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The Start Of Something Big

Bob Jones with current Waianae High journalism students. Photo courtesy Searider Productions

When you get to my age, you start to wonder if you’ve done anything really helpful for others with your life. I tend to feel best about News 101 and Waianae High School.

The year was 1992. I was at KGMB-TV and got a bug to let high schools pick a news topic, produce a two-minute story, and I’d run one every Friday on our newscasts. Students would select the topics, shoot and edit. My only rules were no slander, no profanity, no nudity. Then-DOE chief Charles Toguchi went along with it.

I started with Waianae High. Some administrators in that district didn’t think Waianae could handle it. I mean … it was Waianae. A Spanish teacher, Candy Suiso, agreed to take it on as a no-extra-pay activity. The rest of the story is like somebody starting off with homemade electronic gear in the garage and ending up as Apple or Microsoft.

Elementary cameras and little technical knowledge grew into Searider Productions – a multimedia empire at the school that does the newspaper, daily in-school TV productions, Hiki No stories for PBS-Hawaii, graphic design and even training videos for Halekulani hotel and American Savings Bank. There’s a wall full of national award plaques, 300 students, eight full-time teachers, two stand-alone buildings, and Candy Suiso is now the paid program administrator.

The Searider Productions quarters has banks of huge computer screens and projects brimming over. Our taxes only paid for about 5 percent of that. The other 95 percent came from grants and private foundations!

“All these classes (journalism, video, photography, graphic design) are electives,” says video production teacher John Allen, a ’97 grad. “If you want to be in this program you work after school, on weekends and on holidays.”

It’s the first journalism program in the Hawaii DOE to combine print, video and the Internet.

What students turn out is of such high quality that companies inquire if the graduating high-schoolers want to work for them. “We tell them we prefer to have our students go to college first,” says Allen.

And there’s now a for-profit spinoff from Searider Productions called Makaha Studios doing video productions and multimedia design.

The school paper, Ka Leo, has expanded its coverage beyond campus to the entire Waianae Coast. And last year, the prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights gave students Aaron Oshiro, Cody Kau, Michael Gooch and Jenna Munoz the American High School Broadcast Award for a feature on MA’O Farms.

All this began with a dozen students, an overworked Spanish teacher and people up the ladder who thought it could not be done.

I believed it could.

Want me to talk to your civic club about my new book REPORTER – unredacted stories of my 55 years in journalism? You’ll get an earful! Contact me at the email address below.