The Bystander

Newspapers battling competitors with personal attacks and insinuations–normal business in Hawaii newspapers until 1950s. And some even ran columns just for that purpose. For example, The Pacific Commercial Advertiser’s column “The Bystander” described its rival the Honolulu Star-Bulletin’s work as as “verbal poverty and infelicity.”

Hawaii’s dominant newspaper rivalry in the 1900s and early 2000s: The Honolulu Advertiser versus the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Started by Henry Martyn Whitney, these direct competitors targeted the “Haole” minority as the Caucasians dominated Hawaii social hierarchy and economy. This rivalry started in the 1890s, when Hawaii was transitioning from a Hawaiian Kingdom to a U.S. territory. While both papers were against the Hawaiian monarchy and for U.S. annexation, they threw potshots at each other.

From 1903 through 1913, the PCA ran its opinion column: “The Bystander.” Reprinted in The Hawaiian Gazette, “The Bystander” commented on local events and flung insults at PCA’s rivals.

Usually in the second page, the column featured an illustration of a Caucasian man. He was usually standing and staring ahead on a street corner, wearing a closed blazer, slacks, and a fedora.

Editor-in-chief Lorrin A. Thurson claimed “The Bystander” was a “freelance department, contributed to by various writers,” and the column’s opinions did not represent the newspaper management’s. However, people later found out that the newspapers editors, including Thurston and Matheson, were the ones who authored the columns. However, despite the blown cover, in an open letter, Matheson insisted that what he wrote was true and that no apology or retraction was necessary. With that said, Matheson kept writing “The Bystander” for the next six years.

– Alice Kim

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The Hawaiian Gazette: bystander

Annotations from Bob Krauss Research Index

The Bystander column chides the Bulletin for its circulation figures
1905-05-28 (click here to see all pages from this date)
Page (Column):4 (2) (click here to see article)
Annotation: Says the Bulletin is using figures from when soldiers and sailors from – 3,000 of them – in town from transports. But the transports are gone.
Krauss Card No.: 1300502 System ID: 36220

The Bystander column is back in Pacific Commercial Advertiser
1905-05-21 (click here to see all pages from this date)
Page (Column): 4 (2) (click here to see article)
Krauss Card No.: 1300500 System ID: 36218

Bystander column has been dropped, in its place is Small Talks by Sol. N. Sheridan
1905-04-30 (click here to see all pages from this date)
Page (Column)4 (2) (click here to see article)
Annotation: Same format, opinion columns, gossip and poetry.

Bystander Column reminisces about fishing with dynamite
1905-01-22 (click here to see all pages from this date)
Page (Column)4 (2) (click here to see article)
Annotation: Recalls when Hotelier Herbert was in charge of the San Souci, bystander was invited for a sharking trip in the king’s whaleboat. On the return trip the native boatman threw dynamite into the water to kill fish for dinner.

Bystander column ridicules Japanese servants
1904-07-31 (click here to see all pages from this date)
Page (Column)4 (2) (click here to see article)
Annotation: Gives anecdotes of misunderstandings between haole masters and “Jap” servants illustrating stupidity of Japs.

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