The Best Journalistic Gig In Town

I wrote my first “Mostly Politics” column for MidWeek in October 1991. I was coming off a dozen years of writing features and a political column for friend Dave Pellegrin’s monthly Honolulu magazine.

Another friend, KGMB anchor and MidWeek columnist Bob Jones, brought me to MidWeek. (I call him, with a touch of envy, “Front of the Book Jones.”) I interviewed with publisher Ken Berry and was hired.

So with a moribund book manuscript in my desk drawer and a day job teaching history at University of Hawaii-West Oahu, I became a weekly MidWeek scribbler.

Fortunately, UH-WO didn’t emphasize research, nor did it discourage a faculty member who did freelance journalism. Oh, a colleague arched his eyebrow once and described my efforts as “cheap journalism” for a publication “only parakeets read at the bottom of their cages.”

Nonsense and double nonsense. MidWeek is read, even its columns dealing with politics. It’s read so thoroughly, I’ve begun to think that maybe I have more than 11 regular readers — I mean, beyond the parakeets.

How do I know? I can’t begin to count the number of times the missus and I have been introduced as “Dan Boylan and the High-strung Filipina.” The audience seems to understand. Or the volume of mail I’ve received when, after another mass shooting somewhere in our great nation, I’ve proposed stricter gun control legislation.

Or when, in a miserable attempt at humor, I once wrote about too much volleyball and food shopping by firemen. Firefighters, their wives and their union leaders, national and local, scorched my email inbox (and paid MidWeek‘s then-Kaneohe plant a surprise inspection visit). And I deserved the heat.

Why is MidWeek read? A lot of reasons, the first of which is that it’s free, delivered to your mailbox everywhere on Oahu. There’s something wonderfully democratic about that.

Second, it offers a variety of opinion. If Boylan’s adoration of Obama doesn’t suit you, go read Jerry Coffee; Jerry offers plenty of criticism of the President. And if all that politics from Boylan and Coffee makes you edgy, then try Pamela Young’s “Applause” column.

But I can’t imagine why anyone would tire of Hawaii politics. Twenty-three years ago, Frank Fasi was still mayor, providing Honolulu residents with one of the more colorful political personalities in the nation.

His successor, Jeremy Harris, would build parks, plant trees and beautify the city as few before him had ever done. Mufi Hannemann would succeed Harris, and see through the state legislature and a Republican governor’s office a funding mechanism for construction of the largest infrastructure project in Honolulu’s history: a fixed rail mass transit system.

On the state level, it was a quarter century of firsts: election of Ben Cayetano as the first Filipino governor in the nation’s history, and in Linda Lingle the state’s first female chief executive and the first Republican governor in 40 years.

Whoever held office dealt with cycles of boom and bust. Japanese economic growth stalled in the 1990s, and with it both Japanese tourism and investment in the Islands leveled off. An economic recovery fueled by a housing bubble gave

Gov. Lingle one term of prosperity; then came America’s Great Recession, with which Lingle, Abercrombie, and the Hawaii-born Obama have struggled for half a decade. And now a construction boom from Kakaako to the Leeward plain has alarmed us all.

Add the ethnic dimension of Hawaii’s politics to all that, and MidWeek‘s political beat has been the best journalistic gig in town. Take my word for it.