Small Talk

Aloha, KHNL

October 23rd, 2009

I still remember my first day at KHNL in March 1996. I was young and impressionable, not far out of college, and eager to make a name for myself. I was excited to be working in my hometown. Every day at work was like a party!

My first assignment was to cover a Hawaiian sovereignty rally at the state capitol. I had to brush up on a quick primer on the issue. I think they threw me on that story because I graduated from Kamehameha and they assumed I knew about all things Hawaiian!

Over the years, I've seen a lot, done even more, and have had the honor of delivering Hawaii's news to peoples' living rooms every night. It's been a wild ride. Thank you, Hawaii, for accepting me as part of the community. I'm lucky and grateful. I've grown, and grown up, at KHNL.

Nicole Scherzinger, Pussycat Dolls lead singer

Nicole Scherzinger, Pussycat Dolls lead singer

Actress Joan Chen with me and my parents

Actress Joan Chen with me and my parents

I've met a prince (Andrew) and many politicians, covered several presidents (Clinton, Bush, Obama), ridden all kinds of aircraft (military cargo planes, an aerobatic helicopter, but aww- never a jet), and swam under the sea (a lot). I've met a fair share of celebrities and criminals, musicians and muckrakers.

Affordable Casket story

Affordable Casket story

Air Force One

Air Force One- me and Akita

Oh, the memories! There was the time I stalked Ben Affleck in Lanikai when he was here filming Pearl Harbor. I kept walking the loop over and over, hoping to see him driving in. The moment he did, I was unprepared, so he zipped by with Gwyneth Paltrow in his silver Jaguar. If only I hurled myself in front of his convertible so he'd have to stop and give me mouth-to-mouth!

Elections: Jai Cunningham, Jodi Leong, me, Jim Mendoza

Elections: Jai Cunningham, Jodi Leong, me, Jim Mendoza

I've done lots of breaking news, but the most intense was the 1996 triple murder-suicide in Mililani that kept me on scene for 16 hours straight. This taught me to carry food at all times.

I was the reporter in a minor run-in with starlet Hayden Panettierre at the Royal Hawaiian. She was unprofessional and unpleasant, I'm disappointed to say, because I had previously admired her. What was shocking to me is how quickly the worldwide media picked up the story.

The networks were all calling KHNL's newsroom the next day. My boss didn't want to get into a gossip war, so he wouldn't return the calls. I am forever the anonymous female reporter in this story.

My best memory, though, is of meeting my husband through work. I was driving back to the station with photographer Dell Ison when we passed the newly opened Affordable Casket in the Nimitz strip mall. It was right next to Sensually Yours. We died laughing.

Dell suggested I do a tongue-in-cheek story, a la Jeannie Moos of CNN. I did, and Claus asked me out afterward. Meeting Claus has been the best thing to happen to me. He is the perfect husband.

I've reported from a number of overseas destinations, covering the Indian Ocean tsunami while embedded with a Navy unit in Thailand; previewing the Hong Kong handover; finding Hawaii ties in Vancouver, BC; watching doctors treat mudslide victims in the Philippines; seeing Japanese-American internment camp survivors graduate from the University of Seattle; and filing travelogues from Japan, Manila, and Denmark.


While I love the access and adventure that newscasting gave me, what I'll miss most is the people. Not just the stars, but the everyman as well. I've met such wonderful folks on this job, some of whom I've maintained friendships with over the years. That includes both people I work with, and people I've interviewed.

It's such a privilege to be allowed to step into someone's life, ask them all kinds of personal questions, and have them simply... answer! I've experienced a lot of "day in the life of" moments where I've gotten to peek into someone else's reality. When I go home, I always appreciate mine. My line of work suits me.


Or, it did until recently, when I was let go from the only career I've ever known. When the merger was announced, I knew in my heart I would either get laid off, or demoted to a reporter. I am not undervaluing myself. I'm just savvy and realistic. I'm damned good talent, but TV news is not a meritocracy. There were many factors and forces at work, and I glimpsed enough to realize my fate.

It's OK. I was never sad about the layoff. I wanted to be a lifer, but my life hasn't followed the course I planned back in college. For personal reasons, I was contemplating quitting in six more months, anyway, when the revamped morning show turned a year old in April 2010. Dan Schmidt put me on the show, and to respect him, I didn't want to walk away too early.

And to be honest, I enjoyed every single day of it. The show was fun. It invigorated me. I never walked into work not wanting to be there.

Dash's last show- Oct 21, 2009 Weds

Dash's last show- Oct 21, 2009 Weds

I want to be a full-time mother until Olivia goes to school. My whole philosophy on... anything, really, is to give it my all. I didn't want to bear a child only to pawn her off on babysitters all day. I want to enjoy her.

Working a graveyard schedule was extremely hard for me. I get up at 3:30 am, and because it's not a natural biorhythm, I get tired faster. Sometimes by noon, I'd fade. When you have a two-year-old, you can't sleep when you want. There would be some very tired days. I liken it to watching Olivia through a glass window - I see her but there isn't a lot of interaction.

I figured out my body works best if I go to sleep at 6:30 p.m. I ended up missing out a lot of personal time with Claus, and on lots of social events. I had to quit evening jujitsu. I maintained this schedule on weekends for consistency. Boring.

Last morning show- Oct 23, 2009 Fri

Last morning show- Oct 23, 2009 Fri

I like this line of work so much, I probably wouldn't have left unless kicked out. Despite the constant struggle for balance and the incredible amount of discipline this weird schedule requires, I love the news business. Therefore, I see it as a gift from the Universe that the decision was made for me to leave. I might have otherwise dickered.

It's time for me to broaden my horizons! And get some sleep.

[youtube OMOuBVWQLn8]

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P.S. YES I will keep blogging here. This blog has nothing to do with my job at KHNL. I picked it up because I like to write. Keep in touch with me here!

28 Responses to “Aloha, KHNL”

  1. maxcat:

    You ended this chapter with class. Well done.

  2. hemajang:

    Aloha, but your talents will appear again soon. Meanwhile have fun and enjoy your daughter's early years.

  3. roach:

    I've been doing the early to bed (7:00), early to rise (3:15) life style for 30 years and I'll bet that I'll still be like that after I retire. May you always have the wind at your back and following seas as you embark on a new chapter of your life.

  4. Dexter:

    I wake up every morning to your show. Today was very sad, I noticed it from the beginning of the newscast. I had to chuckle at every song that played in transition to the commercial breaks. I'm positive none of those songs were "coincidence".

    I absolutely admire the way you present the news and features in a colloquial manner, it really connects with the people.

    Please convert this blog into a video blog. It's super easy to do, and would allow your followers to get their daily dose of the best morning news anchor in Hawaii.

  5. Paco:

    You'll surely be missed. I wish you well in the future and hope to see you on the airwaves soon!

  6. RONW:

    well said

  7. Rosette:

    well just think at least you got the best part you found your husband...your next chapter wwill be spending time with your daughter.

  8. CatDogMan:

    It's been great watching your reports all these year. I hope you keep blogging so we know what you are up to. Best of luck to you and your family. Aloha.

  9. Mahealani Richardson:

    Aloha Diane,

    Hopefully, this whole merger will be a blessing in disguise for you and your family. I remember seeing you on tv the first time in Hawaii and thinking WOW! Congrats on a long successful career and family out of it.


  10. 9th Island Girl:

    Nice job this morning. Amazing how Paul could hold it together!

    Enjoy the time with your baby.

    The "Diane Ako on candid camera" was hilarious, btw. You were so professional throughout!

  11. cat:

    It's been more than a pleasure working with you — it's been an honor. Thanks for everything! I'll miss you terribly!

  12. Wayne-O:

    Will miss, di...enjoy time w/Olivia...She'll be grown up before you know it...and I know you'll land on your feet. But be picky!

  13. Susan:

    Diane, you will sorely be missed! I've always thought that you were a fantastic anchor, but what I will always remember about you, is what a genuine and extremely nice person you are. Thank you and best wishes.

  14. Rodney Lee:

    Thanks for the video montage of your career. And for this morning's farewell.

    I don't watch the morning news - but I remember when you used to do the anchoring on the weekends on KHNL.

    "When one door closes, another door opens".

  15. Rodney Lee:

    btw, time to replace the News8today twitter account with DianeAko. 😀

  16. Cat:

    I agree with Rod!

  17. LUM OHANA:





  18. Diane Ako:

    Hey all. Just a quick note to thank you for your nice comments! I'm DRAINED! Wow. It's like every ounce of stress I've built up, particularly over the past week, is filtering thru me now. I think I need a weekend of long walks and lots of sleep. You will be seeing me on the boob tube, but not in the way you expect. On that note, see you soon.

  19. theDman:

    It's been a pleasure to watch you do the news all these years Diane. I know you will miss the industry, and the newsroom, but those feelings will likely be put aside in time.

    A new chapter in your life is about to start. I'm sure it will be just as rewarding.


  20. theDman:

    Diane said:

    "You will be seeing me on the boob tube, but not in the way you expect. On that note, see you soon."

    As long as its not on "America's Most Wanted", I'm sure we are all looking foward to that!

  21. Rodney Lee:

    Just watched a funny clip of KHNL news bloopers on K-5 News at 6:30. Catch it again at the 9:30 news. See Diane trying to sneak behind Jodi - and being busted on camera. The look on Diane's face - too funny!

    I hope they can You-Tube that clip for prosperity.

  22. David In Oregon:

    Diane, thanks for posting the YouTube videos. I wish you luck, happiness, and prosperity in the many years to come.

    Imua from across the seas.

  23. adrian:

    I grew up watching KHNL, and its sad to see you veterans get layed off and shoved aside for the new people. I wish you guys luck in your future, and hopefully can find another career (at another station hopefully).

  24. Toby&Flo:

    Aloha Diane, Flo and I watched you and felt your pain also here in Hilo. We don,t know why folks such as you have to indear things like this, but want you to know you are one classy lady to be sure!! and we will miss your smile, and all your wisdom!!!! Best of luck to you and the family in the future!! Aloha Noe, 2 Hilo fans!!

  25. Steve Nakamura:


    You were the best part of my day. I have followed you from every time zone you did news on. You are the most beautiful and talented news person around. The part I liked most about you was first of all your beauty (who could deny that) but most of all you delivered the news with a common touch that most viewers could relate to. I am sure the remaining newscasters around the rest of the other stations are holding tight as well knowing you are on the open market now.
    It would take 10 Stephanie Lums to equal one of you. I think you would make a great city council woman. You are CNN material show Robin Meade how its done!!!! Please keep us posted with your blog.


  26. William Monte:

    Diane, You are one great reporter and I will miss you very much. You have never failed to put a smile on my face. I am not proned to smile, so that should tell you something. I will not say goodbye just see you soon. Luv ya.

  27. Diane Ako:

    Oh, wow. All you guys - gosh. Thanks. I'm just so humbled. Such nice comments. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have spent the last 36 hours feeling like I went through the spin cycle. While I am ok to be moving on, the past weeks, especially last week, were SO stressful. Since I got home yesterday, I've just been sitting around, not feeling like doing anything, crying now and then.

    It's partly mourning the loss of a news family. It's partly just the stress of how it all went down, with the way people acted out their lack of morale. It's partly the sadness of seeing my friends flounder in a parched job market. 9 of the 10 morning crew got laid off. 3 of 4 news managers, laid off. All but 1 photog, laid off. All but 4 on air talent, laid off. The public has no idea.

  28. Michael:

    Life is Good:
    Do what you like.
    Like what you do.

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