April 18, 2012 | 08:20 AMMOLOKAI AUTHOR GETS BIG BOOK DEAL
Got a call last week from Michele Holley Jones, who lives on Molokai. "My husband is publishing a book, a debut novel, that is getting a lot of national and international attention," she said in a voicemail message. "It might be an interesting feature for your newspaper because it is quite astonishing."
Her husband is Brandon Jones (Brandonjonesauthor.com) and his first novel, All Woman And Springtime, really is getting published by Algonquin Books this spring. The novel follows the plight of two teenage North Korean girls caught in human trafficking. Now as a budding novelist who, like many, struggled to find a book publisher, Holley's message sounded miraculous. Then I found a June 1, 2011 Molokai Dispatch article on Jones' book.
"Jones began writing the book in February 2009, finishing nine months later," reported Mark Hayden. "Ordinarily, the book industry 'moves at a glacial pace,' according to Jones. He talked to countless numbers of literary agents, only be denied with the 'default answer in the publishing industry: no.' Then the couple's friend, The Color Purple author Alice Walker, stepped in. Jones said she read his book and helped him find a book agent, which then led to a deal with publishing company Algonquin Books."
Ahhh, of course. So a complete unknown can get a major book deal–when said complete unknown is a friend of one of the most famous authors in the U.S. Astonishing, no, but it is interesting.
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REPORTER TRADES MAUI NEWS FOR SPIRITUALITY & HEALTH
Speaking of writers who are personal friends, I'd just like to say that my job just got a whole lot easier. On Friday, Apr. 13, Maui News Reporter Ilima Loomis announced that she's exiting the paper. "I will be leaving The Maui News on April 24 to take a position as managing editor of Spirituality & Health magazine," she told blogger Ian Lind. "I was not actively looking for a job, and was fully prepared to stay with The Maui News for the long haul. But when this opportunity came along, there was just no way I could say no."
Spirituality & Health (spiritualityhealth.com) is a bi-monthly that's based in Traverse City, Michigan but maintains an office on Maui (the editor-in-chief is Karen Bouris, the director of the Merwin Conservancy in Haiku. "We report on the people, the practices, and the ideas of the current spiritual renaissance," states the magazine's website. "We are open to all points of view on spiritual questions, drawing on the world's wisdom traditions as well as science, psychology, sociology and medicine."
It's quite a different assignment from investigative news and covering Maui government, but we wish her the best.
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MAUI NEWS CUTS WAY BACK
Of course, one thing Loomis made clear to me is that her leaving had nothing to do with the state of The Maui News, or the fact that the paper recently announced some pretty severe cutbacks.
"One of my biggest concerns has been that my leaving will appear to be a vote of 'no confidence' in The Maui News," she emailed me. "It's really hard to feel now like I'm abandoning the paper when it needs me most. However, that is balanced by the fact that my decision to leave at this time will almost certainly save the job of a less senior employee."
See, we live in a time of media cutbacks. Newspapers are shrinking, trimming the size of their broadsheets and the scope of their coverage. The explosion of the Internet has led to both the proliferation of information (some of it important) and the destruction of the old advertising-based business model that's kept newspapers running for the last century.
It's never a good thing when a news organization cuts staff. Doesn't matter the newsroom or the location. News outlets, including the supposedly obsolete newspapers need more people on the payroll, not fewer. Nonetheless, I wasn't too surprised to read an unbylined story in the April 11 Maui News explaining how a new labor contract just ratified by employees will mean serious employee and benefit cuts.
Among the cuts:
• "hours will be reduced by 1.25 hours per week starting Aug. 1, with the hours to be restored July 31, 2014"
• "higher share of medical premiums"
• "workforce reduction of 14 to 18 employees"
Maui News Publisher Joe Bradley called the deal a "vote of confidence" in the future of the paper, but it's hard to agree. Some employees, according to the story, will leave the paper voluntarily. Others will get sacked.
It's an old story: a newspaper cuts sections, coverage and staff, until it's a shell of what it was just a decade ago. Then the owners wonder aloud why people don't read it anymore and companies stop advertising, and then start cutting again…
The cuts announced last week should have been expected. Back in March 2011, The Maui News had sought to eliminate 10 positions. During a meeting with labor leaders at the time, Bradley made a brutal case.
"At Wednesday's meeting, Bradley asked the unions to consider a proposal to reduce the workweek from 37.5 to 35 hours–a 6.6 percent pay cut–and to delay by one year a 3 percent snapback (2 percent in wages; 1 percent in pension) set to occur on July 1," stated a Pacific Media Workers Guild (which represents some of the paper's employees) press release issued at the time. "In support of the request, he provided union leaders with details of sharp advertising revenue declines in a number of key categories."
In May 2011, the Maui News employees agreed on a new labor contract that would rescind that layoff notice and prohibit further layoff notices until April 1, 2012. Apparently, Bradley and the Maui News owners (that would be West Virginia-based Ogden Newspapers) didn't waste any time once the deadline passed.
Of course, it could be worse. In March, Bradley announced that his paper would now partner with Monster.com to provide a better resource for those in Maui County who lose their jobs.
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