LIHU‘E — As today’s edition of The Garden Island rolled through the old press in the back of the building, Wednesday watched the whole process undisturbed by the noise. The sweet black cat, the newspaper’s unofficial mascot, was probably unaware it was the last press run she would ever witness.
The 12-unit Goss Community Press, more than 30 years old, will be dismantled and likely shipped to Canada, where Black Press Ltd., The Garden Island’s new parent company, is headquartered. It means Kaua‘i is the first major Hawaiian island to not have a press.
“The best way I can describe (yesterday) is it’s bitter-sweet,” The Garden Island Publisher Casey Quel Fitchett said. “We are saying good-bye to not only great employees, but to genuinely good people that have been a part of our ‘ohana for maybe just months to many years. Each person’s personality, presence and contributions truly encompass all the things our readers love about The Garden Island.”
Quel Fitchett noted that the “sweet” part is O‘ahu Publications Inc. is “investing in Kaua‘i’s community newspaper so that The Garden Island can continue to serve the community for another 100 years.”
Production and Press Manager David Tao said he had the “perfect job.” He worked at The Garden Island for 20 years, and started at the bottom of the chain. About six years ago he became the head of his department, but would never take credit for a job that neared perfection, day in and day out.
“There is no ‘I’ in team,” he said. “We do this as a team, it’s a team effort.”
Anyone who ever witnessed a newspaper press run, knows what Tao is talking about. The press is as big as a semi truck, and looks like something straight out of the 19th century Industrial Revolution, with thousands of moving parts that require constant attention and tending throughout the whole printing process.
Tao’s entire department is being let go as the newspaper transitions to a new ownership.
Starting with Friday’s edition, The Garden Island will be printed on O‘ahu Publication Inc.’s $80,000,000 state-of-the art printing facility launched in 2004 at Kapolei.
Out of 42 staff, the new operations retained 17 workers.
“A search is on for a new editor, and we are actively looking to hire more reporters,” Quel Fitchett said. “Our newsroom will grow, which will enable us to report more in-depth stories that affect our island community.”
“It’s a new beginning for everybody,” said Tao, who kept a positive attitude toward change. He said everyone in his department is able to adjust and move forward.
“It’s a small stepping stone,” he said. “That’s all that it is.”
In January, Lee Enterprises Inc., announced it sold The Garden Island to O‘ahu Publications Inc., whose parent company is Black Press.
The sale, a $2 million deal according to Lee’s First Quarter earnings report, was initially scheduled to be final Feb. 11, but concerns from the Attorney General’s office delayed the sale to March 1.
OPI has several products on O‘ahu and other Neighbor Islands, including the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, MidWeek publications on Kaua‘i and O‘ahu, HiLuxury magazine and three official military publications.
Aside from internal restructuring, The Garden Island will go through other changes that its readers will soon notice, including color on every page, thanks to the new press.
The Garden Island will have an early press run on O‘ahu, which may affect print publication of news that happens after 5 p.m.
But the staff will continue its due diligence in posting online breaking news, especially when it comes to events that concern public safety.
Kaua‘i readers will also lose the weekly Island Shopper, distributed free every Wednesday.
As far as Sunday’s Kaua‘i Times and Lifestyle section, the plan is to keep them running.
Many members of the community have expressed concern that the new owners of The Garden Island may put a pay wall on the online publication, following the Star-Advertiser’s policy.
No decision has been made as of Wednesday, but subscribers to The Garden Island will have free access to www.staradvertiser.com.
The staff is committed to put out a quality product with relevant news to all sectors of the community.
And yes, we are committed to keep feeding Wednesday the cat, who lives full time in the soon-to-be-empty press room.
She may even get adopted and become a plush-couch kitten, although she was pretty happy with the greasy seat of the newspaper’s forklift, her favorite spot.
• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or lazambuja@ thegardenisland.com.