Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

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What Makes a Good Blog?

January 8, 2009

Let me begin with I don’t have the answer. But, it’s something I’ve been pondering ever since we began our foray into the blogosphere.

What makes a good blog? Is it one that engages readers far and wide or one that draws like-minded people to a particular nexus? Does it inspire positive action or purely entertain? Is the sign of success tens of thousands of readers or a smaller number of active participants in an intriguing dialogue?

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These are the questions I posed to our little hui of native bloggers. Inevitably, our discussions led to more questions than answers such as, “Why are we doing this anyway?” Hubris aside that any of us could begin to portray the depth of Native Hawaiian thought, why indeed are we doing this and can we hope to be successful?

“I think we’ll be successful if we can get people to expand their ideas of who Hawaiians are,” shared contributor extraordinaire Ikaika Macy. “I’m proud to be one full on moke, but I’m also proud that I’m using the skills and education given to me by my ancestors (both Hawaiian and haole) to make a difference in my community.”

“That’s why I’m part of the hui,” continued fellow blogger Caroline Ka‘ahanui. “There are so many really impressive Hawaiians who need to start speaking up. And, if we can at least help to get conversations started, to me that’s success.”

Mulling over these discussions, it occurred to me to look at the blogs I read and ask why I follow them. What makes them successful for me?

kam-mastWhile I read a lot of blogs for work (like Mack Collier’s Viral Garden and Chris Brogan) and for news (e.g., The New York Times’ The Lede, and KCRW’s Left, Right and Center), I love reading about what makes Hawai‘i Hawai‘i (like Ryan Ozawa’s Hawai‘i Blog and Nathan Kam’s Kam Family). Note, Native Hawaiian bloggers, send us your links. We would love to hear what you’re saying.

melissaThere is one constant I noticed among these diverse blogs – each has a particular voice. If you’ve ever read Melissa Chang’s Urban Mix Plate or Amber Naslund’s Altitude Branding you know right away who wrote it. Like most of the bloggers I follow, their voices (and hence personalities) are clear and consistent.

So with only these few criteria for success, we humbly put it before you the readers, what makes a good blog? Share your thoughts, we’re eager to learn.

Mahalo

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Newspapers – A Boon or Bust

November 30, 2008

When I was little, my mother would gather me upon her knee to read the newspaper with her. Not just the comics, but the whole paper. Hard news, features, recipes, the entire thing.

I learned to read this way. But, more importantly, I learned to think. Many of the beliefs I hold today were formed then – discussing with my mother the meaning of the words we sounded out. As we read about the gas crisis, she explained why it was important to care for our resources and how our actions impact not only ourselves but those around us. She spelled out for me that we live on a small island, and therefore need to be even more considerate of our ‘āina so that it can continue to provide food, clean water and shelter. I am an environmentalist today because of discussions we had when I was five.

As I grew older I learned that our practice of using the newspaper as a learning tool is a family tradition, dating back five generations to a time when Hawai‘i was the most literate nation in the world.

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In the late 1800s nearly every Hawai‘i adult could read and write. And, they were encouraged to write down everything – stories, myths, blessings and curses, as well as news – and to send them to one of the myriad of Hawaiian language newspapers. These papers were literally the nation’s history.

It was during this heyday of people’s journalism that one of my kupuna began assembling his children to discuss news items. Understanding that the Hawaiian culture and nation were under attack, he used the newspapers to teach his keiki who they were as Hawaiians and how they fit in both the ancient and modern worlds.

Therefore, it is with pride that I carry on this tradition with my child. Just as my mother did before me, I gather my son on my lap and we pour over the day’s news. Recently, we discussed what it means to vote, how to decide which candidate to support, what election topics are important to us and why.

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Imagine my satisfaction as my son made his own decisions on significant issues. When he learned that his teacher and I stood on different sides of the Honolulu rail transit debate, he questioned each of us on why we believe as we do. Taking the gathered input, he made up his own mind.

I couldn’t be more proud. My seven year-old has shown that he will not be a mindless voter. Instead, he will seek out information and deliberate upon it before deciding what is right for him.

If only every voter would follow his example.

Yes, the newspaper has been a wonderful tool, introducing my child to the broader world. But, it has also had its drawbacks.

Now that my son knows how to read, we can no longer skip over unpleasant stories. This weekend’s paper detailing the horrors of Mumbai and the senseless holiday shopping deaths have left both of us with larger questions of life and death and of right and wrong.

I’ve tried to teach my son that people are not bad, but sometimes they do bad things. We can hate actions, but not each other. These distinctions are becoming much harder to preserve as he reads and learns more. And, I’m wondering if I’m doing him a disservice by introducing him to too much too soon.

While I am grateful to my mother and kupuna for giving me the gift of loving newspapers, will my son see this as a gift or a curse?

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Hau‘oli Lā Ho‘omaika‘i – Happy Thanksgiving

November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving is one of the occasions that has always given me pause. The thought of my horse knowing the way through the white and drifting snow sounds awesome. Every Hawai‘i kid would love to go careening through a snow covered landscape (or how about just seeing real snow for once). And, the annual turkey feast is not to be missed – of course with some obligatory island add-ons like fresh ahi and my mother’s Portagee sausage stuffing. I love spending this time with my family.

However, the pilgrim story is another matter. As a Hawaiian (native I mean versus hailing from the state), the celebration of one people’s survival at the expense of another seems rather disloyal.

Therefore, instead of donning doublet and breeches, I have chosen to pour my ambivalence into the greatest of American’s pastimes – television. Where else can the horrors of the human experience be served up so proudly with pratfalls and canned laughter?

face1So, with a nod to Sarah Vowell, author of the hilarious puritan exposé The Worthy Shipmates and voice of Violet Incredible, here are a few holiday memories to brighten the day.

Hau‘oli Lā Ho‘omaika‘i ia Kākou – Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

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Some of our favorite Thanksgiving episodes

Friends – Phoebe and Joey experiment with turkey

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving – ‘nuff said

WKRP in Cincinnati – Turkeys away

Happy Days – The first Thanksgiving

Roseanne – A family celebration

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To Tweet or Not To Tweet

November 21, 2008

A few months back, some friends and I were having an email conversation. As messages flew through cyberspace, someone asked “Why aren’t we using Twitter for this? After all, that’s what it’s for…”

I fully admit that I’ve been more than a little reluctant to join the throngs of mini-bloggers. I just couldn’t see the point. Does anyone really care what I’m doing right now? And, isn’t this just one more thing to track?

“What, you’re not on Twitter?”

“What’s wrong with you? Don’t you know all the cool kids tweet?”

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Well, I’ve never been one of the cool kids and I’ve always been slightly lazy. My email and IM accounts deliver messages just fine, thank you very much.

With the vehemence of their response, you would have thought that I kicked a dog. My friends were sure I was holding up my torch, ready to set fire to their virtual community. It’s as if I said, “I rebuke you Twitter in the name of the 19th century. I will not forsake my quill nor abandon my manual typewriter.”

Of course, their reactions made me dig my heels in further – or at least appear to. I don’t really have anything against Twitter or those who tweet. It was just fun to rile them up. Can’t you just talk with me? Have you entirely lost your ability to interact with people in the real world? How sad that you’ve become a virtual slave!

So, it’s with hat in hand, that I now admit that I have succumbed. Friends Melissa Chang and Nathan Kam played to my Pake side.

“Isn’t it your JOB to know what’s going on? To talk with people?”

“You can talk with an entire community of influential people at once. And, they’ll pass the word on to their friends, who will pass the word on to their friends. Isn’t this the definition of grassroots marketing?”

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With that, I stuck my toe into the Twitter waters.

As the Hawai‘i publicist for Cirque du Soleil, I was handed a challenge – how to get people talking about my show when the only thing on people’s mind at the time was the now historic presidential campaign.

Nathan, as always carrying the banner for social networking, said, “put it on Twitter.”

He cheerfully spread the word through his Twitterverse (I kid you not, there is an entire lexicon of Twitterese) that Cirque du Soleil’s Hawai‘i show was not to be missed. He even proposed (and got) a Twitter specific discount. While I was grateful for the help, I still watched from the shore as this virtual community began rallying around my show.

The final push came as Melissa and I had lunch – she sat there tweeting away. “So and so says you should do this… so and so says you should do that.” How could anyone withstand such an assault? I caved and opened my Twtitter account.

I must say I was pleasantly surprised. When Melissa introduced me to her Tweeps, many sent kind messages of welcome. It’s somehow reassuring to know that the niceties continue – even in cyberspace.

I still question if anyone really cares what I’m doing right now and if this is just another tool to which I’ll become addicted. But, it has been fun and informative – and it definitely did help my show.

I don’t think I’ll ever be as social as Melissa and Nathan. However, maybe with a little coaxing I’ll put down my quill. Just don’t ask me to give up my typewriter.

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Death knell for a newspaper?

November 12, 2008

As a long-time newspaper junkie, it was with a sense of dread that I heard of the latest round of buyouts at my local paper, The Honolulu Advertiser.

Not privy to Gannett’s (parent company of the Advertiser) business plans, from the outside their actions seem wholly incomprehensible. After a year that has included mass layoffs, Gannett has chosen to buyout many of the paper’s experienced journalists and editors to bring in employees from the mainland. Can it be that it’s cheaper to relocate employees who are used to higher salaries than are paid here in the islands?

It goes without saying that journalistic experience is imperative to the life of any paper. Knowing what questions to ask. Understanding how to weave the answers into compelling stories. Realizing that both inclusions and exclusions may lead to either greater understanding or increased confusion of issues. Yes, journalistic experience is essential.

However, with the forced retirements at the Advertiser and the shipping in of mainland Gannett employees, the paper is losing something just as valuable – local experience.

While every community revels in its own distinctiveness, Hawaii’s uniqueness is not just a part of hometown pride. Stemming from two centuries of Native Hawaiians, Polynesians, Japanese, Filipino, Chinese and various European groups coalescing to form a united culture, our values and language have evolved in a very specific island way.

By removing those who have not only known, but have been a part of this culture, the Advertiser is effectively positioning itself as the “outsider,” literally as the much maligned haole.

In a community that’s notoriously wary of outsiders, how will this new crop of reporters and editors be able to cover anything but in the most superficial way? Citizens will be polite and say what they think the reporter wants to hear. But, chances are they will not invite the reporter into their homes or behind closed doors. This is where the truth of our community lies. Not with the vocal minority who are longing to see their name in print.

Advertiser newcomers will have to cope with absent subtexts while dealing with a new language filled with words borrowed from a myriad of languages. Will they understand why a political initiative’s fate may lay with tūtū’s centuries old kuleana to mālama kekahi i kekahi? Why the fishing industry wants to know about one blalah hui pounding choke poke aku Ewa? Why it’s important to report which Hangwanji has the best grinds come Obon?

Without a sense of history, without a sense of culture, and without the ability to uncover local kaona, I fear the Advertiser’s usefulness as a paper for Hawai‘i has finally come to an end.

Try wait, bumbai da Star-Bulletin wen stay local.