When Gannett’s Honolulu Advertiser proposed buying — and shuttering — the rival Star-Bulletin in 2000, the state of Hawaii stepped in to block the sale.
Last week, when David Black’s Honolulu Star-Bulletin bought the Advertiser from Gannett and announced plans to merge the two newspapers, there were no complaints from officialdom.
Attorney General Mark Bennett pointed out the obvious: the news business has changed.
“The economics of the newspaper business and the definition of relevant markets is just not the same as it was 10 years ago,” Bennett told the Star-Bulletin. “The antitrust laws don’t require someone to operate a business that can’t make money.”
Black reported that when he gave Gov. Linda Lingle a heads-up before the sale was announced, he assured her that he would print two editorial pages — an Advertiser page and a Star-Bulletin page — in the combined newspaper.
Black said the governor suggested he need not bother.
“She said, ‘You know that’s not really an issue.’ She said, ‘Think of all the editorial voices around because of the Internet,’ ” Black said.
“I wasn’t really thinking of it that way, but that’s right. The average citizen has a wealth of editorial voices if they want to pursue that.”
The US Justice Department asked Black to put the Star-Bulletin up for sale before combining the papers, in what amounts to a pro-forma move to flush out an elusive buyer — a crazy rich guy willing to spend his fortune to keep Honolulu a two newspaper town.