Archive for the ‘Career’ Category


August 10th, 2015

The day has come when my daughter was formally rejected from something she wanted to be a part of and was cognizant of it. Sure, she's been "regretted" (the politically correct term when you don't get in at some elite private schools) from some school applications, but she didn't know or care.

She has also been in tiffs with cliques at school which have hurt her feelings, but this is the first time she was officially declined acceptance to a group. Olivia was auditioning for a dance troupe and didn't make the cut.

We weren't even really sure she was that interested because her attention ebbs and flows, but I think it's the idea of someone else not choosing you. It's one thing if you decide you don't want to join the club, but it's another if they say they don't want you.

After two weeks of auditions, the teacher sent home a very nicely worded letter which follows a time-honored template of saying all the nice stuff about your kid first, then gently delivering the blow. As parents, we understand, and we aren't all that surprised because she seemed so ambivalent about it all.

Therefore, it caught me by surprise when we updated Olivia on the status of her auditions, and she started crying. And then my heart kind of broke.

Hugging sad people.

Hugging sad people.

I'm sure every parent's been through it. You want to protect your child from every hurt the world will bring and you can't. You feel helpless.

But we can't do it all for her. We can't make her pay attention in dance class. We can't force her to be consistently interested or cooperative.

We've tried. We constantly remind her she needs to do this or that to progress.

She hasn't. This is the natural consequence of her inability to focus.

I'm disappointed for her. But, I sucked it up and put on a positive face and hugged her.

I told her rejection is a part of life and if she really wants to succeed in the next activity, she needs to pay more attention to directions in class.

You may be wondering if persevering with next year's tryouts could be part of the teachable moment. No.

They actually disinvited her from trying again next year due to where it appears she is in her progress. This, we didn't tell her. We weren't sure how to navigate that, but the problem was solved when Olivia told us she was ready to be done with this club.

She's naturally athletic and seemed to do well when she applied herself, so I told her I know she can do whatever she sets her mind to. We said we believe in her.

I also told her I've been rejected a bunch of times from a bunch of things, and I just picked myself up and kept going until I got the result I wanted. When I was applying for my first few TV jobs, I was rejected at least five dozen times.

I saved all my rejection letters from those early years. The stack is about one inch thick. I labeled it Humility Check.

TV can be a tough business. Let me tell you about major rejection.

I had secured a meeting with a Hawaii news director (no longer working in Hawaii TV) to look at my resume. There was no job available, but I was trying to establish a connection and hopefully have him keep me in mind for any future openings.

After looking at my reel, he asked, "Where did you go to college?"

I answered. "You should get a refund," he flatly stated.

No joke, no exaggeration. This is exactly how the conversation went. I still remember it like it was last week.

I was flabbergasted. I have never had anyone before, or since, be that rude.

I conducted the rest of the meeting as if the remark didn't hurt me, and then decided he could __ himself.  I was not going to cry over that. I certainly wasn't going to curl up in a ball and quit because one guy said something mean.

I knew what I had to offer and I decided I would work hard and develop that for another station to appreciate. Which did, eventually, happen.

I didn't tell all that boring stuff to my kid, though. Maybe in another decade, when she's ready. What I did tell her, though, was:

"If Mommy gave up after the first dozen stations said no, she wouldn't be doing what she does today, which is a job she likes and has worked hard to be competent at. If there's something you really want, you need to work for it and you need to believe in yourself."

She is smart, beautiful, athletic, funny, and charming (when she wants to be!). We reminded her of this and said we'd always be in her corner, happy to guide her and help her succeed.

Olivia seemed to perk up a little with that. A bowl of ice cream with sprinkles probably did way more for her mood than my little pep talk, though. ... To be fair, I can totally relate!

How would you, or have you, handled your child's disappointment from rejection?

KHON2's Jai Cunningham shares strength, inspiration after overcoming difficult youth

July 10th, 2015

His earliest memory is of crimson drops of blood staining a crisp, white carpet.

Drip, drip, drip - they were falling pretty fast. She was bleeding quite a bit from a gash her husband had delivered to her eye, cutting the lid open.

"I was about three, and I still remember it vividly," recalls my friend Jai Cunningham, tears moistening his eyes at the thought, now more than 40 years later.

His mother had suffered another domestic violence episode, and had carried her two boys, ages four and two, a mile away to seek refuge at her mother's house.

He tells me about his traumatic childhood of violence and terror, living with a father who beat him, his mother Linda, and his brother Jason regularly.

"When he hit us, it was very one-sided. My father was six foot two, 220 pounds. My mother was a full foot shorter, and 110 pounds," he illustrates.

The memories pour out fast like the blood droplets. He tells me about the time his mother slept in her car overnight after a heated argument, but woke up the next morning to the feeling of cold metal on her forehead.

Tap-tap-tap. She opened her eyes. It was Jack Cunningham, holding a gun to her head.

Tired in her soul, she was, says Jai. Tired of living this life.

"Just do it, Jack. Just shoot me," she said wearily.

Then there were the weekend benders. The Cunninghams lived in a dry county in Centre, Alabama. Jack'd have to drive over county lines to stock up on his weekend libations.

"He'd leave Friday, buy four or five cases of beer, and party through the weekend - two days without sleeping," recalls Jai.

At this point, Jack and Linda were divorced, but Jack still wanted to see his kids on the weekend. Jai says often, his father would drive straight to a friend's house to play cards, leaving the boys in the truck cab all alone.

"I don't remember how long he left us because I was young, maybe five, but I remember huddling up with Jason during the winter because we didn't have coats," he says of those weekends. Winter temperatures in Alabama get into the 30s.

Jack also had a short fuse. He beat the boys.

Jai recounts too many whippings to remember. "Me, with the belt. I had it easy. Jason got the belt buckle. Those weekends could feel pretty long."

Those weekend visits would end shortly thereafter.

"Violence folds in with neglect, and because my dad would stay up Friday and Saturday drinking, he'd crash by Sunday morning. Usually it was around 2 a.m., and he'd fall asleep hard on the sofa. My brother and I had to look for food; we would be hungry," he says.

"I had fallen asleep, and Jason was scavenging through the cupboards. He found my dad's loaded 22 caliber and tried to imitate the cowboys on TV, so he pointed the pistol and tried to pull the trigger, but his index fingers were too weak. So he turned the gun to face himself and used his thumb to pull the trigger," explains Jai.

Jason was about two years old and shot himself in the abdomen. The bullet went over his stomach, hit his pancreas, and exited out his back, a quarter inch from his spine. Doctors thought the toddler would die.

The tears fall easily now as he recounts the horror. Somehow, Jason didn't bleed to death.

Jason tried to wake up Jack, but couldn't, so the boy laid on the floor and took a nap. Then he woke up again and shook Jack a second time, and this time Jack woke up.

I only remember my dad yelling, "'Jai! Get up!' I saw my brother lying on the bed and with every beat of his heart, blood gurgled out his stomach. 'I shot myself,' Jason said."

The freezing cold car - the panic - the emergency room. Jason spent weeks in the hospital, arms and legs black and blue from shots given to keep him alive.

"I didn't speak for six weeks," Jai reveals of the shock that followed.

The boys didn't see much of Jack after that. Jai isn't sure what happened, but it was a relief.

Perhaps two years later, when Jai was six, Jack died, killing himself and injuring three. Jai says his father got behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated.

"We were vacationing in Hawaii, in fact, when we got the news. My mother told us we wouldn't be going back early for the funeral. It was like, 'OK,'" he says indifferently.

Di & Jai in the studio, June 2015.

Di & Jai in the studio, June 2015.

This is a man I've been acquainted with for nearly 20 years, but have worked with and come to know better only over the past year. He is smart, friendly, funny, sweet, and positive.

I'm very fond of him, and admire him moreso after knowing his personal drama. I don't understand how he survives so well.

"My mom," he replies without hesitation. "She is a tough lady. Remember, she divorced him in the early '70s in rural Alabama, when that just wasn't done. She was brave. We struggled, but we survived. She was there for us every day."

Linda made sure Jai went to college and made something of himself. He says he's close to his mother today.

Of his father, whom he refers to as Jack, "I don't remember him telling me 'I love you.' And I only have one nice memory, of him being happy and picking my mother up in a bear hug and her feet being a foot off the ground."

About five years ago, Jai was invited to speak at the Men's March Against Violence event, which features a short walk and rally in support of non-violence. He had never spoken publicly about his childhood before, but decided maybe it was time. After securing his mother's approval, he shared his story with the crowd, to widespread support.

"Jai is an exquisite juxtaposition of the fact that men who grew up with violence are six times more likely to become abusers. His courage to share his story and suffer the searing pain publicly is power enough for us to understand it is possible," says Nancy Kreidman, CEO of the Domestic Violence Action Center, which organizes the march. "But much more is needed. Not everyone grows up with a violent parent. And not everyone can overcome the suffering, and the sadness. The may imitate what they see. They may use drugs or alcohol to numb their pain. They may have difficulty with intimate relationships as adults. They may have adverse health effects. All of these coping mechanisms impact our community."

It awakened something in Jai. "I want people to know how destructive it is. Forty years later, my strongest memories of my father are of him beating us. The violence, for me, stopped - but really, it never stops. It affects my relationship with others, it paints who I am," he says.

Kreidman applauds his efforts. "Domestic violence does not discriminate. We teach boys and men it is their duty and their right to be in charge, take control of their circumstances and their family. Our definitions of masculinity and femininity are limiting for both men and women, and contribute to the perpetuation of domestic violence. With Jai’s message of promise and conviction, we can see that change is possible."

He didn't stop speaking out against domestic violence. In 2013, Jai, a news anchor, shaved his head live on KHON2's Wake Up 2day, a statement he pledged to make for a full year, every time a woman or child was killed by domestic violence. He ended up shaving his head seven or eight times on air.

The first time, it was for his friend, Heather Rosa, killed on October 29, 2013. "Heather was kind, she had a beautiful smile, she loved her kids and all our kids. Yet a large part of her legacy will be that she was a murder victim. She doesn't deserve to be remembered like that," says Jai.

While Jai hoped to inspire change in others, he wasn't prepared for the change it provoked in himself - "the emotions I could feel for a complete stranger."

"The work to address domestic violence is still an enormous challenge. The need to dispel persistent misconceptions remains. And the imperative to engage our community to reduce, or better yet, prevent domestic violence is essential. Why? Because safe families are at the core of a healthy community," urges Kreidman.

If he can affect just one life, he says, it's worth his effort. He says this as he struggles daily with his own demons of a life that might have been even better lived, of a father whose bruises still hurt, of relationships fractured.

"Do you love your dad?" I ask.

A long pause. "No."

"Do you forgive him?" I continue.

Contemplation. "Yes. But I still think about it in some way, every day. It's always there. A little dark spot."

Today, Jai says his pain fuels his desire to keep speaking at events that support survivors of domestic violence. "It's incredibly rewarding and emotional for me when people approach me to say I've made a difference in their lives; that my words could help someone live better."

He has a beautiful wife, Carla, and two school-aged girls, 13-year-old Cara and 11-year-old Chay, and is involved in the kids' activities: cheerleading, track, volleyball, gymnastics.

His family, he says, is what he's most grateful for. "I am lucky to have my beautiful and loving family, but I appreciate it even more when I think about where I came from. I'm proud to say the cycle of violence ends with me."

If you or someone you know is suffering from domestic violence, help is available. Contact the Domestic Violence Action Center at (808) 531-3771 or; more details at



from Nancy Kreidman

The transformative journey from victim to survivor is an effortful undertaking, and worth considering.

We want you to think about your safety. We want you to know, also, that you have the right to live free from abuse and nothing you have done warrants abuse.

You do not deserve to be treated with anything less than respect for your opinions, choices, decisions. No one wants to think of themselves as a victim, and it is common to believe there is something you can do to change the situation or support your partner.

You likely assume promises to change will come true. There is also the tendency to minimize the abuse, or rationalize your partner’s behavior ("I could have been home on time, I should have known he was tired, the kids should have been quiet," etc).

Violence and abuse is the responsibility of the person who uses it. If you had been able to make it stop, or change him, you would have!

Making the first phone call is an important step. Collect information, ask questions, consider the options, gain an understanding of domestic violence.

Your safety is the most crucial thing to consider. Your children's safety and their well-being are also key.

It is difficult to be a good parent when threats, intimidation, and fear characterize your home. When you decide to call a domestic violence program, you can call anonymously. Be sure to ask for help in creating a safety plan.

It is a big step, but there is plenty of help from good community programs committed to helping you make good decisions, regain your self-respect, and live free from violence. Call us at the Domestic Violence Action Center at (808) 531-3771.

Alternate universe

July 6th, 2015

The other day, I was asked to work a day shift as a reporter. I looked forward to it.

It was really weird, though. In my business, the schedules are built around the shows, so you have morning shifters like me, and I work a 4 a.m. - noon. You have day shifters who do 10 - 6, and night shifters who do 3 -11 p.m.

I felt like I was in an alternate universe because the landscape was the same but the players were different. Who are these folks I never see at 8 a.m., in the newsroom after my morning show?

Crystal, Bridgette, Tasha, Terri

Crystal, Bridgette, Tasha, Terri

A group of us was chatting around the food counter after an ice cream break (I do love this place!) and I had to ask about some of the names they were talking about.

15-7-15 DI Lanai upper

Then, I walk into the studio to introduce my story on-air to the anchor and it's even more different. Do you realize the set lights are red in the morning and blue at night? It's a subtle difference on TV but in real life, I felt like I was in a whole different station.


Sidebar: I did a story on how Lanai businesses need your help, and I am sympathetic. Go, if you have the wherewithal. The interconnectedness of life extends economically and we are all impacted in some way by a ripple effect. (Click here to watch.)

Lanai gfx

I never get to see the evening anchors Joe, Howard, Marisa, and Kanoe all at the same time, and not at a station Christmas party!

By now I'm getting loopy from my body clock being thrown off so it started to feel like an out-of-body experience. Pleasant, but where am I?

I really liked connecting with co-workers in a different day part. I just wish I was more present to enjoy it!

This ever happen to you??




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Pacific Century Fellows seeks 2015 - 2016 class of Island leaders

June 12th, 2015

One of the most amazing professional experiences I've had in my career was my year as a part of the Pacific Century Fellows (PCF). That's a group of mid-career leaders who are specifically selected for their potential and promise, who are groomed to help lead the state to prosperity.

PCF 2014 class. Courtesy: Ryan Kawamoto.

PCF 2014 class. Courtesy: Ryan Kawamoto.

"The objective of the Pacific Century Fellows Program is to develop leaders with a greater awareness and sensitivity to the people and institutions of Hawaii. Based on the White House Fellows Program, the Pacific Century Fellows Program will bring together annually up to 32 of Hawaii’s most promising individuals from all walks of life, fields and professions. They’ll gain a broader view of civic duty through direct contact with senior community, social and government leaders. The program encourages the development of long-term relationships between leaders young and old, united in their commitment to find creative solutions to the challenges facing the state," reads the PCF website.

Diane and Mufi

Diane and Mufi

Founder Mufi Hannemann designed it as a nine month program that starts with a mandatory two day retreat. Thereafter, fellows meet monthly for an all-day seminar that focuses on one specific topic of our community.

Touring Institute for Human Services

Touring Institute for Human Services

As part of the most recent class (2014), for instance, I spent a day touring homeless encampments, getting a look at how the Institute for Human Services is set up, and hearing from developers about proposed solutions to the affordable housing crisis. It's meant to open your mind to the larger perspective, so that when you return to your job, you will consider how you can affect change.

Matthew Bauer and Kaiwi  Yoon

Matthew Bauer and Kaiwi Yoon

Alumnus Matthew Bauer had a similar realization. "The Pacific Century Fellowship allows participants the opportunity to look at the many issues facing the state from different view points.  My eyes were open on many topics I thought I had an understanding on including: GMO use, public education, the military and the criminal justice system. It was when PCF was touring Halawa Prison, our class' first seminar, that I realized to gain greater understanding you really need to dig deep and understand the issue on the ground level," he says.

Hawaii Island resident Ryan Kadota says it was worth the extra effort to be part of this. "Coming from a neighbor island, I was afforded the opportunity to bring a different outlook to our monthly outings and share that with my classmates, as well as gain their perspectives. There was a lot we all learned from one another. The most rewarding part of the Pacific Century Fellows, besides my own personal growth, are friendships I formed over the course of the program."

Ryan Kadota and me

Ryan Kadota and me

The program's end is really just the beginning of our commitment to greater community responsibility. We are expected to take a more active public service role, applying the concepts learned over the course of the program.

There are many reasons I enjoyed this experience so much, but one of them is the deeper engagement with society that it afforded. Though I've spent most of my career in journalism, which puts me in touch with a wide slice of life, I've rarely been able to dedicate an entire day of study to an issue. Also, people are less willing to speak openly about their real feelings to a reporter.

Hike at Mt. Ka`ala

Hike at Mt. Ka`ala

I do believe we're only as strong as our weakest link, and I appreciate that the program empowers me to now act upon the urge to help. It also provides me a built-in network of like-minded people, creating a synergistic effect.

As a bonus, the classes usually bond, and many, like ours, create opportunities on their own for trips and monthly lunches. I have 30 amazing new friends who I connect with in a way that I haven't replicated elsewhere.


Kalawao, Moloka`i

Kadota and I were part of two extracurricular trips, of which he reflects, "A very enlightening part of the program were the trips we took to the other neighbor islands, Moloka`i and Kaho`olawe, where we were able to learn about the history of those islands and their communities, as well as the monumental challenges facing them now and moving forward."

Optional PCF trip to Molokai. On the hike down to Kalaupapa. Courtesy: Ryan Kawamoto.

Optional PCF trip to Molokai. On the hike down to Kalaupapa. Courtesy: Ryan Kawamoto.

PCF is a bit like a college fraternity, but on the intellectual, professional, philanthropic side. I was not at all expecting that, based on my experience as a member or board director of other organizations, but I fully cherish it.

The boat to/ from Kaho`olawe

The boat to/ from Kaho`olawe

Do you want to be the change you want to see for Hawaii? PCF is taking applications for the Class of 2015-16 from now through July 15. More information at Good luck!


Working on Kaho`olawe

Working on Kaho`olawe

Joe Moore and Linda Purl star in "It's Only A Play" at Hawaii Theater

June 10th, 2015

First, let me say that my one year anniversary at KHON2 is coming up on June 23 and it's been a terrific time so far. Probably the most interesting perk of this job is that I now get to call our main anchor Joe Moore - sorry, let me rephrase that: THE JOE MOORE - my coworker.

15-2-5 Joe Moore

How awesome is that, right?! Like many of you who spent much of your lives in the Islands, I grew up watching Joe, and never thought one day we'd be on a first name basis.

Joe at KHON2

Joe at KHON2

I know I have worked in Hawaii news for a long time, so the possibility was higher than someone who didn't work in the media, but for some reason I still didn't think it a real possibility.

So here we are today, and Joe invited the newsroom to see his new play, It’s Only A Play, Terrence McNally’s uproarious comedy directed by Logan Reed. I'm planning to go!   Hawaii Theatre audiences will be the first in the country to see this play after it closed a box office record breaking run on Broadway June 7th.


Joe obtained the performance rights from the playwright McNally after seeing the play in New York. "Mr. McNally was impressed by the level of talent our professional production will offer," said Joe, "and he loved the idea of it being a benefit for the historic and beautiful Hawaii Theatre. It's a real honor to be the first regional theatre in the nation to perform this hilarious comedy, especially having the rights granted personally by the four-time Tony winning playwright."

Joe, as he will look in the play. Courtesy: Joe Moore

Joe, as he will look in the play. Courtesy: Joe Moore

Joe, who's starred in several professional productions at Hawaii Theatre and always donates his fee to the theatre, will play former theatre actor turned TV star James Wicker; Broadway and TV star Linda Purl will play a clueless but kind producer. Purl is perhaps best known for portraying Ben Matlocks’ daughter Charlene in the TV series Matlock and was most recently seen as Pam Beesley’s Mother in The Office. Her many theatre credits include leading roles in The Year of Magical Thinking, A Streetcar Named Desire, A Glass Menagerie, Dinner with Friends, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Getting and Spending, and Romeo and Juliet.

Joe and Reed, a Broadway director who was personally recommended by playwright McNally, put together a stellar ensemble of actors who, in addition to Purl, include Po`okela Awards winners Cathy Foy, Tom Holowach, Paul Mitri, and Dezmond Gilla as well as Ryan Wuestewald, a former University of Hawaii theatre major who now acts in New York.

It's Only a Play is set in a Manhattan townhouse where Peter Austin (Paul Mitri) anxiously awaits to see if his new play is a hit. With his career on the line, he shares his opening night with his best friend and television star (Joe Moore), his fledgling producer (Linda Purl), his erratic leading lady (Cathy Foy), his wunderkind director (Ryan Wuestewald), an infamous drama critic (Tom Holowach), and a fresh-off-the-bus coat check attendant (Dezmond Gilla) who just arrived in New York. A show that is alternately raucous, ridiculous and tender — It’s Only a Play proves that sometimes the biggest laughs happen offstage.

Tickets are available starting at $22 and are available online at, by calling the Hawaii Theatre Box Office at 808-528-0506 or visiting the box office at 1130 Bethel Street, Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  For more information, visit

Discounts for Hawaii Theatre members, groups of 10 or more, youth (18 and under), seniors (62 and older), and students and military (with valid ID). Some restrictions may apply.

This production is sponsored in part by Hawaiian Springs Natural Water and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. It's Only A Play will have a limited engagement at Honolulu’s historic Hawaii Theatre for 11 shows only, June 18-28.

To see a PSA that KHON2 is running about this play, visit my Facebook page: Diane Ako.