Small Talk

SPJ awards dinner

June 29th, 2010

If I let myself, I miss the biz. I attended the 2010 Society of Professional Journalists awards dinner last Friday, June 25, and got to reconnect with some of my old colleagues again.


I don't usually go to that dinner. For most of my career, I've been working on a Friday night, or at the very end of the career, I needed to be asleep at dusk. "It could be our last chance to attend as an actual contestant. Let's go," nudged my co-entrant, Tracy Arakaki.


Tracy and I entered a piece together about a martial artist, Henry Smalls, which we titled Unlikely Samurai. Tracy shot and edited it. I wrote and voiced it.

[youtube Y7ddedh-vqo]

I was lukewarm. I made a production out of going to San Francisco for the Emmy awards, only to  - in politically correct parlance - not receive the statue.

Which then meant that I lived the rejection for a week. I tried to ignore it, but it was hard, since the only reason I was in San Francisco was to attend that dinner. I wasn't sure if I wanted to repeat another second place moment.

I don't need to be reminded of the painful patch that was the layoff. Because the stories I entered this year represent the last work I'll ever do for KHNL News8, the Emmy disappointment unexpectedly conjured up feelings related to my layoff.

Ala Moana Hotel

Ala Moana Hotel

Attending the SPJ dinner required far less commitment, but I told Tracy, "Not sure if I can handle it." But he insisted, and I gave in.

Sisto Domingo, Sonny Ahuna, Lisa Kubota, Tracy Arakaki, Ben Gutierrez, me, Keoki Kerr

Sisto Domingo, Sonny Ahuna, Lisa Kubota, Tracy Arakaki, Ben Gutierrez, me, Keoki Kerr

I'm glad I did. I had such a nice time - far better than I expected, and not just because I won an award. I got to see a handful of former colleagues, shoot the breeze, and remember what it feels like to be part of that fraternity. This is who I was for so long. This is where I lived for so long.

Craig Gima and me

Craig Gima and me

I forgot how much I loved the newsroom. I like our collective sense of humor: sarcastic, dry, witty, sharp, liberal. I've known some of these people for 14 years and I miss working with them. In a very small way, it felt like coming home.

Dick Allgire and me

KITV's Dick Allgire and me

Me and Garret Kamemoto

Me and Garett Kamemoto

HPR's Kayla Roselfeld and me

HPR's Kayla Rosenfeld and me

So, I took first place in the features category for Unlikely Warrior. I also was a finalist in the same category for Butterfly Farmer. (I know, I competed against myself, but it was the only category that fit for both, so I stacked the deck.) That was fulfilling.

Sisto, me, Tracy

Sisto, me, Tracy

Here's what the SPJ website says:

First Place

Diane Ako, Tracy Arakaki, KHNL News 8, "The Unlikely Samurai"

Comments: Beautiful. Heartwarming and inspiring story. Story has all the elements. Perfect lighting, wonderfully edited. Great choice of music. Well written. Spot on transitions, Photography was phenomenal. Easily rises to the top at all of the other entries.


Diane Ako, Taires Hiranaka, KHNL News 8, "Butterfly farmer"

Marisa Yamane, Justin Kanno, KHON2 News, "Haunted Hawaii"

To that end, I would be remiss if I didn't thank Dolphin Sound's Ron Klohs for selecting the music on both those packages. Thanks, Ron.

I want to point out that KHNL News8 garnered the most television news awards. That's KHNL NEWS8, the old station, before it merged into Hawaii News Now. And 100% of the KHNL people who won those awards were laid off: me, Tracy, Leland Kim, Sisto Domingo, Taires Hiranaka, and Ed Matthews.

Tracy and Sisto

Tracy and Sisto

The only one of that list of names who has a full time job is Leland Kim, and he had to move to California and leave the media industry. I'm unemployed (no, I DO NOT WORK FOR Aloha Care; the commercials were a one time acting job), Sisto is in school learning a new trade, Tai works one or two days a week shooting news at another station, and I think Ed is still jobless.

There are a lot of talented professionals pounding the pavement. May my friends land another job soon.

I left the dinner and went back to my new life as a housewife and mother. My life is too busy to allow me to dwell on old times. Always, even in the first days after the layoff, I didn't have the luxury of moping. I have a toddler to care for. It propels me forward - for better and for worse.

But I have that moment, a brief night when I returned to the old me, and I savor that. Some days, when Olivia is just killing me and I'm up to my ears in Mommyness, I'll pull out that memory, unwrap it like a candy, and enjoy.

Me and Claus

Me and Claus

Claus, me, Jen

Claus, me, Jen

Paul, Val

Paul, Val

Christine, Tracy, Violet

Christine, Tracy, Violet

Midweek's Yu Shing Ting and me

Midweek's Yu Shing Ting and me


PS I finally edited the video from the May Emmy awards dinner in San Francisco. Here it is:

[youtube GbwtPOekmKg]


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Posted in Career | 14 Comments »

14 Responses to “SPJ awards dinner”

  1. RONW:

    you look marvelous. applauds.

  2. Sam Urai:

    CONGRATS on the awards and beautiful pics!!!! You look soooooooooo happy and elegant.

  3. Ken Conklin:

    Some people have very public lives including politicians, movie stars -- and TV personalities like Diane Ako. Some people have very private lives including students, researchers -- and mommies like Diane Ako. It can cause great turmoil for anyone who switches from one mode to the other.

    But I think a better distinction to grasp is the difference between people who need to have their worth validated by public applause vs. people who perceive their worth as validated primarily by their own inner judgment of personal integrity -- pursuing what is pono.

    In the end, I believe your life will be internally happy, and also of greatest public value, to the extent you follow your inner light rather than seeking applause like a moth seeks the flame.

    That's not to say you should not do both. There are those rare people whose inner light is manifested in public in ways that draw great applause, like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, George Washington, etc. They seek attention as a way to harness political power in service to what is pono. They become known as heroes. But always their public heroism grows out of their private insight and integrity.

    I've used too many words. Maybe I just should have said: Do what's right, and let the chips fall where they may.

    Di, I appreciate your openness which helps me and many others think through these things for ourselves.

  4. M:

    Hello Diane!

    Congrats! (standing up and clapping)

    Nothing beats being with good friends, having a nice dinner and winning an award all in one night!

  5. Tracy Arakaki:

    It was the best working days when you and I would get assigned together. You were so efficient. We'd come back and I'd have the script from you before I was done digitizing the footage. Thanks for the memories.

    For the final story you and I did, we did pretty good and it is a reflection to the vast talent we HAD at News 8.

    We entered the story in 4 major awards and walked home with recognition and wins in "ALL" 4 of them.

    1 ) "2" Emmy Nominations Best Edit and Writing ( As well as Di's Writing for Butterfly Farmer )

    2 ) International Academy for the Visual Arts Communicator Award WINNER ( We were the ONLY ones from Hawaii to get ANY recognition be it film, video, TV or any other category. Over 8,000 entrants and only 70 winners. Diane and I were among those chosen few. )

    3 ) SPJ 1st Place Feature Reporting

    4 ) Finalist International Telly Award

    All in all Diane, we made a lot of friends and memories to last a lifetime and we can say we are the last of the News 8 alumni and we left out mark.

  6. Sisto:

    You are such an awesome woman! Thank you for everything. Luv ya! Sisto

  7. Leland Kim:

    Congrats, Di! Well deserved! I'm so happy SPJ recognized KHNL.

    The most sobering part of your blog is the following: "I want to point out that KHNL News8 garnered the most television news awards. That’s KHNL NEWS8, the old station, before it merged into Hawaii News Now. And 100% of the KHNL people who won those awards were laid off: me, Tracy, Leland Kim, Sisto Domingo, Taires Hiranaka, and Ed Matthews."


    Thanks for being a friend and mentor. I miss our News 8 'ohana.

  8. che:


    Congratulation. What is Sonny Ahuna doing now? He was our paperboy 100 years ago. 🙂

  9. Maxcat:

    Diane, congrats. You are a very talented and capable journalist and you deserved this and more.

  10. Diane Ako:

    che- really? Sonny was your paperboy? How cute. He has been shooting news for KITV for as long as I've worked in Hawaii- and longer. Everyone respects and likes him. The new photographers know not to cross him. I've always gotten on quite well with him. We all get to know each other eventually.

    Leland! Mentor? Oh gosh. I'm my honor that you consider me as such. You're the multiple award winning journalist. Thanks, and a big hug back. PS I'm sorry I didn't go to the bon voyage. I didn't see the invite (or didn't realize what it was) till the day after. I'm not on FB that often and the FB messages that come through to my Blackberry are hit and miss.

    SD, I love you back.

  11. RedZone:

    Wow great story. You deserve an SO.

  12. Les Rose: doesn't get much more beautiful inside and out than Diane. A great example of making lemonade from lemons, of remembering what is still important, and knowing that the only it or change. Smart, wise, and intuitive...Lady Di is gonna be just fine. Her best days and triumphs are very much ahead of her. Mahalo for being a wondeful friend!

  13. Diane Ako:

    RedZone- a significant other?

    Les- thanks, my friend, and a hug back at you!

  14. zzzzzz:

    Did Tracy's hair suddenly get longer and blonder when you left the picture with him and Sisto?

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