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StarBulletin.com

Kauai-born journalist covered globe


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POSTED: Monday, April 05, 2010

Ken Kashiwahara covered the fall of Saigon for the ABC network 35 years ago and calls it “;my most memorable story.”;

Hilary Brown and Kashiwahara were the last two news correspondents in the region. As Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese, Americans and Vietnamese were fleeing the country. Kashiwahara witnessed a baby crushed by the wheels of a bus in the panic that ensued.

“;That typifies the chaos, fear and anarchy of the last day,”; he said. “;You were seeing a country fall apart and collapse.”;

Like Connie Chung, Kashiwahara was among the first Asian-American broadcast journalists to appear on national television. An Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist, Kashiwahara spent 25 years as an ABC correspondent, covering some of the biggest national and international news events, after getting his start in Hawaii.

Kashiwahara was born in Waimea, Kauai, and moved to Okinawa with his family at age 10. The family later moved to Pennsylvania, then Maryland, where he graduated from high school.

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In 1960, Kashiwahara returned to Hawaii and enrolled as a premed student at the University of Hawaii. He soon became fascinated by the medium of television and decided to switch degrees, transferring to San Francisco State College where he earned his broadcast degree. A five-year stint as a public information officer in the Air Force followed. While on R&R in Hawaii, he noticed the lack of Asian-Americans on local news stations and considered it odd in light of the isles' Asian demographic.

After leaving the military, he returned to Honolulu and in May 1969 was hired by KHVH radio. Within six months he was put on television, co-anchoring the KHVH (now KITV) news with Chuck Henry and Al Michaels. He credits KHVH TV/radio owner Bob Berger with giving him his break. His contemporaries at KHVH were Jim Manke, Don Rockwell, Linda Coble, Tom McWilliams, Doug Bruckner, Bart Fredo and Byron Baker.

In addition to anchoring the news, he also was a political correspondent at the state Capitol. “;Byron Baker really took me by the hand and showed me the ropes about Hawaii politics,”; Kashiwahara said.

IN 1971 he left KHVH news and joined Bob Sevey at KGMB, where he covered politics for the station and co-anchored the 10 o'clock news with Tim Tindall and a young sports anchor named Joe Moore.

Late in 1972, Kashiwahara was hired at KABC News in Los Angeles, where he and Chuck Henry co-anchored the weekend news. Kashiwahara covered major news events in Southern California, including the Symbionese Liberation Army shootout involving kidnapped heiress Patty Hearst, and Richard Nixon's post-presidential exile in San Clemente, but he had higher aspirations.

“;The goal was to get to the network,”; he said. That goal was achieved in 1974 when he was hired at the ABC News Bureau in Los Angeles. Soon afterward he was sent to Vietnam.

“;It was a very good experience for me,”; he said.

Kashiwahara went on to cover the civil war in Beirut, Lebanon, and in 1978 was sent to the Philippines to cover the interim assembly elections. While in the Philippines he met his wife, Lupita Aquino.

In 1978, Kashiwahara opened the ABC News Bureau in San Francisco and became its bureau chief. During his years there, major news events included the assassinations of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and city Supervisor Harvey Milk, the White Night Riots, Bay Area resident Jim Jones and his death cult, and the 1989 earthquake that left 63 dead and many more injured and homeless.

Kashiwahara was in New York City when the quake hit, but quickly returned home to discuss the impact of the quake on national television with ABC colleague Peter Jennings.

Kashiwahara retired in 1988 and the San Francisco Bureau closed. By then, “;news had become a business,”; he said.

Kashiwahara still lives in the Bay Area. He's enjoying playing golf, traveling, spending time with his children and grandchildren, and performing charity work.

“;I just finished anchoring a telethon for Kimochi, a wonderful nonprofit in (San Francisco's) Japantown,”; he said.

He returns to Hawaii at least once a year, most recently to answer questions for documentary filmmaker Tom Coffman's new movie, “;Ninoy Aquino & the Rise of People Power,”; about Philippine senator Benigno Aquino, Kashiwahara's brother-in-law, who was imprisoned by Ferdinand Marcos, exiled and assassinated upon his return to the Philippines.

A.J. McWhorter is a collector of film and videotape cataloging Hawaii's TV history. His column runs on the first Monday of each month. E-mail him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).