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Thoughts on 43

Today I turn 43.

I’m marking the occasion in usual fashion, with one exception. I chose to spend the few days leading up to and following my birthday staying with friends in the remote volcanic forest landscape of Ocean View on the Big Island of Hawaii. Perhaps its unsurprising that this is the first travel of any kind I’ve done the end of 2019 before COVID-19 forced a shuttering of the world.

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Take any article written by Allison Schaefers with a grain of salt.

While going about my day yesterday, I was contemplating what I should write about this week. With the legislative session receding in our rear view and election season still months away, I wasn’t sure what to do. Then the heavens opened and dropped in my lap this nonsense trying to pass itself off as journalism.

Is it a Paid Ad, or a News Article?

In yesterday’s issue of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, there was an article entitled “Host uses short-term rental as path to homeownership”, by Allison Schaefers. Curious, I read the article to almost immediately see it for what it is; propaganda advertising meant to support a pro-short-term rental position. The piece tells the story of a woman who bought a house no one else wanted, fixed it up, and began renting it as a short-term rental in order to save enough to buy her own home.

From the outset, it’s clear the “reporter” stakes out a position in support of this illegal activity, but then we come to the fourth paragraph:

Rovito bought the four-bedroom, three-bath, 2,000-square-foot home in 2017 for $1.6 million and invested another $200,000 to make it livable. Then she began renting it on vacation rental sites for anywhere from $400 to $800 a night depending on demand. She also donates the use of the home to student groups and nonprofits with ties to Hawaii.

Did you catch the oddity? This seems to be directly in conflict with the title of the article; short-term rental as a path to homeownership? Umm… well, it would seem she already owns a home, one on which she spent $1.8 million. I know children who could spot this blatant contradiction, but either the intrepid “reporter” who drafted this is either incredibly dim, or she isn’t so much a news journalist, as she is an advertising copy-editor for Airbnb. I’ll let you decide, so let us move on.

It Would Seem Our Subject Has No Trouble Buying a Home

A friend of mine who similarly finds this kind of “reporting” offensive, took the time to dig a little deeper. He looked at the tax records for the property which show it’s owned by a trustee who used to work at Hawaii Pacific University.

My friend also found fault with the article’s claim that this self-starter has lived in Hawaii for 20 years. Proving social media can bite anyone in the ass, online searches seem to indicate she actually lives in Washington, D.C. In addition to being a lawyer, it appears she’s actually an owner of a short-term vacation rental business, with multiple properties in Honolulu, D.C., and Utah.

Because I know some people can be particularly nasty, I won’t post links to her social media here, but she’s named in the Star-Advertiser article. So if you’re inclined to take the time, you can find her on your own.

A Shining Example of the Ailing State of Journalism in Hawaii

Wanting to give our “reporter” the benefit of the doubt and an opportunity to correct her reporting, my friend sent an email to Allison Schaefers pointing out all these… inconsistencies. Flaws? Her response, it should go without saying, leaves more than a little to be desired:

Thanks for your feedback.
Although Brynn Rovito’s name is not on the property tax record, she is purchasing the home through a deal with the owner.

That’s it. Nothing about her vacation rental business, nor the fact that she might not even live here. Disappointing, to say the least, but it leads me to the only reasonable conclusion; she knew all this when she wrote her article and simply wasn’t interested in portraying her subject honestly.

With so few truly reliable local news sources in Hawaii, that this is what is considered journalism is shameful. We need to expect… no, demand more of our news outlets.


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