Erika Engle

Some firing, some
hiring, but passion
universally required

Honolulu's commercial television stations are hiring while nonprofit competitor PBS Hawaii has announced cuts.

Most jobs replace departed staff, as employment in Hawaii's media industry operates like musical chairs. Some openings represent expansions of staff, but television employment is not a growth area, said John Fink, vice president and general manager of KHNL/KFVE-TV. Their Web site lists four jobs, though two have been filled, leaving one in sales and one in engineering/production.

KITV's lone posted vacancy belies the size of the shoes the station hopes to fill. The news department has an opening for a photographer to replace "one of the best photographers in the world."

President and General Manager Mike Rosenberg identified him as Rex Von Arnswaldt, who with partners purchased a restaurant in British Columbia.

KITV has reduced staff over the years to about 100 from 112 through what he called "the reasonably sick market in the past 10 years." Most of the cuts have come through attrition, he said.

The Indiana-based Emmis Communications Corp. Web site lists 14 positions at KHON-TV and KGMB-TV, although at least two have been filled since the site's last update.

The news assignment desk assistant and writer-producer-director positions at KGMB are filled. The open slots are in news, production, engineering and sales. The gigs at KHON are in engineering and production.

"I think (the number of vacancies) speaks to the fact that despite what some people have said about changes we've introduced, this is about performance and trying to get the very best people we can possibly find to work at our television stations, in an effort to improve the quality of television here in Hawaii," said Rick Blangiardi, senior vice president for Emmis in Hawaii.

One opening at KHNL represents expansion of its sales department from nine positions a year ago to 11, according to Fink.

"There's been an upswing in the number of sales people because everybody's looking for new revenue development."

On the sales side, at least, it's easier to tell who's carrying their own weight, Fink said.

"It's a little bit more difficult if you're adding in areas that don't generate revenue," namely news, engineering, traffic, production, administration, accounting and promotion, he said.

However, he said, "the right people throughout the station are all necessary for the station to meet its goals in terms of quality of product and quantity of revenue."

At Emmis' KHON and KGMB, a recent policy change requires a nine-hour workday for nonunion news department employees, with an hour off for lunch.

"That allows us to conduct morning meetings earlier to best prepare for the evening news," he said.

The station is taking a particularly hard look at management, Blangiardi said.

"I put a lot of burden on the managers at our TV stations because I fundamentally believe the men and women who work here deserve, and have every right to work for somebody they perceive to be a great boss. Someone who inspires and can mentor them at the same time," he said. "People don't leave jobs, they leave bosses. I remind the managers all the time how critical they are to our overall success."

Anyone aspiring to work in television should not view it merely as a job, said Fink.

"It's the same thing as the automotive business, or the educational field, you need to have a passion. It's hard to teach passion."

To excel once in the field is more of a challenge in Hawaii than in other markets where moving to the next big market can be inspirational, he said.

"I think people need to find their own motivation and get better because they want to," Fink said.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin.
Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle,
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210,
Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached


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