy to identity yourself by what you do, but it’s too late for that. I am, and always will be, proud and grateful to serve as MidWeek‘s editor.

Thank you for reading, and we’ll continue striving to make it good reading.

dchapman@midweek.com

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