MILLENNIUM, KMART MAKE THE MAINLAND MEDIA

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OFFICE OF INSULAR AFFAIRS U.S. Department of the Interior Washington, D.C.

(This is the second in a series of occasional roundups of Pacific Island news, as seen in the U.S. Mainland media; it is assembled by the Office of Insular Affairs.)

WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 4, 1999 - OIA)---There was a burst of Mainland reporting on island events in the weeks just before and after Christmas, mostly dealing with tourism and business issues.

Guam and Tonga: The headline on a (January 2, 1999) New York Times editorial asked, "Is Guam Available?" The Grey Lady, in a not-very-serious mood, speculated about the availability of hotel rooms on the eve of the millennium, less than a year from now. It noted that all 700 hotel rooms in Tonga had been booked and mentioned that one far-sighted New Yorker had booked a hotel room overlooking the millennium-eve celebration in Times Square back in 1983, when the motel, a Marriott, was still under construction.

The text of the editorial did not mention Guam but the Office of Insular Affairs, at the direction of Allen Stayman, checked millennium-eve hotel availability at three leading Guam hotels and two in Saipan in order to answer the Times’ question: "Is Guam available?"

The answer is yes, there are plenty of rooms available that night on both islands (in fact, it appeared that only two or three reservations had been made at all five hotels combined) so there is a golden opportunity, at the moment, to check into a pleasant, beach-front hotel so that you will be there when America’s millennium begins, just west of the International Dateline.

The Marshalls and Kiribati: The season’s award for media boners (about the islands) goes to the Journal, a daily circulated in Washington’s suburbs. On December 27, 1998 it ran a perfectly accurate news article from Scripps-Howard about how Kiribati had captured the first-nation-to-experience-the-millennium honors (from Tonga) by unilaterally extending the International Dateline a couple of thousands miles to the east, to pick up the eastern half of the island nation.

The first boner: the Journal headline (but not the story) identified the nation involved as the Marshall Islands. The second boner: on another page, the Journal ran the same story, word for word, with a slightly different headline, again crediting the Marshalls for the actions of Kiribati.

Guam: The longest islands-related article of the season, by the Washington Post’s Tokyo team, Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan, dealt with the attractions of Guam’s enormous Kmart store (Post, front page, January 2, 1999). "Kmart is an Easy Sell on Guam; Amid Bargains, Tourists, Store Becomes Island’s Social Center. The store concentrates on selling a wide variety of goods in large volume and at low prices, and according to Jordan and Sullivan "it drove down prices of everything from shampoo to Cheerios to stereo sets, but more than that Kmart became the island’s social center, its unofficial town square, where you never fail to run into a neighbor, a friend, a cousin…"

Further: "More than a million Japanese tourists annually come to Guam and Kmart estimates that each one comes to the store an average of two to three times during their stay."

Midway: For probably the first time since the end of World War II, Midway Island is open to visitors according to the January issue of Smithsonian Magazine, the sleek monthly distributed by the museum. The museum and Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service are jointly sponsoring a bit of specialized tourism--inviting people to visit the World War II battle site "at the time of the breeding season of the world’s largest colony of Laysan albatross, whose wingspan exceeds seven feet… these birds have little fear of humans and are very approachable…"

The price, including a ten-day tour and air travel to and from Honolulu comes to $3,455 (if you travel with a partner) or $3,935 (if you travel alone). The accommodations are presumably the former officers’ quarters on the island.

American Samoa: "I am thinking of taking a job with the hospital in American Samoa; what’s life like there?" The call-in question was posed to one of the few radio programs devoted exclusively to travel, Rudy Maxa’s "The Savvy Traveler" on public radio, aired in the Washington area on January 2, 1999.

Maxa started on a favorable note: "There are no snakes there," but then went on to say "there are many lovely islands in the world, but this is not one of them." He warned of the tuna cannery smells that come from the Pago Pago harbor (which he pronounced correctly) and urged the caller to seek more information from the Office of Congressman Eni Faleomavaega (and here the pronunciation was not so good). He said that the western part of the island was more attractive than the area around the harbor.

The Marianas: The only article in the set that dealt squarely with the Christmas season was in the "Outlook" section of the Washington Post on December 20, 1998. Its theme was the role of sweatshops in the production of goods given as Christmas presents, but it was written not by journalists or government investigators, but by an organization, Verite, that works with the Mainland clothing industry to monitor overseas sources of clothing.

Verite’s Executive Director, Heather Hiam-White, reported that their organization had found a Saipan garment factory barracks where the workers "were living in spaces smaller than allowed in U.S. federal prisons." She wrote that the situation was subsequently corrected. The factory was not named.

For more information: David North TEL/FAX: (202) 208-5279

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