2 stations take real-time lead
KSSK radio and KITV become the primary sources for the latest news after the quakes
Soon after the earthquakes hit yesterday morning, "the coconut wireless" kicked into high gear at KSSK radio, getting out the news as quickly as possible to anxious local listeners.
At another building, KITV was using the Internet to stream its newscast on its Web site to a worldwide audience.
The key for such rapid response: backup generators.
Also, KSSK is the state's designated emergency action system radio station, connected to the state Civil Defense, and is expected to stay on the air.
Popular morning personalities Michael W. Perry and Larry Price took over the microphones around 9 a.m., relieving on-air personality Kathy Nakagawa and director of programming Paul Wilson, who broke into recorded public-service programming an hour earlier.
"When it's something of this magnitude, it's Perry-and-Price time," Nakagawa said.
With the help of their listener "posse," the familiar duo were the voices for the constantly flowing information, staying on the air for most of the day. Nakagawa and Wilson hung around to help. "It feels great to be here," Nakagawa said. "Those two are such a reassuring presence, just passing on the info to the public as we get it."
"Everyone's working well in crisis mode," Wilson said.
"And everyone on staff that was needed came in on their own," Nakagawa said.
"I'm planning to stay put till the power is restored," said Hawaii National Guard public relations officer Maj. Chuck Anthony, who was at the KSSK studios. "Coincidentally, the Guard is on drill weekend, with about 5,000 at the ready at duty stations and armories. We're just waiting to get damage assessment teams assembled."
Simulcasting on most of the other Clear Channel-owned stations, chief engineer Dale Machado, looking at all the activity around him, said "when something like this happens, it's back to basics. You dig out your transistor radio and turn it on for the news."
Regular morning newscaster Julia Norton-Dennis and assistant Gina Garcia were busily screening phone calls in the adjoining room to the on-air studio, occasionally typing up messages to send to Perry and Price for their immediate attention. Announcements about the cancellation and postponement of scheduled events and airline flights, the occasional emergency tip and the inevitable "will there be school tomorrow?" were all taken care of on air.
Gov. Linda Lingle called the station around 1 p.m. for her latest assessment of the disaster that struck especially close to her, having stayed at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel in Kohala the previous night.
JUST AS KSSK was able to stream its audio on its Web site, KITV was doing the same thing, albeit with the additional help of its news staff and technicians.
KHON and KGMB were unable to stream their newscasts, although they did broadcast newscasts and updates when power was available.
KHNL/KFVE Internet coordinator Mike Strong said that with the help of a fellow Raycom station in Tyler, Texas, they were able to update information on its Web site and had set up a Yahoo! address to have people send digital photos of quake damage and information.
Photos were also sent to KITV, which inserted some of them into the streaming newscast.
KITV General Manager Mike Rosenberg said that anchor Pamela Young started it off around 8:15 a.m. from the update desk, with Paula Akana and Shawn Ching joining later.
"Coincidentally, we were in the process of doing emergency continuity planning, in light of what happened to our sister Hearst-Argyle-owned station in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina," said Rosenberg. "We realized that even though we're not on the air, we could start streaming our newscast on the Internet."
CNN's pipeline premium subscriber service even picked up the KITV Webcast for further distribution on the Net.
Managing Editor Brent Suyama said that the station's site would easily approach 1 million hits yesterday. "I've already received dozens of e-mails from people everywhere thanking us for doing this. I even received one as far as South Africa from a man who wanted to check on his mom."