Friday, March 12, 1999

new job raises
concern over ethics

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


Some awkward situations might arise from City Councilman Jon Yoshimura's hiring by KHON-TV as its part-time community affairs director, say Council colleagues and news experts.

But they don't think there's a conflict of interest so long as Yoshimura and his duties are separate from those of the Channel 2 newsroom.

Yoshimura, an attorney, will be doing legal work for KHON's business operations on a $20,000-a-year part-time basis, primarily handling the station's reports to the Federal Communications Commission.

"I think it's awkward but I think the Channel 2 people are professionals," Councilman Mufi Hannemann said. "They would not have done this if they didn't think it over carefully."

Yoshimura has worked for KHON's news department in the past. He was a reporter and cameraman before going to law school. During his first term as a councilman, he was seen regularly on the "Ask a Lawyer" segment of the station's newscasts.

During that time, Hannemann said, he didn't notice any favorable coverage of Yoshimura by the station. "They've been pretty fair and objective."

Still, Hannemann said, "it's going to put Jon under a microscope whenever KHON is doing a story that involves him."

Tom Brislin, journalism department chairman at the University of Hawaii-Manoa, said sees no conflict with Yoshimura's new job so long as there is a "fire wall" between his job and news operations.

It's a fine line, Brislin said, that both Channel 2's news staff and Yoshimura need to walk.

While Yoshimura should not be allowed to affect news coverage, KHON reporters should not expect information from him that is unavailable to journalists from other media, Brislin said.

Christine Wilson, Hawaii chapter president of the Society of Professional Journalists, said she doesn't see a real conflict of interest between Yoshimura's two jobs.

"But you have got to think that would create some awkwardness for the reporting staff to have a sitting Council member as a co-worker," Wilson said.

Yoshimura said he has a clear understanding that he won't be allowed in the newsroom.

He won't be giving the news department insider information, nor does he expect favorable coverage, he said.

"People there may be my friends, but they have a job to do," he said, adding that he also has friends in the media outside Channel 2.

"As a public official, it would be ridiculous for me to give (KHON reporters) special treatment," Yoshimura said.

Kent Baker, Channel 2 general manager, also denied any favoritism, noting Yoshimura's past association with his station.

"If we were going to be beneficiaries of leaks by Jon Yoshimura, I think we would have already been beneficiaries," Baker said.

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