Center for Labor Education & Research, University of Hawaii - West Oahu: Honolulu Record Digitization Project
Honolulu Record, Volume 10 No. 9, Thursday, September 26, 1957 p. 7
City Hall Had Many Sympathizers With Independent Press 9 Years Ago
By Edward Rohrbough
When the RECORD began publication nine years ago, the administration at City Hall was one highly sympathetic to the concept of a newspaper free from pressure of the Big Five and very much conscious of the manner in which the two big dailies were dominated by local Big Business and allied with the Republican Party.
The late Mayor John H. Wilson had carried on many a joust wife the dailies down through the years, sometimes through Hawaiian newspapers of the time, and no matter how the RECORD might blast editorially at the Big Five, it was never really strong enough to suit Johnny.
"You fellows aren't really so tough on them," Johnny would chuckle, "Yon ought to have read —" and he would name some paper back through the years that had existed chiefly for the purpose of providing a voice for the Hawaiians struggling to offset the growing power of the missionary-sugar interests.
The late Willard K. Bassett, Johnny's administrative assistant, was a veteran of years of writing for and editing newspapers. In fact, he had edited an independent paper in Honolulu, himself, back in the early '20's, and he often remembered struggles like those he saw the RECORD going through.
Hip Pocket Edition
After he observed procedure of RECORD customers one day, Bassett laughed as he told the reporter, "They do the same way with your paper they used to with mine. They buy it and fold it up and put it in their hip pockets. They want to read it, but they don't want the boss to know. But your paper fits the pocket better. Mine was too big."
For almost the first year of the RECORD'S life Bassett contributed a column that attracted a wide following. He expressed his views on a wide variety of subjects and sometimes left his subjects stinging, from the sharpness of his verbal whip
Unlike Johnny Wilson, Bassett sometimes thought the RECORD went "too far" in its manner of criticizing the powers and he would frown and shake his head , a bit until the reporter would refer to an issue of Bassett's own, paper of the '20's, the "Honolulu Times." It was an issue in which he had reported the punching of Sup. Ben Hollinger by Mayor Wilson, all with the board of supervisors in session.
A banner headline proclaimed, "Get Up Out of the Gutter and Be a Man!"
The smaller type below, besides reporting the fight, identified the above phrase as the words the mayor had used on Sup. Hollinger.Now, the reporter would ask, could the RECORD possibly "go farther" than that. Bassett would laugh hilariously and urge the reporter on to sharper barbs and "farther" lengths. Still another man close to the administration of 1948 who had strong sympathy for the independent press was Takaichi Miyamoto, local merchant who held no official position at City Hall, but who was always a close friend of Mayor Wilson and a tireless worker in his campaigns. Miyamoto recalled the days when Fred Makino, great fighting editor of the Hawaii Hochi, had aided the cause of Japanese plantation workers in their struggle for better wages and living conditions.
No Favorite Played
It was not long after the origin of the RECORD that this, weekly begun scoring "beats" over the dallies on City Hall news, but there was almost never a time when these came from the "front office." Mayor Wilson and W. K. Bassett, though friendly to the RECORD, never played favorites. All reporters were scrupulously given the same treatment.
In fact, occasionally "WKB," as Bassett was known almost as well as by his full name, would get a little perturbed for fear he'd be accused of having a hand in RECORD beats. Once, when the RECORD published the first account of what was in the "Gallas Report," a study by E. C. Gallas on personnel practices at City Hall, Bassett became quite upset. Perhaps someone had accused him of "leaking" to the RECORD. After a few agitated remarks to, the reporter, he finally asked how the information had been acquired.
"You know better than to ask that, Mr. Bassett," he was told.
"Yes, of course. Of course," said the old newspaperman.
Nor did the editorial belief that Mayor Wilson was an excellent mayor, a mayor very close to his people, prevent the RECORD from publishing stories sometimes uncomfortable for the administration. It was the RECORD which first pointed out that C-C Engineer Karl Sinclair, a favorite of Johnny Wilson's, had passed his 70th year and was no longer eligible to bold office.
Neither Wilson nor Sinclair held any animus about the story, or the result which was that Sinclair retired. Later he was appointed special tunnel engineer, but as he left office, he gave his successor, Bill Vannatta, a word of advice in the presence of the reporter.
Prints What you Say
"Watch out for the newspapers."
Sinclair said, "But this one (indicating the reporter) will at least print what you say. The others may twist and distort it."
No sane person would suggest that City Hall, despite being the center of Honolulu's government, presents the full story of Honolulu. Yet it is one of the most important nerve centers of Honolulu and tells more of a story than most people thinks. For instance, a civil defense administrator named Jack Burns worked in a basement office at City Hall only a couple of years ago. He left the office to run for Hawaii's Delegate to Congress, failed, and returned to his office to resume work.
Not until several months later, after he issued a statement as Chairman of the Democratic Party's Central Committee, was he replaced by the present Mayor Neal S. Blaisdell.
Burns ran again and today, of course, has his office at Washington.
There have been stories not so pleasant and inspirational, perhaps, as that one. When a careful field check by the auditor's office, for instance, revealed that an employe had been making off with money from the parking meters, that employe was sent to prison.
As civil service became more efficient, a number of employes were revealed as having falsified their applications and were removed from their jobs.
In the most publicized, most celebrated case of that sort, however, Roger Marcotte, a police officer, in effect, won a reversal of that civil service action by a settlement out of court.
Politics, of course, plays a highly important role in much of life and practice at City Hall, and elected officials are highly conscious of their vulnerability to the vote.
Whether or not any, marked change in this situation is in the offing depends upon how the city fathers and the public receive the tentative city charter now being prepared.If a man doesn't marry, he's a bachelor, a glamorous word. If a woman doesn't, she's an old maid.
I do not say that at odd hours a patient must be given the regular hot dinner or supper. Few people would expect this.
But what is so complicated about opening and heating a can of soup, making some toast, or preparing instant coffee or tea? Why cannot a night nurse do these simple things after the kitchen to closed? Is it just too much trouble?
It is only common humanity to feed the hungry. If our hospitals are too big, too complex, too impersonal to do these small kindnesses for the sick, something is very wrong.