TV reporter retains fond memories of working in isles


POSTED: Monday, March 02, 2009

Janet Zappala's first visit to the islands began as many do, with a vacation. That visit launched a television news career that took her to two of the nation's biggest television markets: Los Angeles and Philadelphia. She has earned television news Emmy Awards and Associated Press awards for her reporting.

It all began in the late 1970s when Zappala, visiting from California, dropped off a tape at KITV, then located on Ala Moana Boulevard. Within two weeks she was hired by News Director Stewart Chiefet.

Zappala had been working at a small station in Bakersfield, Calif., but knew that in order to move up in the business, she had to leave. “;Stewart gave me the opportunity,”; she said. “;I learned how to identify a good news story, how to gather information into a cohesive story that makes sense. I was like a sponge.”;

Soon she was at the anchor desk, working with Don Rockwell. “;She was always an absolute delight, constantly upbeat and positive,”; said Rockwell.

For the next couple of years, Zappala worked with KITV's Matt Levi, Paul Guanzon, Emme Tomimbang, Susan Hutchison and Jean Motoyama.

“;I have great memories in Hawaii. I remember the friendliness of the people. I met so many interesting people,”; she said.

As with all television journalists new to Hawaii, learning the local dialect and Hawaiian language was a challenge that had to be met. “;They were really patient with me,”; Zappala recalls, noting the rewards when she succeeded: “;I remember getting a standing ovation after a newscast.”;

In 1979, Zappala moved to KFMB in San Diego, as weekend anchor and reporter and to work on a local “;PM Magazine”; show. In 1982 she headed to KCNC in Denver, where she worked with former KHON and KITV newsman Dalton Tanonaka. Then came a return to her hometown of Los Angeles, working at KTTV and KABC, as well as freelancing for the E and Encore cable networks.

Over the years she has interviewed celebrities Patrick Swayze, Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, Jane Seymour, David Spade, Billy Baldwin and Mike Wallace as well as Presidents Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

She also appeared in movies: “;12 Monkeys,”; “;Hard to Kill”; and “;Dangerous Touch.”;

In the early '90s, Zappala moved east to Philadelphia, where she has worked for WCAU and WTXF's “;Good Day”; morning show. She now works for CN8, a Comcast network that reaches an estimated 10 million viewers in a 12-state radius.

She handles consumer issues, health topics, product safety and money-saving ideas for the show “;Art Fennell Reports”; and has a nightly segment, “;All About You.”; “;It's about what affects you, the consumer,”; she said. “;I love it. You're helping them with information and giving them news they can use.”;

She loves the Philadelphia area. “;It's a beautiful city, a comfortable place to live, with great landmarks, historical places. The people here are terrific and treat me beautifully.”; She plays tennis, loves boating and is learning ballroom dancing, and she is a certified nutritional consultant with a master's degree from nearby Villanova University.

But she still has a soft spot for the place that launched her career. “;I love Hawaii—the weather, ocean, food, the beauty of the islands and its people. It really is paradise. I don't think I have ever been to a better place. I'm due for a trip back.”;