Reporting on the natural environment
of Hawai‘i means recognizing that there are not two sides
to every story, but many, said Jan Tenbruggencate, the Honolulu
Advertiser’s environment reporter.
It’s hard to say what angle a story will take until you
sift through all of the information, maybe from a human standpoint
or maybe to speak for the environment,”said Tenbruggencate.
On Nov.16 he spoke to about 20 HPU students,
most of whom were from the COM 3804, Environmental Communication.
The class project is a creation of a
Web site focusing on an HPU marine sciences project to track
global warming via ocean
measurements. The aim of Tenbruggencate’s visit was
to offer the Environmental Communication students a journalist’s
perspective. The E-Com class focuses on the many perspectives
that come into play when communicating about environmental
in the E-Com class concluded that they preferred to take a
journalistic approach to the Web site, which will aim to offer
credible sources, attributed information, and links to their
sources. This will allow their visitors to the site to
check the accuracy of the work being done as well as learn
more about specific environmental topics related to global
Tenbruggencate offered the students some advice about
approach to environmental coverage. “In order to understand
the scientist you interview,” he said, reporters should
take introductory courses in biology and chemistry because
these will provide enough science background to understand
jargon. He also recommended that reporters tell the scientist
to explain the information they have as if the reporter knows
nothing about the subject. This is usually the case.
Tenruggencate’s path to becoming an environment reporter
was anything but direct. After graduating from high school
on Moloka‘i, he moved to ‘Oahu to attend the University
of Hawai‘i at Manoa. He slipped through 11 different
majors before declaring journalism as his concentration. Readers
grateful for his decision.
If you are bored easily and want change, then journalism is
for you,” said the award-winning reporter.
Tenbruggencate advised all journalists that it is important
for reporters to tell both sides of the story. It is critical
reporters keep their integrity and objectivity; if they lose
it why should people listen to them? Hawai‘i is a close,
tight-knit community, and people talk. Many of them are leery
of reporters because they have ill-treated their sources for
the sake of a story or been careless about the accuracy of
what they report. Tenbruggencate stressed that it is critical
stories to accurately attribute sources or risk losing them.
Although his primary responsibility is news of Kaua‘i,
Tenbruggencate does not limit his newsgathering to any specific
island. In fact, his newspaper column is embraced by the people
of Hawai‘i for accurately reporting specific island issues.
He is well known for localizing stories. For example he said “the
initial result of global warming was observed by the scientist
of Mauna Kea.”
Tenbruggencate is knowledgeable about the issues that affect
Hawai‘i and has been friends with many of those he interviews
for stories. Nainoa Thompson and the Hokule‘a is a good
example. Invited by Thompson to sail on the Hokule'a as a reporter
and crewmember, Tenbrug-gencate jumped at the chance knowing
visitors are seldom allowed. The experience made him appreciate
the crew and allowed him to report on the coral issues of the
North- western Hawaiian Islands. To Tenbruggencate, this was
the highlight of his career. Today, Thompson and Tenbruggencate
remain good friends.
He encouraged the E-Com students to search for stories about
things that the public needs to be aware of that will affect
them. Invasive species, for example are a threat to Hawai‘i’s
agriculture. Overfishing is making seafood more expensive and
wasting unsold fish. Pollution-—such as the three tons
of netting in Kane‘ohe Bay—is destroying the islands’ coral