IMR: 1998: March: 19 -- Thursday, 1:34 p.m.
Crawford Hall, Univ. of Hawai`i-Manoa, Hawai`i
About an hour ago, when I walked into the journalism office after lunch with William, I bumped into Matt Burger -- proud alumnus and the voice of Star 101.9.

Everyone else seemed as surprised to see him there as I was. Although he's on campus every week auditing a Russian class, he's so busy he's always on the move. The only reason he was there long enough to be found was because he was strugging with the department's decrepit old Macs.

I helped him get a PDF file printed (eventually giving up on the IIci and hooking my PowerBook up instead), and we shot the breeze while he caught up the latest music news.

I was able to share some of the thoughts I had about his radio station a couple of weeks ago.

He was tickled to hear Jen and I were regular listeners, especially since -- as I suspected -- they have practically no budget for advertising. He said mere word of mouth, to the owners' delight, has been remarkably effective.

I was surprised to hear just how automated Star 101.9 was, often run entirely by computer. Thanks to all-digital technology -- more and more prevalent in corporate radio -- Matt's station IDs and song intros are pre-recorded and randomly played between randomly chosen songs.

"I'm on the air right now," he said, looking out the window at Dean Hall. "I'll be live only after 2 p.m."

Actually, I received quite an education during our short conversation.

CapStar, the current owners of Star 101.9, own a total of seven radio stations in the Honolulu market -- the maximum number allowed by law. The others are KSSK on AM and FM, KIKI on AM and FM, KHVH and Live 98.5.

Obviously, with some money and shrewd business sense, it's possible to completely dominate a region's airwaves.

In fact, in recent years, Matt said staff are shared between stations, proving that it's not my imagination that some voice personalities seem to be everywhere. Matt, for example, also does promos for KIKI AM, the sole country station on the island.

KIKI AM is also notable in that it is run purely by computers, the playlist and other soundbytes controlled from the mainland via sattelite.

"And we're going to see more stations like that in the future," he said.

Homogenization of radio. The immediacy and personality of the medium replaced by sterile, virtual programmers and deejays. Sure sounds a lot like the End of the World long predicted by Norm Winter of the late Radio Free Hawaii... a station for which Matt also had an affinity.

We also talked a bit about his station's format, which he described as a modified version of the "AC" -- adult contemporary -- format driving most of the popular stations in the country.

Star 101.9, he said, plays mostly newer tunes from the 90s (i.e. Third Eye Blind) with some hits of the 80s (i.e. INXS). By contrast, most of the other AC stations, KSSK in particular, shy away from the newer stuff, afraid to alienate their generally older, baby-boomer listenership.

But what Matt's colleagues have noticed is that a good portion of their listner base is that same, professional demographic, who are apparently less afraid of change than conventional market research would have people believe.

Matt also confirmed that they've honed in on the "at work" market, with Star 101.9 very popular in offices, waiting rooms and the like. To sustain the appeal, they run commercials farther apart and -- more importantly -- repeat their highest-rotation songs no closer than 3 hours together (compared to 45 minutes on KQMQ).

The "non-threatening rock" format, engineered for people who listen to the radio longer than an hour at a stretch, seems to be paying off. Which is good, seeing as how they're apparently expected to sustain a 35 percent return.

As we were finishing up, Keever came by to say hello, bringing Matt up to date on the JOUR-COM merger. "I'm still busy," she said, despite the fact that the fight to preserve the department's independence is pretty much lost. "It still takes time to die."

After printing out some music trivia, and with enthusiastic promises to keep in better touch exchanged, Matt raced off to relieve his digital doppleganger.

Finally, I decided to see Sharon about that pesky graduation thing.

See, in addition to the neccessary journalism classes -- which I'm polishing off nicely -- I had yet to choose a "discipline," a mini-minor specialty to supplement my B.A. Originally, I was looking at geology. After getting a look at the hard-science aspect, though, I had second thoughts.

My new thought was to pick Hawaiian language, since it's pretty much the only other subject that's really intrigued me. So I bounced it off Sharon before committing to 300-level language courses.

"We can make it Hawaiian studies, or Hawaiiana," Sharon suggested. That way, she explained, upper-division Hawaiian language classes would count, but so would Hawaii-focused ethnic studies and sociology courses should Hawaiian 301 prove too tough.

So, we plotted the next few semesters presuming a Hawaiiana discipline. I need four upper-division classes, two of which -- Hawaiian 201 and 202 -- should be in the bag come May.

That means I could take 301 and 302 over the summer and be done with it. Or take Politics of Hawai`i and Hawaiian Myths and Legends in the Fall and Spring and finish my discipline at the same time I finish my journalism requirements.

The only major bump remaining is a stats course. The least favorite part of the journalism program, a rite of passage of sorts. Political Science 310, here I come.

Whew. Graduating before the turn of the century? What a terrifying thought.

Whether I'll be walking for a journalism or a communications degree has yet to be seen. I'm pretty sure, despite the merger, that I can still have "journalism" printed on my diploma provided there are no breaks in attendance. The freshmen coming into Crawford today, however, are probably out of luck.

Speaking of academics...

I got an A on my midterm for Chapin's class, despite realizing after-the-fact that I'd left out practically half the answer to one of the essay questions. And I got a 98 from Borg on my profile on Keali`i Reichel, despite waiting until the last minute to write it.

And earlier this week, I stopped to read the door to the journalism office and found out I made the Dean's List for last semester.

School isn't all that awful, after all. To think it only took me five years to realize that.

Katie never ceases to amaze me.

She smiles all the time now. She smiles when she recognizes us. She smiles when we smile. She even smiles when she hears her own voice.

And Jen reported yesterday that she laughed. It wasn't a perfectly-formed laugh -- comparable to a small fit of choking, actually -- but distinctive and further proof of her light-speed development.

When she's experimenting with sounds, it takes my breath away. When she's calm and content, she goes, "Aah, aah, aah..." (as in "hat," not "ball"). When she gets excited and worked up, she kind of squeals -- the end turned up as if asking a question.

And although it's by accident, I love it when she goes, "Waw." I can't help but crawl up to her and kiss her on the nose, getting a big smile in response.

All this amazing stuff, and she's months away from discovering her first consonant.

Of course, paranoid as I am, I read baby magazines and parenting books with voracity. And across the board, Katie's just perfect. They say before the end of April, she'll be able to roll... meaning we'll need to give up the bassinet and set up the crib, and watch her that much more carefully. Then crawling, then standing, then walking...

Like cousin Jennifer said the other day, "Enjoy it now, when you can look away for a moment and know she'll still be there when you turn back."


© Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: · Created: 19 March 1998 · Last Modified: 23 March 1998