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

Dan Boylan
Wednesday - July 22, 2009
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dynamics are very different for a cover shoot,” she says. “It’s one-on-one and sometimes I have to tell them what to do. People are usually on their best behavior because they know they’re going to be in the paper.

“I’ve been doing this for more than 12 years, but it doesn’t get old.”

For years now, MidWeek rewards their cover subjects with framed copies of their pictures. They decorate office walls all around Honolulu.

But it wasn’t columnists or cover stories, crosswords or photo spreads that launched MidWeek a quarter century ago. It was an advertisers’ revolt against the Hawaii Newspaper Agency.

In 1984 the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and Honolulu Advertiser operated under a federally authorized joint-operating agreement. The HNA handled advertising and production of both papers and offered the advertiser a combined circulation of 200,000. That gave the two dailies a near monopoly over print display advertising in Honolulu.

By the early ‘80s, some large advertisers were beginning to complain: Sears, Woolworth, Home Improvement Warehouse, Times, Longs and City Mill. They felt HNA’s ad rates were too high.


Enter MidWeek. By the Summer of 1984 RFD Publications of Portland, Ore., had been publishing newspapers in Hawaii for a number of years. Sun Press offered neighborhood and regional publications delivered to your door.

At the urging of a couple of disgruntled advertisers, the first MidWeek was born - with Joe Moore on the cover and a prayer that the big print advertisers - especially the supermarkets - would come with their ads.

And, of course, they did. Times, Safeway, Foodland, Star all run their midweek food advertisements in - you got it - MidWeek. And they have, for most if not all of the last quarter century.

Current publisher Ron Nagasawa was there from the beginning.

He started out as a printing sales assistant for MidWeek, then rose to assistant publisher, then associate publisher and then publisher.

MidWeek started out as a shopper, but then we included local columns, improved the caliber of our writers, added more features and became a part of people’s lives. We give them something to read, and we save them money at the same time. Families wait for MidWeek’s food inserts so they can look at the supermarket sales and plan their shopping. They have to have it by Wednesday; if they don’t, we hear about it.”

Nagasawa admits that MidWeek runs a lot of pictures, but insists that “it’s also an intelligent read. Politically, MidWeek’s hard to touch because of its range of views. We’re not thrusting anything down anyone’s throat.”

He and editor Chapman are also proud of their young staff of writers. “We let them do what they learned to do,” says Nagasawa. “We give them autonomy. I’m not a typical hard-nosed publisher. I’m not a typical boss. I work for them. I see my role as making their job better.

“I try to maintain a casual atmosphere. We all like each other. We all pitch in, stay late, do what ever has to be done. There’s mutual respect and loyalty. We have a talented staff. Any of them could go anywhere else, but most stay.”

Talented, young, and locally trained. Writers Melissa Moniz,Alana Folen and Sarah Pacheco are all comparatively recent graduates of the University of Hawaii journalism department - or they learned their craft on the Manoa student newspaper, Ka Leo. Senior writer and sports columnist Steve Murray served as Ka Leo’s editor.

Managing editor and Ka Leo veteran Yu Shing Ting is almost an old-timer, having joined MidWeek in 2001. She echoes Nagasawa that “it’s the people: Don Chapman, Terri Hefner and Ron.

“I’m familiar with other newsrooms,” says Ting. “They’re definitely not like MidWeek’s. We’re a family. We have each other’s backs. We stay because of the people.”

Dennis Francis is the president of Oahu Publications, the publishers of MidWeek and the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. It is his job, among other things, to look to the future - to the next 25 years of MidWeek. Change is definitely not on his mind.

“My feeling is ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’” says Francis. “MidWeek has done quite well, and it is continuing to do well. According to the recent Scarborough audit, MidWeek currently has the highest readership in the 25 years of its existence: 70 percent of those who receive it, read it. Twenty-thousand more people are reading it this year compared to last. It has a good mix of local and national writers and attractive features; and its readership is increasing every year. With a product like MidWeek, any change we make wouldn’t be a big change.

“MidWeek is a unique animal; it is one of the few print products in the country that has been unaffected by the down economy. Most of our major advertisers are sticking with us.”

The reason those advertisers stick with MidWeek has a lot to do with something called “reach.”

Cheryl Tamura does public relations for St. Francis Healthcare System of Hawaii. “MidWeek is a great newspaper because of its broad reach spanning across Oahu and its broad appeal,” says Tamura. “As a weekly, it has a longer shelf life than a daily. And it’s always filled with good news. MidWeek is truly an advertiser’s and a public relations professional’s best friend in getting our message across.”

American Carpet One buys MidWeek’s back page more weeks than not. Says American Carpet’s David Arita: “The MidWeek is a great value because it hits every single household. It has the best distribution of any print advertising. The bottom line is we see results with MidWeek. People come in and bring the ad with them, or they tell us they saw our ad in MidWeek. It’s one of the most successful means of reaching customers.”

Francis concurs: “It’s the readership and the reach. That’s why every issue of MidWeek is 3 inches to 4 inches thick. It never has a down week. There’s always the same amount of advertising. This summer, for example, despite the economy, our press runs have been close to capacity.”

Twenty-five years old and still running “close to capacity.”

What does the T-shirt say? “Everybody reads MidWeek.”


MidWeek‘s editor, my old friend and former softball teammate Don “Chappy” Chapman, asked me to write a short piece on how I came to appear on MidWeek‘s first cover - July 18, 1984 - so here goes.

Ken Berry, MidWeek‘s publisher at the time, called and asked if I’d help launch the publication by being the first featured interview. He was very flattering, saying he wanted an Island resident for that first cover whose photo would really entice people to open the pages to see what MidWeek was all about.

So I said, “What, Tom Selleck’s not available?” After a considerable pause, Berry cleared his throat and softly said, “Ah, no, he’s not.”

And that’s how I came to be on the first cover. As for my attire that day, someone at MidWeek suggested the photo be casual, and I was having a lot of fun at the time playing on the Columbia Inn Roundtable All-Stars softball team - a collection of media, entertainers and politicians - so I wore my jersey for the photo shoot at Magic Island.

There have been many changes in the TV news business since 1984, most in the technical realm. There’s also a lot more interacting with our audience via a platform we didn’t have back then, our website. But the job of “anchoring” the news is still basically the same: master of ceremonies for the newscast, the TV equivalent of a DJ spinning the Top 20 news stories of the day. I consider myself more an effective communicator than a pure newsman, but off camera I serve as senior editor for the newscasts I anchor each weeknight at 5:30, 6, and 10 p.m., and that requires a certain feel for what should and shouldn’t be in the newscast and how it should be presented. Of course, each newscast is a team effort, and without a good news director, producers, reporters, assignment editors, cameramen and technicians, a news anchorman wouldn’t last long. I’ve been blessed to work with many of the best in the business, and for that I’m extremely grateful.

I must say, looking back to 1984, I didn’t expect MidWeek to become the powerhouse that it is, surpassing all other print media in readership. But considering the content you present, the wide variety of information and opinions expressed in your various columns, it’s really not that surprising. I know I consider it a “must read” each week. Congratulations to everyone at MidWeek, and keep up the good work.

And as for how long I plan to continue anchoring the news, well, as long as I have my health and the viewers let me into their homes.

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