The Making of Ke Kalahea: Then and Now

Publishing a Student Newspaper Amid a Pandemic

Associate Editor: Nick Wagner
Photo Courtesy: Sasha Kauwale

Editor’s Note: As a member of Ke Kalahea, this writing will be about the changes and the difficulties that we have experienced as a student news publication. Ke Kalahea is the only publication in the Hawaii system still printing physical stories and here is how we are able to do so.

A semester ago, while UH Hilo students were enjoying their spring break, the University of Hawaii at Hilo went virtual. With the news, many different student organizations were also forced to take their responsibilities virtually by conducting team meetings and creating content through the internet and without face to face contact. The announcement also affected Ke Kalahea as the student news publication would be forced to operate through technology.

After that spring break announcement, my setting would change from Hawaii to Utah, from a rainforest to the desert. I went from my normal day of taking a nice walk through Hawaii to the office on campus and meeting with all of my fellow members of Ke Kalahea to sitting in front of my computer in the basement of my parents’ home in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Some members of our team, just like myself and many other students, went home to be with their families in isolation after the announcement had been made.

Through this tough experience and sudden changes within our lives, the staff of Ke Kalahea were still ready to get the news to the UH Hilo community. The challenges that we faced were writing, reporting, and creating without physically being together -- with the main forms of communication being through Zoom, WhatsApp, or text message. The challenges involved organizing for meetings when everyone was spread out across different time zones while keeping everyone focused on finishing the year strong even though virtual learning had them stressed and anxious.

“This is something that Ke Kalahea has never gone through before,” notes Tiffany Hunt, adviser to Ke Kalahea, when talking about turning from physical interaction to virtual. As Ke Kalahea learned, just as many of the students at UHH probably did, the difficulties that come with the internet and Zoom can be plentiful: Cutting each other off; internet problems; and terrible microphones were among the many difficulties that we as a team had to work through. These difficulties we had to face made communication internally (within our team) and externally (reporting and interviewing) very difficult to adjust to.

As the sports columnist, before being forced to go virtual, I had the luxury of visiting in person with coaches and professors, making our interviews seem more like easy going conversations. Now, with nothing but virtual being the option, it has become an obstacle to try and connect with sources on a more personal level. With the fall 2020 semester well underway, and coronavirus still on the top of our minds wreaking havoc on our lives, we as a publication have had to adjust to the many hurdles that virtual reporting has put our way.

Photograph of two women standing back to back with crossed arms in front of the Ke Kalahea office. The troubles don’t stop at writing or reporting.Our layout team which currently consists of one person has the task of making all of our work look aesthetically pleasing while, like many of us, working remotely in Flagstaff, Ariz. As with the rest of our publishing process, this has been difficult trying to manifest our vision while meeting via Zoom, not being able to look over our layout team’s shoulder to help with the publication. Thankfully, Zoom has a “screen share” feature, which allows one person to share their screen with others.

With no end to the virtual environment in sight it is easy to feel pretty hopeless regarding the hand we were dealt. But working with Ke Kalahea and working with a team remaining committed to creating a publication is admirable to see how everyone at UH Hilo is adapting to the change. Even despite the differences in time zones or Zoom fatigue, we are still managing to put out a publication in order to serve our fellow UH Hilo community.

Some of us will go one to be journalists. Others will explore the positions of the publication in order to gain skills for the future while pursuing unrelated majors. But everyone on the Ke Kalahea team understands a point their adviser continually drives into their brains every time we meet, whether it's in the office or online: it is our job to take a snapshot of the University life as we are living it. We are documenting the campus life for people to be able to look back at the publication and know what it was like to be a UH Hilo student at this point and time.