By Wayne Harada
There are a lot of anchors, but only one ship, in the hybrid TV partnership billed as “Hawaii News Now,” now broadcasting in various modes on three stations.
Call it what you will — a merger to galvanize market share, a business partnership to share resources, a life-saving movement to survive in a dour economy. It’s a little bit of everything — and a reflection of how desperate and deficient the business of gathering and reporting news has become.
Two separate voices have melded into one, where former rivals are now colleagues delivering news that is either simulcast or repurposed for airing on KGMB9, the CBS affiliate; KHNL8, the NBC station; and KFVE, the sister station of KHNL which did a programming swap with KGMB.
The change, which took effect last Oct. 26, is the result of a shared services agreement, channeled by Alabama-based Raycom Media (which owns KHNL and KFVE), which has usurped the news staffs of KGMB and KHNL and consolidated the newsrooms in the name of economics.
In the first salvo reacting to the changing news landscape, KITV4 Island Television, the ABC affiliate, has taken a lifeboat approach with its late night news, tacking on 30 minutes for a full hour of news programming from 10 to 11 p.m., beginning this past Monday. (Nov16). When coupled with the network’s half-hour “ABC News Nightline,” KITV now has the opportunity to magnify stories that warrant an extra minute or two providing more in-depth local coverage on breaking stories before bedtime.
Meanwhile, the “Hawaii News Now” ship still is sailing through uncharted seas, utilizing common facilities on Waiakamilo Road previously occupied by KHNL-KFVE, with KGMB vacating its Kapi‘olani Boulevard headquarters for good, in favor of a spacious port, with high-def technology.
The newscasts, at different times, are an ambitious burst of flash, energy and good intentions, but much of it is rehashing. Same anchors appear, deliver old or updated scripts. One anchor might be signing off one show — but is seen “live,” albeit on replay, on a buddy channel.
Welcome to Team Now.
There's rampant cross-promotion, with the KGMB-CBS “eye,” the KHNL-NBC “peacock” and the KFVE “warrior” logos on unprecedented "Hawaii News Now” promos. The lines of competition have blurred, the spirit of rivalry subdued.
KGMB’s “Sunrise,” the newest kid on the a.m. block, has become the preferred morning cup of coffee for most viewers and there’s plenty of unexpected bonding. But the Channel 9 team is also seen on Channel 8, which cuts to NBC’s “Today” show from 7 a.m., eliminating one stand-alone morning newscast (previously led by Howard Dashefsky and Diane Ako) when there were four. The “Hawaii News Now” morning team does the half-hour news and weather breaks during “Today,” tasks previously handled by a dismantled KHNL corps.
There’s more border crossings; used to be a network-affiliate thing, but on “Hawaii News Now,” you get coverage of CBS’ “Three Rivers” one day, links with NBC’s “Heroes” another day. The boundaries are vanishing, the ethics wilting.
Remember Hawaii’s Severe Weather Station? It’s gone. Live, Local, Late-Breaking? It’s Live, Local, Connected now.
“Now,” as in Traffic Now. Weather Now. Get Connected Now.
Wow, KGMB is poised to reclaim the No. 1 spot on the Nielsen radar, moving in on perennial ratings leader KHON2, the Fox station. But it’s a jangle out there, when you see Tannya Joaquin and Keahi Tucker on Channel 9, Stephanie Lum and Keahi Tucker on Channel 8, and Grace Lee, Steve Uyehara, Howard Dicus, Dan Cooke and Taizo Braden on Channels 9 and 8, with different commercials airing during the breaks.
Add anchors like Mari-Ela David (from Channel 8) and Stacey Loe (from Channel 9) to the mix, and you need a scorecard.
Long-standing features that have become part of the DNA of KGMB and KHNL remain, like “Cheap Eats” and “Wanted Wednesday.” But only Lyle Galdeira and Russell Yamanoha, the chow hounds, seem to be the only souls having a genuine great time, eating around the “Hawaii News Now” agenda.
Pink-slipped Ramsay Wharton of Channel 9 was her station’s Manolo Morales (of Fox2), the go-everywhere, do-everything rover, is sorely missed. Lisa Kubota, who inherited some of Wharton’s duties, has less joy in features, doing better with hard news. The fit needs work.
Howard Dicus is the best thing about “Hawaii News Now, ” with his no-nonsense business acumen, sharing his impeccable imprint in common-folk jargon, not only on “Sunrise” but also on the early news. If only he’s spared from some of the morning giddiness.
Only four KHNLers — anchors Lum and David and reporters Minna Sugimoto and Duane Shimogawa — survived the rebranding cuts, from a field of 15 on-air folks. None of KGMB’s prime anchors were chopped, though Stacey Loe has decided to exit, by choice, by year’s end.
One likely reading of this decision: Raycom wanted to eliminate the more veteran talents KHNLers like Dashefsky, Ako, Paul Drewes and Sharie Shima, to flush the image of low rankings at Channel 8, and retain only a hand-picked minority to suit the Channel 9 upward mobility.
“One of the good things about Hawaii ... is wonderful KGMB” has been a hallmark jingle, heralding an era long gone, a claim now that even Bob Sevey, the late and great KGMB anchor, might question today.
A potential legal challenge of the partnership, by media watchdogs, also is flagging the goodness of "Hawaii News Now."