Ke Kalahea's Impact On Valerie Frank

UH Hilo alumna takes a look back at ‘Vulcan News’

News Writer Gina Selig

Photographer Tiffany Erickson

Valerie Frank

“Working for Ke Kalahea gave me the confidence to feel like I could write.” - Valerie Frank, former Ke Kalahea staff writer

Throughout its history, Ke Kalahea has produced many writers that have gone on to part-time or even full-time careers in journalism or elsewhere in media. from Ke Kalahea. Valerie Frank is an example of one of these individuals.

Attending UH Hilo from 1989 until 1994, she worked in advertising and broadcasting in Hilo after her attaining her bachelor’s degree in communications. She also had an avid passion for performing arts and even worked under Jacquelyn Pualani Johnson, longtime drama professor at UH Hilo. Her work as a staff writer at Ke Kalahea inspired her to write commercials and complete promotional videos about the interconnectedness of all the different ethnic groups in Hilo. She eventually went on to publish a two-part series, “Tales of the Star People: Child of the Gods,” and “Tales of the Star People: Escape on the High Seas.” Frank’s works focus on Maya people’s day-to-day life, around the time when the Spanish explorers arrived and claimed the land for themselves.

She came to visit Ke Kalahea on a recent Wednesday, intending to pay homage to a place that proved to be a very influential part of her life. She first shares how different Ke Kalahea used to be when she was a writer 26 years ago. Indeed, the name ‘Ke Kalahea’ itself was not in place when Frank was first a student; the paper was instead titled ‘Vulcan News,’ and only changed to the current name once Frank had begun writing on staff.

“I wanted to see who is a part of the new Ke Kalahea staff and see how the office looks these days. You guys have about triple the space than we used to have in the old Ke Kalahea office. We also never had any of the advertising methods like ‘News and Brews’ that you guys do.”

Frank states that her experience working for Ke Kalahea was not only beneficial to her career, but her personal life at UH Hilo.

“Back in [the] 1990s, the editor-in-chief of Ke Kalahea hired me on because she wanted to spice up the paper. A lot of people weren’t reading it, and she wanted someone to come and shake things up. I told her “I was the perfect person the job,” and she soon agreed.”

Frank had a constant theme for the articles she wrote at Ke Kalahea that were very different than any of the other writers at the time. For help, Frank turned to two columnists whose work she wished to emulate.

“I was trying to go for a combination of Erma Bombeck, who did household humor, and Annie Rooney who did satire. I was going for some kind of cross between the two, something softer than Annie Rooney and also satirical, poking fun at the world and everyday occurrences. I mostly wrote from campus happenings and world events. I remember that the political scene was about the same as it is right now where everyone hated Ronald Reagan and there were a lot of complaints about that kind of stuff. At the end of the 80’s when he was gone, everybody was so relieved. Now look at him, he went down as one of the greatest presidents in history. I did a couple articles on the voyager and did a front-page article, and that was as far as it got on serious topics. My favorite article was one that started off by me saying that I was a voracious reader. I’ll read anything, anytime, anywhere.”

To writers, inspiration can come from literally anything - in Frank’s case, even undergarments.

“My latest article has been a result of my willingness to read anything, anytime, anywhere. It will probably come as no surprise that as I was in the ladies room the other day, I looked down on the label on my underwear which gave me the idea for this article “Dumb Directions, Silly Instructions, and the Silly Inconsistencies of Life.” That was one of the ones they used to film me for between the online classes. I did a series of my columns videotaped.”

Working for Ke Kalahea has brought her many opportunities she never could have imagined.

“I ended up becoming quite the celebrity on campus because of this column. Everybody knew me. It was a great way to start my career here as a student. I was 29 when I came in so it was a way to meet everybody and network. Everybody knows who writes for the paper, especially when you have your name, your byline and your picture in it every week. It’s a great stepping stone to whichever career you decide on because communication is very key to almost anything you try to attempt. If you can get your words from your mind to your pen it a valuable skill. It also builds self-confidence to see your name on a byline every time. After I graduated, I was offered a writing job at the Hawaii Tribune-Herald because of my writing at Ke Kalahea. Ke Kalahea has been one of the most valuable jobs of my career.”

Indeed, Frank feels is a perfect example of what a little encouragement can do for young minds: “Working for Ke Kalahea gave me the confidence to feel like I could write. Now I’m the published author of two books…”