Trailblazing journalist fought for openness
AH JOOK Leong Ku
Ah Jook Ku, an indefatigable champion of a free press and public access to information, has died at age 97.
was an individual whose unflagging devotion to a fair and free press never diminished, a tireless advocate for First Amendment rights and citizens' access to information.
She was a woman of a generation in which gender stood in the way of careers outside the norm, in which a Chinese heritage blocked many from achievement.
So it was no easy feat that she was the first Asian-American woman to become a reporter for the Associated Press wire service, covering China and President Chiang Kai-Shek in the 1940s, and the first to be hired by the Star-Bulletin.
The jobs were the foundation for her later work in public relations and later as an information specialist for the state Department of Education, retiring in 1975.
She found a second calling as a founding member of the Honolulu Community Media Council, formed after Mayor Frank Fasi, displeased with newspaper coverage, refused to allow first the Star-Bulletin, then the Honolulu Advertiser to attend his press conferences.
For 25 years, she took on the unpaid position of leading the council, pushing politicians and government officials on open meetings and media organizations on fairness and ethics.
For people at the Star-Bulletin, Ah Jook Ku holds a special place. She was one of the original members of Save Our Star-Bulletin, a group of community leaders who sued to keep this newspaper operating after its former owner tried to shut it down.
She died Monday at age 97. She will be greatly missed.
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