Leaving Maui, Part II: Things I did

I arrived on Maui on Aug. 28, 2003 as something of a misfit. Rather than spend my life working so that I could move to a tropical paradise, I had actually rarely given living in Hawaii any thought. Instead, moving to Maui meant a promotion–in this case, from a general assignment, sometime investigative reporter at a paper in Orange County, California packed with talent to editor in chief of a tiny, shoestring paper in Lahaina. Basically, I jumped at the chance.

Looking back, I guess I did a good job, though it’s hard for me to tell. I mean, I got just as many compliments as criticisms–and too damn many of the latte being just personal attacks, in my opinion. My philosophy was always to put as many well-written, good stories (informative as well as entertaining) in the paper as possible, covering a wide variety of subjects that weren’t already receiving coverage. Of course I made plenty of mistakes. Whether I ultimately succeeded depends on what a given reader wants from a newspaper, I suppose.
Anyway, here’s a dozen things I did while editor of Maui Time Weekly, in no particular order:
1. Allowed an issue to go to press with a year-old calender section. This was about the worst thing I ever did as editor, and not simply because it was so stupid (virtually the whole editorial staff played some sort of role in the screw-up, but as editor, I checked over the entire paper before publication and should have spotted the trouble. In any case, I was ultimately responsible for the paper each week). Anyway, we conservatively estimated that 70 percent of all readers picked up the paper solely to find out what was happening that week, which means my mistake hurt the vast majority of our readers.
2. Assigned and edited a piece by freelance reporter Greg Mebel on a scandal that brewed around Bob Awana, then-chief of staff to Governor Linda Lingle (you can read the story here). The story helped spark a chain of events that led to Awana’s resignation, which the Honolulu Star-Bulletin very nicely acknowledged (you can read the Star-Bulletin editorial here).
3. Drank a shot of whiskey with musician Howard Ahia and then-Kahului Ale House owner Chad Metcalfe at the Hard Rock Cafe in Lahiana.
4. Infiltrated a gathering of homeowners at the Olowalu plantation house brought together by developer Kent Smith to boost his troubled Puunoa housing project at the south end of Lahaina Town.
5. “Fired” a very good freelance writer after hearing that this person used Maui Time‘s name to get backstage at a concert, even though this person was not actually on assignment for us.
6. Sat nervously in my office while an obviously disturbed man paced up and down Market Street, trying to call me after appearing at the paper’s front desk and asked for me, saying that he wanted to tell me how he had overheard (through the use of a chip implanted in the back of his brain) the police conspiring to murder him.
7. Followed model (and eventual Penthouse Pet) Crystal Klein through a Saturday morning photo shoot that involved her being nude on some cliffs in Haiku that overlooked the ocean.
8. Dealt with a very eclectic group of freelance writers, including one very beautiful, very intelligent young woman who, after telling me that aliens had stolen part of her soul and used it to power their spacecraft, anonymously wrote a very good cover story for us on what it was like to work in erotic massage.
9. Kept an actual bottle of Jack Daniels in my desk (it was a gift from Holoholo Girl, who believed all editors had to keep a bottle of whiskey in his or her desk). I believe we finally finished it off the night George W. Bush won reelection.
10. Flirted with a topless French chick on the beach in front of our old Maui Time headquarters at 505 Front Street in Lahaina while then-art director Rudi King snapped photographs of me from his office (and sorry, I long ago lost my copies of the photos).
11. Pissed off Maui County lifeguard/big wave surfer/all-around good guy Archie Kalepa by quoting him (after identifying myself as a reporter) when he started talking about a dead body that had been pulled from the water at Honolua Bay a day or two before–a subject that he later admitted over the phone should not have been mentioned in public.
12. Helped turn Maui Time from a 32-page, 11,000-circ paper into one that averaged 40 pages and printed 18,000 copies.

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