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by Jennifer Ching, staff writer

Just after 9 a.m., March 27, I was killing time at Ala Moana before a meeting with KGMB 9 general assignment reporter Jim Mendoza. My cell phone rang, but my hands were full. The caller left a message. It was Mendoza, and he wanted me at the station “ASAP.”

I remember KGMB 9 photographer George Hurd saying, “Things happen fast.”
It’s been almost a year since that phone call came, but the story behind the call, the situation of Hawai‘i’s homeless, continues to be a major issue today. One of the latest projects affecting the homeless was a cleanup and renovation of the Nani Kai section of Ulehawa Beach and nearby Surfers Beach in Nanakuli from Feb. 10 to Feb. 15, according to the Honolulu Advertiser.

The city announced the cleanup on Dec. 26, giving the homeless about 45 days to leave the beach. This cleanup was modeled after the March cleanup of Ma‘ili Beach Park which Mendoza covered.
Mendoza, born and raised on O‘ahu, is “an Emmy Award-winning journalist who has garnered recognition for outstanding reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists,” according to the KGMB 9 Web site. He graduated from the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa with a degree in broadcast journalism and started his career in radio in 1977. He’s been at KGMB 9 since 1999 and has worked as a reporter and anchor for news and sports.

Mendoza is one of the dayside reporters; he covers stories that happen during the day and are usually featured on the 5 and 6 p.m. newscasts and sometimes shown again at 10 p.m.
Today he is covering a breaking news story at Ma‘ili Beach Park: a small standoff happening between a homeless woman and the authorities.

As we drove, we talked about the story we were chasing and about what it’s like to be a journalist.
“ Fast and furious, isn’t it?” he said with a chuckle. “This is good for you, though: you know, this is what the job is, some of the time.

“ You can’t control everything in this line of work. It would be nice if it was all laid out in front of you…like paint-by-the-numbers, and you just followed 1-2-3, and then bam, you get your story. But it’s not like that. Things come out of order, things sometimes have no order, and you have to figure it out as you go along. And this is one of those days.”

As we continued toward the beach, we talked about a topic that would become a theme throughout the day: make your story understandable and keep it simple.

“ Be it in print, be it on television, radio news: you have to make a story understandable,” he explained. “If you don’t understand a story, then you can’t explain it to the viewer, or the listener, or the reader. You have to understand it yourself. So what we’re doing now is we’re going to go to school. When we get out to Ma‘ili…we’re going to learn about this thing, and learn enough about it today to tell a story.

“ So, number one thing is you have to be able to explain a story simply to the viewer. If you do nothing else, if you learn nothing else today, that is the main thing. Keep it simple.”
One of the many pieces of advice he gave me was “Remember who your audience is.”

“ So often,” he continued, “we as reporters lose sight of who the audience is. We think the audience is maybe our peers, maybe our bosses…ourselves, sometimes. And that’s not true. The audience are the folks who are sitting there, trying to get something worthwhile out of a story; you’re trying to get that to them. So the art is in the telling…the pictures, the sound, the voice, or voices.”

We arrived at Ma‘ili Beach Park at around 10:15 a.m. to find that the minor standoff was over. We had missed it, but photographer George Hurd, who had been at the beach since early morning, captured it all on tape. Hurd had replaced KGMB’s overnight photographer John Yasunaga; both had gotten footage that Mendoza could use in his story.

Hurd and Mendoza decided to find out where the homeless had gone; they began at the beach by interviewing Teresa DeParalta, one of the homeless who was moving out to live with relatives. About two dozen homeless people moved to the new Waianae Homeless Shelter, where Mendoza and Hurd interviewed shelter coordinator Darryl Vincent.

Just after noon, we returned to the news station where Mendoza reviewed the footage and chose bits for his story.

He wrote his script over a lunch of cold pizza, and by mid-afternoon had completed a short version of the story for the 5 p.m. newscast and the full version for the 6 p.m. newscast. His script included a studio lead into the story, transitions and a wrap, or tag, at the end. Hurd edited the footage to create the tape of the story while Mendoza wrote a version for the KGMB Web site.

A few minutes before 5 p.m., Mendoza walked onto the set where the newscast would be filmed. News anchor Kim Gennaula introduced the story and Mendoza reported the short version of it in 53 seconds. A few minutes before the 6 p.m. newscast, he returned to the set–his story was the lead story for the 6. What follows was an impressive combination of video footage and live reporting on the set, all in one minute and 53 seconds.

His reporting done, Mendoza left the set and prepared to leave; for him, the day is over after the 6 p.m. newscast. The station would replay the tape of his story on the 10 p.m. newscast. Before we both left the station, we talked more about journalism.

“ There is no typical day, because some days you’re working with news or a story that is pre-planned, and other days you’re working with a story that is breaking, like today. That’s just the way it is. That’s one of the things that’s great about this job: no two days are alike.

“ Journalism is storytelling,” he continued. “It all comes back to storytelling. It’s like taking pieces of a puzzle and trying to figure out what the puzzle is. You’re getting a piece here, a piece there. They’re all random pieces, and you don’t know what the picture is until you put them together.”



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