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by Monica Karlstein, staff writer

“I came to PR through a backdoor from journalism,” said Caalim, “and now I am on the other side of the fence.”

Caalim graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a bachelor’s degree in English, and went to work as an anchor at KUAM- TV/Radio on Guam. From there she moved to KHON-TV in Honolulu. Her rise to the top has not been easy, she said, and added that persistence was the key.

Caalim had a hard time finding her first job. She almost gave up after six month of hearing “no thank you” and receiving rejection letters. She started volunteering at Public Broadcasting Stations, which brought her into contact with many interesting people in both the community and the industry, and that helped her land her first job.

While working at KHON, she was offered a public relations job at Hilton Hotels. She saw it as an opportunity to try something new, after being in news for 10 years, and switched careers.

The best side of PR, she said, was travel: “to international destinations such as China, the Middle East, Australia, and Europe, [places] that I may otherwise not have had the opportunity to experience.”

Another good side is “developing friendships and business relationships,” she added.
Caalim said the keys to being successful in PR as well as journalism are being a good writer and being willing to take orders. Other important qualities are good communication and organization skills.

Even though she likes to work in PR, Caalim said she misses news because of its writing intensity and the diverse people one meets.

“ I like the feeling you get,” she said, “when you know you have a breaking story that your competitors do not have.” That, said Caalim, is what’s best with journalism.

“ I also like the rush of adrenalin when you’re at the scene of a major story to report, or when you’re on an immediate deadline to write a story that your producer or editor is pressing you to hurry up and finish.”

Caalim’s speech may have made some students reconsider their choice of major.

“ After her speech,” said Roanny Colón, a student from New York who now lives in Honolulu, “I went to Norma Kop, a communication academic advisor, to find out how similar the journalism and PR education is. I am now thinking about taking a minor in PR instead of only a major in journalism. It opens up so much more and it will benefit me to learn both PR and journalism.”

John Windrow, who teaches one of the JOUR 3000 sections at HPU, works as assignment editor at The Honolulu Advertiser. Windrow said it is a good idea to combine PR and journalism studies, especially today when the line between them is getting vaguer.

However, according to Kop, not many degree-seeking students actually double major. “It depends on the students’ goal,” said Kop, “in what area they want to work, and how much time they have for studies, whether it is necessary to combine subjects like that.” She speaks from experience, having worked in journalism, public relations, and marketing.

The major requirements for PR and journalism have some courses in common such as Introduction to Journalism, News Writing, and Graphic Design. Kop said that the unrestricted elective courses provide students’ the opportunity to broaden their degree studies at HPU.

“ These courses are outside of the general education or core category, as well as lower-and upper-division requirements for the major,” Kop said. She added that students should check with their academic advisor regarding using unrestricted electives to double major.

The question still remains, what program to choose? Kop and Caalim agree that students must make their own decision.

Caalim said: “Neither PR nor journalism is going to be easy, but whatever you do, never take things personally. Just keep struggling. It is when you follow your dreams that you become successful.”


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