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KSSK: Power Outages Reportedly Weren’t Widespread Enough To Mention in the News

We now have additional information about KSSK’s lack of power outage coverage early this morning. CHORE questioned the station's performance today for not mentioning any power outages in its early newscasts, even though outages had been common during the thunderstorms and, according to a Hawaiian Electric recording at its Trouble number (548-7961), they were still happening.

HECO’s message at 4:20 a.m. mentioned 18 communities where outages had been reported. (The list had grown to 26 communities by early this afternoon.) We had no reason to doubt the list’s accuracy; on the contrary, we had reason enough to believe outages were indeed happening in those 18 communities -- from Niu Valley to Mililani Mauka. The reason we called HECO in the first place was that power was out at our home and our entire community of dozens (hundreds?) of other homes.

Except for this: Chuck Cotton, vice president/general manager of Clear Channel Radio Hawaii, told CHORE the following in an email:

“A HECO spokesperson confirmed to our people, very early this morning, that there are no major outages, only isolated individual outages.”

Mr. Cotton vigorously defends KSSK’s reliance on HECO’s alleged downplaying of whatever outages were continuing. CHORE thinks his email deserves additional attention.

A News Judgment Issue

First, looking at KSSK’s performance, it seems to us that plain old news judgment should have produced a story on the power problems during the thunderstorms yesterday, last night and this morning. Mr. Cotton backs his station and says his personnel relied on a HECO spokesperson’s report of minimal problems, but is that how KSSK left it?

If the station’s personnel asked questions about the number of customers still without power, where they were and how long the outages might last, that information wasn’t aired. People getting dressed for work by candlelight presumably would have wanted to know.

We’ve speculated here previously about KSSK’s self image and whether it truly shifts to an emergency mindset quickly enough. The available evidence suggests that this morning's program should have been a mixture of entertainment and community safety information – a mix that was missing.

What About HECO’s Report?

If Mr. Cotton’s people accurately reported HECO’s comment about “isolated individual outages,” something seems amiss with that assessment. We know for a fact that the power problems were not “individual” outages; dozens of homes in our community were dark at 4:30 a.m.

It therefore must be asked: How proactive was HECO in getting the word out to radio stations about the outages that were still happening? With at least 18 communities affected one time or another by lightning, rain and wind, it’s fair to conclude this was an event of some significance for the utility. Significant events presumably should trigger extraordinary efforts to keep citizens informed – both by the utility and by the designated emergency broadcaster.

When newsmakers push information and reporters probe for it, the result is an informed citizenry. It doesn't feel like that happened early today.

Comments

  1. The only number KSSK has for HECO information is the same trouble number everybody else has. HECO needs to be more
    pro-active,as you say,to inform folks of what's happening where.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks, Anonymous -- but I don't think that's true. Here's what Chuck Cotton said in another email yesterday: "We have a live phone line to HECO (which is an improvement we made after the earthquake)." So it's probable the KSSK-HECO link is stronger than ever, which obviously is a good development. There needs to be work-around in place for when that link fails, of course, but that's what contingency planning is all about.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Darren Pai was the one who said there were NO major outages early Monday morning.

    ReplyDelete
  4. If that's the case, and we'll take anonymous's word for it, I'd have to question the definition of "major outage." Our entire neighborhood was without power early Monday morning, and I'd conservatively number the homes in the scores -- maybe hundreds.

    ReplyDelete

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