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
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
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
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
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.”