A Sit-Down with Hawai'i's Suavest News Anchor

A Sit-Down with Hawai'i's Suavest News Anchor

He’s covered Hawaii’s hottest topics for Honolulu’s CBS affiliate for a decade. In that time, he’s reported in the dark following a major earthquake, produced a feature package on Hawaii’s historic trees, and gave Katie Couric lessons on how to speak like a Hawaiian.
Most of you know that Keahi Tucker is lauded as one of our top news anchors; yet what you don’t is that he spends more time than his producers would like politely responding to flirtatious emails from admiring fans, statewide.

But this proud papa, surfer and hawk for “the story” has devoted countless hours to reporting on the most integral news stories shaping the Hawaii landscape, be it political, environmental, or sociological.

We sat down for a little face time with Hawaii’s coolest-under-pressure face man. Along the way, we talked about his time at the White House, the island of his childhood, and his hankering to be a Broadway crooner.

B on Hawaii: You were born and raised on Kauai, worked your way throughout Washington DC and are now one of the top anchors in your home state. Tell us about some of the highs from the journey?

Keahi Tucker: Covering stories at the White House, Capitol and Pentagon. Going to the Olympics in Greece, meeting lots of famous people... the list goes on. The lowlights might be more interesting: Getting bucked by a horse on live TV, bitten by a police dog, pushed around at a riot, assaulted at a gay pride parade. (It's just soooo much fun for drunk people to pick on the nerdy TV reporter.)

B on Hawaii: In your opinion, how does the news media compare in Hawai’i to those in similar-sized cities on the mainland? Is it fair to compare?

Keahi Tucker: We're more similar that you might think. Hawaii has lots of smart people covering news on TV and in print. It bugs me when people say the media here don't do investigative journalism. It's just not true. I was amazed when I left Hawaii in '97 that my co workers on the mainland were no smarter than my Hawaii co-workers. In fact, in many ways the reporters here are better because they have a deeper connection to the community. They care more. Many TV reporters in mainland cities are just passing through on their way to bigger markets. Most reporters in Hawaii tend to stick around a while.

B on Hawaii: What was one of your favorite on-air experiences you since arriving at KGMB?

Keahi Tucker: Obama's acceptance speech in Denver was cool. But my best story so far was about exceptional trees. Here's a link: http://kgmb9.com/main/content/view/6701/220/

B on Hawaii: The strangest?

Keahi Tucker: One of my weirdest moments was getting an exclusive interview with swimmer Michael Phelps after he won his last medal in Greece. I had been in a fierce competition with a bunch of network and tabloid shows. After a lengthy and heated negotiation with his agent, I got access to walk and talk with Michael by myself while a group of reporters was kept back. During the interview a couple of the more famous reporters started yelling questions at him, trying to get him to walk over for a quick sound bite. He never flinched. I felt so big-time!

Another weird moment was covering my first tornado as the main anchor of the NBC station in Topeka, Kansas. I was 23, just a punk surfer who had never lived outside Hawaii, and suddenly I was on live TV telling people to head to their basements. I had a funny local accent, and I remember wondering if people could tell I had no idea what I was talking about! Of course, by the time I left Kansas for D.C. I was practically an expert on tornados.

By the way, readers can see my hilarious conversation with Katie Couric on how to pronounce Hawaii here: http://kgmb9.com/main/content/view/9340/251/

B on Hawaii: There's a growing sentiment these days that the media imposes judgment, or, “puts a spin” (as we say in the biz) on hot topics, whether directly or by simply choosing to report on them or not. Where do you stand on fairness in the media? Is there such a thing?

Keahi Tucker: Good question. Achieving absolute fairness in any story is a very difficult thing because the potential for bias presents itself at every step in producing a news story. What to cover, who to interview, which sound bites to use, which words to use to sum up their points... these decisions are all subject to the reporter's own background and instinct. Consider that simply by using adjectives in a story the reporter is in a way injecting his or her own feelings into the report. But please remember, we are trained to be careful about our decisions, and I've never met a reporter who wasn't honest or well-intentioned. I guess the short answer is that we try our best.

B on Hawaii: Whose reporting style, in the national media or elsewhere, do you greatly admire, past or present?

Keahi Tucker: Peter Jennings, Jim Lehrer.

B on Hawaii: If you could do one other job, and be the top dog, what would it be?

Keahi Tucker: Broadway singer.

B on Hawaii: What are your 3 favorite places to eat out on O'ahu? On Kauai?

Keahi Tucker: On O’ahu: Aloha Salads, Rainbow Drive-in, and the lunch counter outside Home Depot Iwilei.
On Kaua’i: Brick Oven Pizza, Kauai Pasta, El Cafe

B on Hawaii: I've heard that some of your fan club post messages to you on their Facebook and MySpace pages, even in personal ads on Craigslist. How do you handle being a celebrity in such a tight community that is Hawai’i?

Keahi Tucker: I'm pretty sure most of it is from my mom. I'm pretty bummish when I'm not at work, so I get some strange looks. Plus, sometimes I accidentally drop in on people in the surf. I really shouldn't do that, but my eyesight gets especially bad when the south shore is firing. That's just not good PR! In fact, I'd like to take this opportunity to publicly apologize to anyone I've ever dropped in on. I hereby invite you to drop in on me whenever you want!

"Consider that simply by using adjectives in a story the reporter is in a way injecting his or her own feelings into the report. But please remember, we are trained to be careful about our decisions."