The Big Island Press Club: Then and Now

Originally written for and published by Ke Ola Magazine: https://keolamagazine.com/

By Paula Thomas and Lara Hughes

Celebrating 50 Years

Click the cover to see this story in our digital magazine.
Originally Published in Ke Ola Magazi

The Big Island Press Club is the oldest running media and journalism organization in existence on Hawai‘i Island. In September, the club celebrated 50 years of protecting the public’s right to be accurately informed. A dinner was held at Nani Mau Gardens in Hilo to commemorate the auspicious anniversary. Pulitzer prize winner Kirstin Downey was the event’s keynote speaker. In attendance were BIPC founding members Jim Wilson and Eugene Tao, Hawai‘i media professionals, senators, representatives, council people, students and a multitude of community members. Mayor Harry Kim issued a proclamation and declared September 21, the day of the celebration, to be known as Big Island Press Club Day.

In reflection, founding member Jim Wilson commented, “I’m very proud… the club is still in action after 50 years and has a very good record in fighting for openness in government… that is quite an accomplishment.” BIPC president and recent UH Hilo graduate Lara Hughes called for the continued support of journalists and media professionals in the islands and elsewhere, “Our freedoms reflect the successful efforts and sacrifices reporters and media members of the world have made. It is important to consider the coming generations and what we might do for them.”

Historic Beginnings

In the spirit of ensuring a free press, open government, and connection among members of the media back in August 1967, journalists and news broadcasters got together to create a club on Hawai‘i Island. These young men and women worked for the newspapers and radio stations, all competitors for scoops on breaking headlines. To quote former Tribune-Herald news editor Hugh Clark about these times, “Radio folks did not talk to each other and never to the newspaper guys or vice versa.”

1970- Eugene Tao (l) presents Member of the Year award to Walt Southward and Hugh Clark (far right).
1970- Eugene Tao (l) presents Member of the Year award to Walt Southward and Hugh Clark (far right).

As a founder looking back on the events of 50 years ago Gene Tao reflected, “The club was organized during a time when there was a brutal labor strike against the Tribune-Herald. It had really divided the community.” As the story goes, Bill Arballo, a radio guy from KIPA and stringer for United Press International, encouraged a steak fry. Shortly following that, noted correspondent for the Honolulu Advertiser, Walt Southward, hosted a meeting at his home. The stage was set, and the next meeting at the Hilo Country Club launched the official start of the Big Island Press Club.

Within a year, club members had passed so many good times on Friday’s in an old parsonage next to the Tribune-Herald which housed its very own bar, its social purpose was solidified. Says Gene of the change in social climate, “The Press Club was a good gathering place for all media.” The club mended the fences between the news and radio guys. It helped members get past the strike in 1967 and got people working together over issues of open and transparent government.

Early club members hailed from the three AM radio stations on Hawai‘i Island as well as from the seven newspapers statewide. Bill Arballo, from KIPA radio and UPI, was a co-founder along with Jim Wilson, then advertising director and later publisher of the Hawaii Tribune-Herald. Tribune-Herald reporters Gene Tao and Hugh Clark, along with Southward (who later became a noted PR specialist) and radio DJ Clift Tsuji made up the core group of founders. Advertiser Cartoonist Harry Lyons crafted a logo for the club in a tribute to the Hawaiian volcano goddess Pele, as she sat at a typewriter making the news. It was delivered to the club with a message: strive to be more than the flourishing Honolulu Press Club. To this day, there are only two press clubs in the state of Hawai‘i.

1977 Hugh Clark in BIPC newsletter.
1977 Hugh Clark in BIPC newsletter.

Once the Club got going, the first big challenge came in the form of having an “Openness in Government” provision approved by the Charter Commission. Nearly 18 months later, an open-meetings open-records provision was part of the Hawai‘i County Charter, and the Club had won its first major battle.

For the initial two years Bill served as the club’s charter president, and in 1970, he and other BIPC members launched an original show called the Imu at the Naniloa Crown Room. The first successful evening, complete with song and dance by members including Hal Glatzer and George Durham, set the stage for a decade-long run of satire-fueled annual fundraising roasts.

Legacy Scholarships

Hilo High School journalism teacher Yukino Fukubori was asked to join the club soon after its launch. She refused unless the club would create a scholarship for students interested in media studies. Cobbling together membership dues wouldn’t work long term; but as luck would have it, when roving reporter Robert C. Miller spoke at the club’s first event, attendee and at the time state senator “Doc” Hill was so moved he donated $1,000 toward a scholarship, and Yukino joined the club.

BIPC members launched an original show called the Imu at the Naniloa Crown Room to raise funds for their scholarships.
BIPC members launched an original show called the Imu at the Naniloa Crown Room to raise funds for their scholarships.

Now, 48 years later, there are six scholarships awarded annually in amounts that total over $4,500. One of the scholarships today comes from funds donated by Yukino herself.

Each year at a dinner held in late April–May, these commemorative scholarships go to Hawai‘i Island students enrolled in college full-time and pursuing a career in journalism or a related field.

Much of the funding comes from donations made by the family and friends of members who have passed on and wish to keep the club’s legacy alive. Thanks to the persistent work of former Star Bulletin reporter Rod Thompson who served as club treasurer for 11 years, the BIPC has wisely invested and protected these funds for the continued support of future generations of Hawai‘i’s media and journalism students. The club became a bona fide nonprofit organization in 2004, making donations tax-deductible. Robert Duerr, of Hawaii Fishing News, took over from Rod as treasurer and has served in the position for the past 14 years.

Patsy Iwasaki, Erika Engle, Kamakaila Waipa, Cashman Aiu, and Bob Duerr at the 2014 Scolarship Dinner. photo courtesy of Denise Laitinen
Patsy Iwasaki, Erika Engle, Kamakaila Waipa, Cashman Aiu, and Bob Duerr at the 2014 Scolarship Dinner. photo courtesy of Denise Laitinen

Janis Selland Wong, who worked for the Tribune-Herald as a reporter and recently retired from running her own freelance writing and editing business, was among the first students to earn a scholarship in 1969. Janis reflects, “That I received the BIPC scholarship 48 years ago and the program continues today is testimony to the Club’s dedication and commitment to future journalists as well as defending the public’s right to know.” She now serves on the board of the BIPC as a director and as the membership committee chair.

Scholarships not only help to perpetuate the journalism profession but keep the BIPC connected to the upcoming generations of would-be media members.

Program covers from Imu, the BIPC annual fundraising roast performance.
Program covers from Imu, the BIPC annual fundraising roast performance.

On a Mission

Each year the BIPC announces an emeritus award and a deserved dishonor award. The Torch of Light award goes to a person or organization that works to uphold the public’s right to know. Last year the club honored State Senator Lorraine Inouye for her legislative advocacy during the 2015 Puna lava flow where press was initially banned. This year, the club is giving the award to Nancy Cook-Lauer of West Hawaii Today for her investigative reporting work, which shed light on former Mayor Kenoi’s misuse of a county-issued p-card.

BIPC past president, Denise Laitinen, with Torch of Light Winners Sen. Lorraine Inoye, and Nancy Cook-Lauer at a scholarship dinner.
BIPC past president, Denise Laitinen, with Torch of Light Winners Sen. Lorraine Inoye, and Nancy Cook-Lauer at a scholarship dinner.

The Lava Tube dishonor award goes to an individual whose lack of communication keeps the public in the dark.

The Big Island Press Club also sponsors newsmaker luncheons and networking events with guest speakers including award-winning TV investigative reporter-turned-PR specialist Keoki Kerr and Hawaii Newspaper publisher Dennis Francis, among others.

The BIPC has also helped sponsor the student-organized UH Hilo Media Symposium for the past two-years running and has welcomed students to serve as directors on the board. Some of these students have even gone on to hold officer positions.

Continuing Support

As Hugh noted in his history of the BIPC, “legal battles are everywhere.” Jim commented, “We will always face the issue of access. Open government will always be an issue for reporters.”

Members Denise Laitinen, Lara Hughes, Don Barth, Teresa Barth, Gene Tao, Bob Duerr, Betsy Duerr, Jan Wong, and Rod Thompson. photo courtesy of Denise Laitinen
Members Denise Laitinen, Lara Hughes, Don Barth, Teresa Barth, Gene Tao, Bob Duerr, Betsy Duerr, Jan Wong, and Rod Thompson. photo courtesy of Denise Laitinen

Gene adds a new layer to the conversation, addressing the technological advances that media professionals and the global community face today, “There is too much fake news because people don’t have good training. It’s what has got us all confused. That’s why I think that education is important. Two things I want to see the Press Club continue is education and to be the watchdog for the people.”

Providing scholarships to students and a networking platform for media professionals while upholding the public’s right to know has been the mission of the BIPC since its founding, and it may be more important than ever in today’s political climate and this era of fake news.

It is a tribute to the early founders that a club like this exists here on Hawai‘i Island. We can all take a moment to be grateful that it is still going strong, and hard at work on its First Amendment-inspired mission that benefits us all.

If you are interested in supporting the club by becoming a member for a $25 annual dues fee, serving on a committee, or making a donation, visit bigislandpressclub.org. ❖


 

To see this article as it was originally published online, and other articles published in Ke Ola magazine, please visit: https://keolamagazine.com/then-now/big-island-press-club/

 

 

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Local Entrepreneur Enlists the Help of Nine UH Hilo Interns to Launch the ‘Firm of the Future’

claire-group
The Fall 2017 Akau Accounting interns with UH Hilo alumna and business entrepreneur Claire-Ann Niibu-Akau, pictured front-and-center. Photos by Darryl Holland.

UH Hilo alumna launches a new accounting firm and offers internship opportunities to students

UH Hilo alumna Claire-Ann Niibu-Akau just launched her accounting firm of the future. Niibu-Akau graduated in December 2015 with a degree in accounting. She opened her business Akau Accounting this Fall, and is looking to innovate her field. She says, “I’ve been doing bookkeeping and accounting for about 20 years, but I began this firm in November. I wanted to continue to support small businesses in Hawaii.” Niibu-Akau has hired nine UH Hilo student-interns to help her revolutionize her practice through technological advancements. The Akau Accounting organizational structure is designed to be a virtual on-line accounting practice. This allows for remote anywhere-in-the-world bookkeeping for clients and also provides the company’s student-interns with flexibility. Niibu-Akau, her employees and interns are able to work at the hours that best fit their schedules and meet client demand from virtually anywhere in the world.

Internship program to provide a diversified and innovative environment

Niibu-Akau hired nine student-interns after participating in the UH Hilo College of Business and Economics Internship and Job Fair. One of her main goals is to help people in the community, and she feels that having interns is a large part of that. As a recent graduate, Niibu-Akau knows what the importance of a good internship experience can provide for students.

“I know that students are very capable and I believe that if given the opportunity, our UH Hilo students have great potential for self-development and personal growth.”

Of the nine students that have been hired, seven are focusing on accounting and two are focusing on marketing. Niibu-Akau says, “The cool thing is that the interns are so diverse in skill and background.”

The Akau Accounting interns hail from different areas of the globe including China, the Marshall Islands, Hawaii and the Mainland United States. They come from culturally diverse settings and bring expertise from various walks of life. Niibu-Akau expects that the interns will also help a lot of small businesses in the community. “Interns bring a lot of great ideas, a high level of energy and will grow in their knowledge.”

Meet the interns

Jiaqi Wu – Marketing Intern

jiaqiwuA junior business administration major from China, Wu says, “Internships can give me a good opportunity to put my marketing knowledge into practice.” Wu is hoping to build her marketing skills and get more professional experience by working in a real business practice setting.

Yuye Zhao – Marketing Intern

yuyezhaoIn her junior year, Zhao hails from China. She is looking to gain first-hand experience in the business world, “I suggest students take more internships to gain more real world experience. If they only study the classes, they may be far away from the real business world.”

Will Lewis – Accounting Intern

willlewisAn accounting major in his junior year, Lewis graduated from High School in California. He began the internship after being referred by friends in the CoBE department, “After speaking with Claire, it became evident that she had a very forward thinking vision for her business. The integration of technology into the accounting profession, as well as the business being built upon technological developments and tools really excited me.”

Wyatt Nelson – Accounting Intern

wyattnelsonNelson is an accounting major in his senior year at UH Hilo. “Being able to look at the inner workings of a business just by analyzing its finances is a prospect that I have always found fascinating, that coupled with the opportunity to provide financial advisory to others made accounting a field that I believe suits my talents and who I am very well.” Nelson also holds roles in various clubs on campus including the Accounting Club and the Delta Sigma Pi Professional Fraternity, and organizes tutoring sessions for accounting students.

Calvin Myazoe – Accounting Intern

calvinmyazoeAn intern majoring in accounting who will be graduating in May 2017. Myazoe attended high school in California and used to work for a bank, “I was advised by my supervisor at the time to attend college and study accounting… the more I got into it and understand concepts, slowly though progressively, I started liking it.” Myazoe is involved in the Micronesian United – Big Island Club and also the Pacific Islander Student Center. His advice to students? “Manage their time wisely. Everything in college is done by yourself. You do nothing, there’s no progress. Whereas, if you do your best, you put yourself in a position to succeed.”

Manuel Fernandez – Accounting Intern

manuelfernandezA sophomore at UH Hilo who grew up in California and is majoring in accounting, Fernandez has a very streamlined interest in this internship. “I hope to learn how to navigate the Quick Books platform and implement year-end adjusting entries to reconcile the client’s accounts for year end financial statements.” Fernandez lost two of his fingers in a carpentry accident, “The tragedy of cutting off my fingers afforded me the opportunity to pursue what was just a thought; my accounting degree and CPA license.” Fernandez also holds a role as the vice president of professional activities in the Delta Sigma Pi Professional Fraternity.

Krizha Tumaneng – Accounting Intern

krzhaA senior pursuing a double concentration in business administration of management and marketing, she is also a double major, working to achieve a degree in accounting as well. Tumaneng hopes to learn financial, management and marketing skills particular to the accounting field through her internship experience. Tumaneng is a member of the American Marketing Association on campus.

Xiaoting Liu – Accounting Intern

xiaotingliuAn accounting and finance major, Liu attended school in China before coming to Hawaii. This is her final semester at UH Hilo and she has been participating in internships regularly, “Internships definitely help me to build my experience and utilize what I have learned in the classroom, and bring it into a real business world [setting].” Liu is interested in building on her teamwork skills and accounting knowledge. She is an auditor at the Ron Dolan CPA Firm and the vice president of finance for Delta Sigma Pi.

Rissa Domingo – Accounting Intern

rissadomingoDomingo is a senior majoring in accounting who grew up in the Marshall Islands. She thought that this internship would provide a great opportunity to improve her skills and learn about her strengths and weaknesses while enhancing her professional confidence. “I want to know what is expected of me, how I can contribute efficiently and improve effectively, personally and professionally.” Domingo advises students to always have a positive attitude and educate themselves in all aspects of their lives. Her advice to students is, “Continue to pursue higher education and seize any academic and professional opportunities that come your way.”