A Sad End To Proud KGMB Tradition
Wednesday - August 26, 2009
KGMB joining with KHNL and K5 ... it sounded like a joke at first.
And not a very good one. But it’s no joke. The head honchos were very careful to explain that this is not a merger, per se, because the stations will retain their separate ownerships.
They have to, in order to abide by the rules. The Federal Communications Commission states that one company cannot own more than one television station in a single local market.
This new arrangement may stick (just barely) to the letter of the law, but in my very humble opinion it clearly violates its spirit and intent.
Each station will continue to broadcast its national network content - KGMB will air CBS programs and KHNL will still be NBC. But they will meld their newsrooms to create one huge news operation.
So much for competition and diversity of voices in the community.
And if you listen closely, you can hear it: the final gasping breaths of an icon. KGMB (thanks to the visionary guidance of Cec Heftel) was the station that first brought us television news way, way back in the dawn of the broadcast era.
KGMB News was always more than call letters on a screen to the people of Hawaii. It was a trusted part of our lives. One of the good things. Soon, for all intents and purposes, it will be gone.
I know from talking to friends who are still there that most are in shock, fearful and distracted. So many questions! Who will stay and who will go? Will there be pay cuts? How much more work will the (already overworked) survivors be expected to do? How will the quality of the product be affected? And maybe the most unsettling question of all, who will they be? I see a mass identity crisis in the making.
It was simpler before. I knew exactly who I was - a member of the KGMB family, both immediate and extended. I was part of a tradition and proud of it. But that soon will be gone, along with the most visible symbol of that tradition, the old and tarnished building I used to call my second home.
To think I used to hate it.
That plain, squat landmark on Kapiolani Boulevard, crowned with satellite dishes and nestled in a parking lot that turned into a lake whenever it rained, had in my mind outlived its usefulness. It deserved to go away.
Instead of appreciating the history imbedded in its thick concrete walls, I began to take it for granted, and then to grow tired of it.
Finally, I was embarrassed by it, like one would be of an obnoxious elderly relative you didn’t want to introduce to your friends.
During the last few weeks of my time at KGMB, I would walk down its warren-like corridors and pick it apart in my mind. I hated the dirty feet smell. I despised the walls, painted a shade of blue that had once been irritatingly vibrant and had faded into something less bright, but no less annoying. Like all ancient, decrepit things, this geezer wore a patina of dust that settled like fine talc on desks and louvers and ledges and seeped into every one of its wrinkly cracks.
And to top it off, every time it rained the water would somehow find all the holes in that sieve we called a roof and leak like crazy onto already moldy carpets. We used buckets. Plenty of buckets. The building was old. It was ugly. I yearned for something shiny and pretty and new.
Well, what Mom always said is true: Be careful what you wish for.
Because now I’m sorry. I wish I could take it back.
Now the old building is going to go away, for real and forever, and with it will go the very soul of KGMB. What once was celebrated as “One of the good things about Hawaii” will no longer be.
Those who survive in the new entity will continue to provide the best news they can under drastically different circumstances. I know they will rise to the challenges because there are smart, hardworking people at all three stations.
And yet we all know things will never be the same.
Another little piece of our hearts is being chipped away.
Another part of our history gone forever.
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