25 Years Later
Twenty-five years ago, for their inaugural cover, the editors at RFD Publications wanted Hawaii’s hottest draw in midsummer 1984: Tom Selleck, star of Magnum PI, then in its fourth, enormously successful season on television. Selleck, he of the rugged good looks, signature Detroit Tiger baseball cap and floral
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The inside story behind the success of MidWeek, Hawaii’s best-read newspaper
Twenty-five years ago, for their inaugural cover, the editors at RFD Publications wanted Hawaii’s hottest draw in midsummer 1984: Tom Selleck, star of Magnum PI, then in its fourth, enormously successful season on television. Selleck, he of the rugged good looks, signature Detroit Tiger baseball cap and floral aloha shirt, would have been perfect.
But Selleck wasn’t answering MidWeek’s calls, so its editors turned to KHON news anchor Joe Moore.
Moore may have been a second choice, but he proved an excellent one. On July 18, 1984, the initial issue of MidWeek began to appear in Oahu mailboxes. Moore, dressed in a softball uniform, beamed from the cover. After only five years at KHON, Moore had moved from sports to news anchor of the highest rated evening television news in the state. And he’s remained in that top spot for the last quarter century.
MidWeek has lasted as well - and in terms of readership, at the top. This week, 25 years since Moore appeared on its first cover, MidWeek calls itself “Hawaii’s Favorite Newspaper” and boasts that it reaches more than 90 percent of Oahu’s households.
How’s it done it? “I think we are the most local publication in town,” says Don Chapman, MidWeek’s editor for the past 15 years. “It has a local feel to it more than any other. We are local, local, local. You’ll rarely see a non-Oahu person in our pages.”
Senior editor Terri Hefner puts it another way. “MidWeek is the ultimate low luxury magazine. People want it for its coupons, its weekly food advertisements, Pa’ina - its pictorial features on Island events. MidWeek focuses on Mr. and Mrs.
Hawaii, and they like to see pictures of people they know. We offer readers a lot of them.”
That they do. Take the June 17 issue, for example. The “MidWeek Poll” included individual headshots - and opinions - of five Oahuans. The magazine’s various columns rang up a total of 56 discernible images of various Island residents. A “Good Neighbor” feature pictured two optometrists. There were “Hot Shots” of 28 Honolulu residents, and a picture of one lonely but $250 wealth-ier “Mystery Shopper.”
“Movers” featured pictures of six Oahu “business leaders on the move.” The cover story on the popular Mai Tai Bar at Ala Moana showed the faces of 14 imbibers. The first of two Pa’ina photo spreads was a gallery of 13 pictures that showed the faces of 66 good people attending a benefit for Saint Louis School. A few pages later, a second Pa’ina included 11 pictures of 55 golfers taking part in a charity tournament for Boys and Girls Clubs on Oahu. Then, for the younger set, MidWeek offered “Scene @ Night,” a collection of 14 pictures of 45 hotties doing the club scene.
Finally, add in the community insert, in this instance for West Oahu, and add 32 more West Oahuans.
So one June issue of MidWeek contained 310 pictures of a reader’s fellow citizens. MidWeek publishes 52 weeks a year. That means roughly 16,120 pictures of a reader’s friends and neighbors appear in its pages each year. Therein lies a case for calling MidWeek Oahu’s weekly family album. And family albums have one purpose: to be leafed through.
But if words appeal more than pictures, MidWeek has them. That picture-packed June 17 issue included 33 columns as well, many of them dealing with politics: “I think we have the broadest range of opinion, right to left and in between, of any publication in the country,” says Chapman. “And we intend to keep it that way. Recently, our publisher, Ron Nagasawa, suggested that we were becoming too conservative, so we added a liberal,Ariana Huffington, to the mix.”
Huffington is nationally syndicated, of course, as were all the columnists’names who appeared on cover of the first issue of MidWeek a quarter century ago: psychiatrist Dr. Joyce Brothers, economist Louis Rukeyser, humorist Andy Rooney, food writer James Beard and movie critic Roger Ebert.
A quarter century later, Rooney’s and Ebert’s columns still show up in MidWeek’s pages, but so too do a slew of local writers. During the late 1980s, the columns of three-dotter Eddie Sherman, news anchor Bob Jones and radio personality Larry Price usually led MidWeek’s reader surveys. Sherman is no longer writing for MidWeek, but Nagasawa’s column on the joys, perils and daily humiliations of family life has certainly become one of the publication’s most popular.
“From the front to the back of the book, we include as many magnets as we can find to draw the reader,” says Chapman.
Those magnets include complete local television logs and a crossword puzzle. “If we fail to carry the crossword, people will march on the office with pitchforks,” says Hefner, who has had to field at least the telephone complaints of crossword fanatics, if not actual pitchforks.
“People keep their MidWeek all week long,” Hefner continues. ” We’re guests in their home, and that keeps us conservative about what we publish. We watch our language and our topics. MidWeek’s readers get it for free - and they have for 25 years - and they’ve come to consider it their birthright. They feel MidWeek belongs to them.”
If anyone loves MidWeek more than its readers, it’s the United States Postal Service. Mail carriers deliver a copy of MidWeek to nearly 270,000 homes each week. “We spend millions of dollars on postage each year,” says Chapman.
The weekly MidWeek run, that of its sister publication the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, and inserts for AKA stores on Hawaii Island, among others, keep the magazine’s presses on Luluku Road in Kaneohe running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, throughout the year. “Every day we watch trucks pulling in with rolls and rolls of newsprint paper and barrels of ink,” says Chapman.
A good part of that newsprint and ink go to the cover. During the past quarter century, MidWeek writers have produced more than 1,200 profiles for the cover. The MidWeek cover is an eclectic place, and it is the publication’s first grab. “Who,” the reader asks, “is on the cover?”
The cover photo tells the story. For the past 12 years chief photographer Nathalie Walker has been taking MidWeek cover photos. “We have meetings on Monday morning where we outline the photo shoots for the week,” says Walker. “The writers talk about where they are going. I try to go to the interviews so that I can get a feel for the story.”
In the course of a week, Walker will shoot 500 to 1,000 images. At a fashion shoot with style writer Yu Shing Ting, she may shoot 300 images, only 12 of which will appear in MidWeek.
For a cover story, Walker will shoot pictures while the writer conducts his interview. She’ll squeeze off dozens of shots as the subject’s hand gestures or facial expressions change - two or three of which may appear in print.
At some point she will gently interrupt and suggest a cover shot. If a subject balks, her manner changes. “The
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