John Griffin / 1927-2007
Isle newsman valued fair coverage
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John Griffin, an award-winning Honolulu journalist known for his Asia-Pacific acumen, died Sunday. He was 80.
Griffin was the editorial page editor of the Honolulu Advertiser for 28 years before retiring in 1993.
After graduating from the University of Hawaii in 1952, Griffin worked for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin as a reporter. He then attended the University of Bristol in England, before becoming a foreign correspondent for the Associated Press, writing from Vietnam, Singapore, Laos and Manila.
Lou Cannon, the Washington Post correspondent, recalled his close friend as an "interpreter of Hawaii," not just a reporter.
"He practiced the journalistic virtue of fairness in both his professional and personal life," Cannon said.
Born in Rochester, N.Y., in 1927, Griffin quit high school in 1944 to join the Navy.
In the closing days of World War II, the Navy brought Griffin to Hawaii as crewman on a bomber. Before leaving the service in 1948, Griffin was the radio-radar operator in a squadron on Guam and the Philippines that flew into typhoons.
He went to school in Florida and Ohio after the war but returned to Hawaii to complete a degree in English.
Kevin Griffin, a high school English teacher in California, said his father's "understated way of telling a story set an example for all of us," adding, "He infected us with the spirit of adventure and also taught us that having a glass of wine with his family in the afternoon is the best part of life.
"He traveled through Asia and Africa and the Pacific. There was a combination about my father of showing us what was possible and to be balanced and fair, to make sure everyone has a fair shake," he said.
"What a great gift I got."
Griffin also wrote five novels, including "Halfway to Asia" and "Web of Islands," which traced the history of Hawaii from a U.S. territory to a modern state.
As the Advertiser's editorial page editor, Griffin stressed the importance of Hawaii in the Pacific, as well as the vital relationships that Hawaii had with the rest of the United States and Asia and the Pacific.
He wrote about many of the important events in Hawaii after statehood and continued to write about the Pacific and Asia as a columnist for the Advertiser following his retirement.
Griffin was a strong supporter of both the University of Hawaii and the Honolulu Media Council.
"John had an intense interest in the culture, people and politics of Hawaii, but he viewed it with a critical detachment," said Cannon, who first met him in 1977. "He was pro-Hawaii, but he saw Hawaii's faults as well as its virtues."
Griffin was the recipient of several national and local journalism awards. He traveled the Pacific islands for a year on an Alicia Patterson Fellowship and also was an adjunct journalism professor at the University of Hawaii.
In 1963, Griffin left journalism for a year to join the Peace Corps as a program evaluator, working in Asia, Africa and the Pacific islands.
He is survived by wife Susan Yim, former managing editor for features for the Advertiser and a former Star-Bulletin reporter and features editor; sons Jon and Kevin; daughter Maile; three grandchildren; two step-grandchildren; and former wife Helen Kim Griffin.
Services will be private.