FROM THE 2007 RAIN BIRD JUBILEE ISSUE
A student once gave me a smiley face plaque that read, “Every day is a miracle.” That’s how I’ve come to think of every issue of Ka ‘Ohana, Windward Community College’s student newspaper—that each edition is a kind of miracle when you consider the raw talent we start with.
Every semester we never know who will walk in the door to join the Ka ‘Ohana staff. Yet, somehow we pull together a team and, in a matter of weeks, the students find they’re writing stories, covering news, designing pages and learning how to be journalists.
My earliest memories are of working out of the old, storeroom-size Xerox room in the WCC administration building. Those were the days before computers, when we pounded out our stories on typewriters, drove them to the Sun Press (precursor to MidWeek), where they were transformed into galleys of typeset words.
Then we waxed the long rolls of paper and cut them into stories pasted on large sheets of paper. It’s a wonder we met any deadlines at all.
When we moved down the hall to a slightly larger space, we were still doing our cut and paste, but at least we had more space. But I still remember us all jammed into one room. I would end up trying to talk on the phone at one end, surrounded by students sitting on and around my desk.
Over the years, some wonderful students have been part of the staff, and many have gone on to become working journalists, freelance writers, photographers, and advertising and public relations professionals in their own right. But there were also those who just wanted to be “news hounds” for awhile.
I remember the 80-year-old grandmother who joined because she had always wanted to work on a newspaper. Then there was the Pearl Harbor machinist who didn’t want to change a word of his stories, so we spent long hours haggling over the English language. He went on to become a successful lawyer.
Liberals and conservatives, locals and malihinis, activists and jocks, buzz cuts and blue hair—we welcome them all to the staff. That’s part of the challenge and the fun of it: how to turn them into a responsible news team without stifling their individuality.
Some students come in with sometimes paralyzing fears, and part of the job is to help them find a measure of success. I remember one student who froze at the computer on deadline and needed to be talked through her story, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph. Many are just hungry for someone to take an interest in their writing, to give them meaningful feedback instead of just a cursory “Needs work!”
We also become a family at the newspaper, providing counseling for relationship traumas, career confusion, academic disasters and other assorted life issues. One student, who struggled for years with substance abuse, died before his 40th birthday. I gave the eulogy at his funeral, only then learning from his sister how much his Windward classes had meant to him.
One of the joys and challenges of the newspaper is that it is a “living laboratory” with real people, real issues and real consequences. It’s life in microcosm, with a monthly deadline.
The students learn to communicate and help each other. They learn about the power of words and pictures and the responsibility that goes with that power. And they learn about issues that affect us all.
The newspaper is a class, but it’s also the students’ newspaper. After every issue, we talk about what worked and what didn’t and what we need to do better. It’s called learning—and it never gets old.
by Libby Young, Ka ‘Ohana Advisor