Hawaiʻi’s distrust in media — Analysis
How politics and culture has shaped journalism in Hawai'i
By Liam Thropp
April 15, 2021
Just as the oceans must wrap around Hawai'i's islands when they meet them, so must the population adapt to what occurs on land and how it is reported.
Hawai’i’s system of media is constantly in flux. Though informative media digestion is one thing that many Hawaii residents do not have, because of people’s distrust in the media.
Here’s the facts
Most adults in the capital city of Honolulu obtain news from TV stations, with radio and daily newspapers not far behind. A Pew Research Center study found that 62% of Honolulu adults claim that local media reports the news accurately, with a shallow percentage of people who are confident in their information gathering reliability. On the other hand, residents claim that only 59% of local journalists are in touch with the local community.
However, most citizens nationwide aren’t confident enough to check the accuracy of the news they consume every day. If you were to ask several pedestrians in your day about where they get their news, you would get a smorgasbord of sources. But do everyday Americans trust the media? Another study from the Pew Research Center suggests the answer is no.
Let’s talk politics
Finding commonalities between Republican and Democratic opinions is no easy task to take on. 89% of Republicans believe the media holds a significant bias compared to just 57% of Democrats. Independent voters believe that 72% of the media is one-sided. Experts agree that this is due to individuals seeking media based on their trust.
“It isn’t just political partisanship that’s driving this distrust. There are lots of people who don’t like seeing opinion in their news and having all of that mixed together,” said former editor of Storyful, Mandy Jenkins, in an interview with Pulitzer. “And they don’t feel like journalists — many of whom don’t live in their communities — have skin in the game. A lot of that is driven by the lack of local [coverage by local journalists] … A lot of it is driven by national journalists parachuting in, then leaving town.”
Local media publications have historically attempted to improve trust in society, specifically within certain ethnic and cultural communities. Written literacy in Hawaiian language was an adopted tactic fostered by colonizing American missionaries in the early 19th century. But 1861 marks the beginning of a vernacular Hawaiian press, where Hawaiian language newspapers appeared in an effort to offer a voice for Hawaiian communities — rather than the missionaries or “haole-elite” (Dudoit).
The first of these newspapers to be edited solely by Native Hawaiians was Ka Hoku o Ka Pakipika (Star of the Pacific), started by David Kalākaua before his reign as the last penultimate monarch and king of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi. Though the Native Hawaiian community needed trust in the information being reported which other English daily newspapers did not provide. These Native Hawaiian newspapers filled this void for the next 40 years.
Another example of this comes from the Japanese-English language newspaper, Nippu Jiji. This paper was directed at immigrant Issei families, as they were the largest ethnic group in the Islands during the 20th century. The daily paper was also a tool to counteract widespread distrust of Japanese Americans, after repeated success of Japanese military maneuvers in Russia and China during the early 1900s. Nippu Jiji was this community’s trusted voice.
Hawaiʻi falls victim to consistent change in population. While diverse, Hawaiʻi’s number of local journalists is limited as many working professionals often move from the Mainland for a life on the Islands. A journalist needs to foster trust in the community, and with a high turnover rate this is hindered significantly.