IMR: 1999: February: 09 — Tuesday, 6:19 a.m.
Lanihuli Drive and Kamehameha Avenue, Manoa, Hawai`i

The fact that I wake up (or at least try to wake up) at 5:30 in the morning just to get a decent parking spot on the streets near campus isn't that absurd. Even now cars are dancing around me, circling the block, drivers scanning for the nearest patch of open curb and struggling to parallel park without the benefit of that first cup of coffee.

But the fact that I do this while a UH parking pass waits for me at the parking office is, perhaps, a little strange.

Part of the reason I've never picked the thing up—even though they were kind enough to cash my check back around Christmas—is that I haven't yet found the time to take the long hike up to the upper upper campus. Hell, by the middle of stats class, my engines are already revving to sprint downtown to work.

And part of is that my tuition receipt, which is one of the thousand or so documents needed to pick up the pass, seems to have been lost in the postal black hole.

Hell, I realized long ago that these narrow streets near the UH president's house are much, much closer to Crawford Hall than "Zone 20," the monstrous parking structure at the opposite end of the campus.

Since I only have classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays anyway, it's just a better deal all around to just stick with this early morning roadside ritual.

It sets up an extra hour to finish up the day's homework. It lets me spend some time with "Mark & Brian" over at KLOS in Los Angeles. I can people watch, or nap, or hack out a quick entry. It's free, and probably much less hassle.

If only I hadn't paid for the damn pass.

I forgot to mention last week that I experienced a short, simple, blissful moment of vindication.

Trotting onto campus early to avoid an impending downpour, I relaxed in the journalism department office before journalism class. It had been a long time since I'd been in there, so I had to catch up with the regulars. But it didn't take long for me to resume my traditional rant about what has happened to Ka Leo.

[ Whatever it takes? ]There was a stack of issues sitting on the conference table, so—unable to resist any longer—I picked one up and flipped it open. I was immediately greeted with a cheesy line drawing of a girl in a bikini who seductively beckoned, "Read Ka Leo daily."

"Well, that it," I said. "There's no hope."

"Yeah," they said, looking over. "Those stinkers."

Now this was a historic moment. The department has seen at least a dozen Ka Leo editors come and go and literally hundreds of Ka Leo writers. A former editor bitching about how the paper has gone to shit is older than old. And without fail, whenever I'd get into one of my diatribes, they would switch into devil's advocate mode and defend the current regime.

Not because it was any good, of course, but just because "everyone has to start somewhere."

But this time, they—and I use 'they' because I doubt any of them expected to be on the record—just nodded and sighed with every point. They even came up with a couple of zingers themselves. The litany could have gone one for an hour if I didn't have to race down the hall for Oshiro's class.

Absolutely non-existent news judgement, with press release rewrites, features and even editorial pieces regularly creeping onto the front page. Ads for nudie bars and 900 numbers everywhere. Rampant typos and consistently improper headline structure. No writers listed in the staff box (as if they're not the most important part of a newspaper). The clumsy graphic replacement of the old skybox now slapped under the flag.

The primary graphic for one ad was a woman's thong-flossed ass.

Everyone around the table shook their heads and said there had been actual changes in Board of Publications policy for some of these developments. That floundering advertising sales led to removing the ban on strip club and sex line ads. That the policy that a woman in a bikini can't be used unless it's the bikini that's on sale has gone out the window.

"I don't care if it's technically allowed," I said. "It's only when you're in college that you can stick to 'principles' in journalism."

The editor's power of final discretion over everything in the paper—including advertising—has obviously been eroded. I mean, I couldn't believe any editor would let his paper turn into a seedy rag by choice. Don't they know they can actually fight the BOP? Don't they know Jim Reis and Jan Javinar are not gods?

I started to have flashbacks. Fighting with the (staff) advertising manager, refusing ads that no doubt meant huge losses in advertising revenues. Insisting that we would never print fewer than eight pages, no matter how little advertising was sold for a particular issue. Deciding to print Hawaiian language columns without translation despite excluding 95 percent of the campus readership. Battling with the BOP to get them to seriously consider the once pie-in-the-sky dream of getting the "sweatshop" air conditioned.

Damn. I doubt I'll ever have a chance to stick to ideals like that again.

And now, as far as I could tell, the only remnant of my two years of effort to make Ka Leo a serious newspaper was the little "don't sue us" disclaimer in the classifieds.

I know, I know. Ryan let it go...

If there's anything about Ka Leo that's as consistent as the tides, it's the scars the place leaves on your brain.

© Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: · Created: 04 February 1999 · Last Modified: 11 February 1999