WHT editorial: Election coverage simply not for sale

Rarely has a West Hawaii Today special advertorial tab section been so highly anticipated.

Hey, we’ll take the publicity, even though it’s come with a poke in the eye from the Honolulu-based publication, Civil Beat.


Today’s 20-page Election 2018 special section, as produced by the West Hawaii Today advertising team, features 15 candidate ads lobbying for your vote.

But it is just that: A special section produced by the advertising team. It is not a product of the newspaper’s editorial department.

Unfortunately, the Civil Beat article titled “Candidates Say ‘Pay To Play’ Is Unfair For Newspaper Voter’s Guide,” blurred the lines a bit.

The product is solely advertising — with the exception of a district map, list of West Hawaii races and a condensed, reprinted version of the County Council District 7 candidate forum that originally appeared in the A section of WHT on July 11.

The novelty of the ad design probably caught people off guard, too. It was a unique mix-and-match of pictures and words.

When candidates bought an ad — typically their traditional campaign photo, slogan and colorful designs — it came with it an amount of space to talk about the issues they wanted to hit on, in their own words. It was space for them to pitch their stump speech, essentially, without gunking up their display ad with words.

The questions provided by WHT were talking points brought up at all the candidate forums hosted by Community Forums, among others, in the previous months. The candidates, however, were free to fill them out however they chose without any editorial oversight.

Candidates didn’t have to write anything if they didn’t want to. They could have turned down the opportunity for words and just relied on their standard display ad.

But, as is the case with any special section produced by the advertising department as a revenue generator, if they wanted to be a part of it at all, in any shape or form, they had to pay to be included.

That all leads us to now.

West Hawaii Today’s editorial team is taking on the election on its own, as we’ve planned to all along and as we’ve done in years past.

On Sunday, Aug. 5, we will be printing our primary election edition a week before the Aug. 11 primary. The A section that day will focus on the races West Hawaii will vote on, and will include candidate endorsements from this editorial board — the first time in years this paper has done so.

Sure, we can hear the snickers that this is a reactionary move — too little, too late. All we can say is that it isn’t. We know the confusion could have been better explained earlier by sharing it with Civil Beat in the first place, so lesson learned there.

That said, our editorial team has been at all the candidate forums, covered them, and we’ll highlight some of that coverage again, as well. The election edition will cover everything voters need to know a week before primary election day.

By no means was the Civil Beat article all bad. Far from it.


Experts raised excellent points about the dangers of journalists selling content — had that actually been the case.

We’ll be reaching out like we always do to give all candidates equal access to our platform, a responsibility we take seriously and have always carried out.

  1. KonaLife July 29, 2018 6:13 am

    If the supplement is purely an advertising venue, that should be noted on the front page and throughout the supplement. “This is paid content, and none of it was written by WHT. WHT sold these spaces, and only those who paid were allowed space.”

    As readers, we need to be very circumspect of how newspapers operate these days. This is the same newspaper that has sold adverting on the ballots of their annual “Best of West Hawaii” That alone makes the validity of their survey/poll highly suspect.

  2. Pest Outwest July 29, 2018 7:01 am

    So, let me get this straight, are you fighting with your own ad department? And what “department”? Is that Sue at the next desk? You know, the other desk besides yours? You guys aren’t exactly the New York Times.

  3. Buds4All July 29, 2018 7:15 am

    So the case is clear here….money whores that is what you are all about. You could not have the intellect nor decency to see what confusion this could cause. Shame on you! How do you all sleep at night and face your children?

    1. LoHa July 29, 2018 12:19 pm

      Jesus, cool out Buds4All!! I thought pot made people mellow??!!

      What WHT did was not evil – but I do think it was wrong. And it sounds like they learned their lesson. Let’s all keep our perspective. Newspapers are having a hard time staying in business. If the advertising department occasionally steps over the line, it should be resisted by the editorial staff. But I am very thankful that WHT is still in business and still doing a damn good job for our little community.

      1. Buds4All July 29, 2018 4:24 pm

        That was mellow…its unfortunate you don’t know the difference. WHT is the mouth piece of the liberals and would not be surprised if it was not funded by them. Print media is on its way out you should even be smart enough to understand that.

  4. qui bono July 29, 2018 7:02 pm

    Why did, today’s, July 29, 2018 Letter to the Editor go missing ?

    Too critical of WHT’s biggest political ad buyers ?

    1. KonaLife July 31, 2018 7:32 am

      Yes, it was a well-written opinion piece on Inouye’s campaign funding (mostly from off-island unions, PACS and other donors). When I see Inouye’s paid ads on this website and in the newspaper, one cannot help but wonder why the opinion piece that discusses her non-local funding is gone from the website. Is this another pay for influence example?

  5. angkoldoy July 30, 2018 4:46 am

    30+ years ago there was more of a definitive line drawn between the sales folks and the news folks at any media source. Multinational corporations have stepped in, which has made that line hard to distinguish. The CEOs etc. and Boards of Directors use their position to ensure that every asset in their entity promotes the bottom line. Yes even news rooms and editorial guys. Be very careful to understand that when listening to, watching or reading alleged news.

  6. LiliN July 30, 2018 9:23 am

    Well, the cover of the “advertorial” very clearly and in large print says “ELECTION GUIDE.” Maybe if you titled it “ELECTION ADVERTORIAL,” your readers would feel more assured that you’re not trying to mislead them.

  7. Frankie Shepard Stapleton July 30, 2018 9:18 pm

    And the editor is …………(name, please)

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