After KHON exodus -- where are they now?
IT HAS BEEN six months since eight of nine managers resigned from KHON-TV
with no jobs to go to, rather than work for the station's new ownership.
Indiana-based Emmis Communications Corp. had sold KHON to California-based Montecito Broadcast Group LLC and affiliates of the Blackstone Group, a private equity firm.
All said they could not stay, given the new owners' vision and plans to lay off dozens of people. KHON has since laid off fewer than 20 people, said Joe McNamara, president and general manager.
The tightly knit group of eight have all since landed on their feet.
Sharon Billingsley, one of two former local sales managers, is the special projects coordinator for the sales department at KHNL and KFVE-TV.
"KHNL and KFVE is very good. There's so much upside ... and good people," she said.
She worked with "a special collection of people," at KHON. "It was a great gig, but then they blew up our boat and so you have to find something else to do."
Former Marketing Director Linda Brock has been "having conversations" toward something permanent, she said. In the meantime, she is consulting on projects for the new for-profit arm of Searider Productions in Waianae, with TV producer Emme Tomimbang and with KIKU-TV.
Former KHON Controller Carrie Castle took a similar position at Clear Channel Communications Inc.'s Hawaii radio stations, but next month she will report to a new job as controller at KGMB-TV.
An agreement between Emmis and Montecito prohibited Rick Blangiardi, senior vice president and general manager of KGMB, from hiring any of his former KHON senior managers, but he received approval for Castle's re-employment.
Katherine Bustillos, who had retired from the KHON accounting office after some 30 years, had served as an interim business manager much longer than the estimated two to three months it took to find a controller.
"After a number of months, we concluded that we couldn't find the right candidate with the right kind of knowledge and skill sets that would fit our need."
Castle was interested in the position, "so I went back to the company ... ran it up the flagpole ... and after a lot of discussion with all the entities within Emmis, (was told) that they would approve my hiring Carrie," Blangiardi said.
Stuart Chang, also a former local sales manager, also found two full-time positions since leaving KHON. He took a job as corporate sales director for the University of Hawaii athletic department in April, but left that job last month to become general sales manager at KCCN-FM 100.3.
He was glad to be part of UH athletics and says it was unfortunate that his time there was short, "but this opportunity ... arose and it feels good. It is a very good organization."
Looking back six months, Chang has "no regrets." "It was a sad thing for all of us to experience, but it's good to know everyone has gone on."
Former News Director Ron Comings secured the same position at KLAS-TV in Las Vegas.
"It's nice to be in Las Vegas because I get to see so many people I met in Honolulu!" he said. Hawaii ex-pats see his license plate and ask him where he graduated, he laughed.
Comings left KHON because he could not support newsroom layoffs or the automation system Montecito would bring in.
Automation equipment now runs the newscasts, and glitches along the way have been a source of frustration for anchor Joe Moore, whose reaction one night was posted on YouTube.com.
"He's famous on the mainland. Everybody I know in this business has seen it," Comings said. "Everyone I know in this business hates the Ignite (automation) system ... and the news professionals certainly know what he's dealing with."
McNamara, KHON president, says glitches are common when switching technology, just as when TV stations transitioned from film to video. "I don't know anybody that puts new equipment in that doesn't have growing pains on the equipment side and the personnel side," he said.
Jared Kuroiwa, former information technology manager, is the IT manager for the University of Hawaii School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene. It is a state job "with nice holidays," Kuroiwa chuckled. There are no holidays in the news business.
Former General Sales Manager Cheryl Oncea will start a job Aug. 21 as advertising director for Pacific Business News.
"I am very excited to be part of such a classy organization," she said, and is "looking forward to being back in the fray."
The general sales manager who succeeded Oncea, former KHON General Manager Bill Spellman, has relocated to the mainland as a Montecito consultant, McNamara said. Longtime KHON advertising sales executive Susii Hearst replaced him.
Jay Park, former KHON production manager, is the promotion director for the Oahu radio stations of Maui-based Visionary Related Entertainment LLC. Radio is "a lot faster-paced," he said.
He's working with "wild guys" and loves it, he said, preparing for a pajama party promotion at Pipeline Cafe last Friday.
Blangiardi, a former football coach who built the team of eight, has kept tabs on his former managers. "Suffice it to say I care greatly about each and every one of them and have been ... praying that everybody not only lands solid jobs, but that they would be happy and fulfilled."
is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4747, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org