TO mark its 16th anniversary in March 1988, Marianas Variety’s editor David T. Hughes noted that we were “one of the few papers in the Pacific which have been in business this long under one owner.” Like the CNMI, “this newspaper…was started on somewhat of a shoestring…. [It] was originally started…to bring the news and views of the Commonwealth to you so you could base your thoughts and opinions on fact — not rumor…. It was hard at first, and frankly it doesn’t get any easier as the years go by. Each day brings complex problems that must be addressed and reported by your community newspaper….”

How was it in the MV editorial room in those days?

In his personal opinion column, “Get the Point?,” David wrote, “It’s been a tough week for your humble scribe. Thanks to the shoddy maintenance of CUC and my own negligence…,Tuesday’s sudden power failure left my hard disk files in shambles. I am writing this…about 5 a.m. Wednesday…on a semi-crippled computer and dreading taking the machine to the repair shop, knowing that the repairman is going to say… ‘You lost the whole thing, Dave. Just start over….’ ”

David then apologized to a local family. “I was informed that I made the son the father in a letter to the editor,” he said. “One of my fellow journalists pointed that fact out to me with much relish…I became quite angry and said, ‘Yes, I made a mistake…but at least I didn’t convict [name of indicted government official] on MY front page…YOU did!’ Silence from my antagonist. Yes, we all make mistakes, dear readers…like missing two jumps in Tuesday’s edition….”

Originally from Arkansas, David could be a hoot and a half. But not everyone, especially politicians, were amused. In a letter to the editor MV published, a CNMI lawmaker called him a “conceited” “hired help” who “twists the news.” In his column, Dave wrote: “I always thought lawmakers were ‘hired hands’ too…of the people.”

One of MV’s banner stories on April 8, 1988 was “CHC ‘tapped out.” The CNMI’s lone hospital was “without water for about five long hours Wednesday. This caused a screeching halt to such things as surgery, and the hospital administration also decided to stop walk-in treatment…and close the dental clinic. The dry spell was due to a clogged filter in the health center water system.”

In the same issue, MV reported that the Drug Task Force was “making a dent in dope.” And by dope, we meant…marijuana. “Eleven persons were arrested and 235 pounds of marijuana worth more than $160,000 [about $371,000 today] were confiscated by the Inter-Agency Drug Enforcement Task Force…. ‘We’ll use every possible tool to come down hard on drugs,’ ”  the head of the task force — an assistant attorney general — was quoted as saying. The AG, for his part, said “research had shown that ‘marijuana is the gateway to harder drugs.’ ” He said “if the Commonwealth did not address the problem today, ‘we will see our future generation full of zombies instead of fruitful citizens.’ ”


In Aug. 1988, an MV editorial commended the Saipan Chamber of Commerce for its ongoing “Eyesores of Saipan” effort. The chamber had added to its list of concerns junk and abandoned vehicles of all types. “Our island,” MV said, “is rapidly becoming one big junkyard…judging by the assortment of wrecked and worn out cars” found on Saipan, “especially [in] the more isolated areas.”

In other news: “Although police were involved in 79 incidents over the weekend, they also made some headway in an investigation involving several burglaries over the past month. Police…said a group of kids were being detained in connection with the crimes. ‘Several juveniles were arrested for several burglaries in Garapan that were reported…this month, all businesses. Several stolen items were confiscated.’ ” At the same time, “police reported one homicide and two incidents involving illegal possession of a firearm over the weekend. There were 10 assaults and battery cases, 10 incidents of criminal mischief, and nine cases of disturbing the peace…. There were also 1 theft reported, 20 traffic accidents and 10 arrests for driving under the influence for the three-day period….”

Early that year, one of MV’s front-page stories was about a police detective charged with “stealing a handgun and $26,520 in cash [worth over $61,000 today], most of it believed to be left behind by a murdered Yakuza chief.” On our editorial page was  a cartoon depicting a man wearing a shirt that says “Saipan Community.” The man was dumping household trash, including appliances, into the ocean, apparently at Agingan Point. The caption read, “I Don’t Mind if They Swim to Tinian.”

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Zaldy Dandan is the recipient of the Best Editorial Writer Award of the Society of Professional Journalists, and the CNMI Humanities Award for Outstanding Contributions to Journalism. His three books are available on

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