HawaiiStar.com is a local news service that may very well have nine lives.

It traces its roots to the early 1990s, when a staffer in the University of Hawaii’s Information Technology Systems (ITS) office assembled a daily news summary and published it via the GOPHER information network. While technically available worldwide, access was primarily by librarians and university faculty. Users would have to use clunky terminals to navigate through “gopherspace” to the UH system, where they’d find the summaries listed alongside assorted library catalogues and system bulletins.

In early 1994, through recommendations by regular inhabitants of the alt.culture.hawaii USENET newsgroup, an ITS manager approached me to take over writing the news summaries, as their longtime volunteer was relocating to the mainland. At the time I was very active in the local newsgroups (assembling the first and only FAQ for alt.culture.hawaii), and had been writing for the student paper at both the UH-Manoa and UH-Hilo campuses. Already smitten with the ways the Internet could build communities and spread knowledge, I was happy to give it a try.

At first, I continued to post the summaries to the GOPHER server, enjoying the feedback of a relatively small but devoted group of readers. Over the next several months, however, several people had asked if I could e-mail it to them, which I began doing separately. I had also started posting the summaries to USENET. As the e-mail group became larger, I worked with ITS to set up a mailing list using the university’s listproc system.

Thus, on June 15, 1995, the “Hawaii NewsList” was born. By then, I had returned to the Manoa campus from the Big Island to serve as editor of Ka Leo, and the news summaries — by then featuring the official publication title Ka `Upena Kukui (“The Net of Light”) — had a readership of several thousand.

The mailing list offered a great opportunity to distribute more than general news summaries, however, and through the generous efforts of several like-minded writers and geeks, the “Hawaii NewsList” added several regular features to its line-up. They included, at various times:

  • Maui news summaries by Sharon Westfall
  • Lahaina news summaries by Ursula Keuper-Bennett and David Lumpkins
  • Molokai news summaries by George Peabody
  • Economic and Big Island news summaries by K.T. Cannon-Eger
  • Sports news summaries by Dayle K. Turner
  • Music news and reviews by Susan Jaworowski
  • Small business news from Small Business Hawaii
  • Hawaii radio and television news by Melvin AhChing
  • “Volcano Watch” from the Hawaii Volcano Observatory
  • Song charts from Radio Free Hawaii
  • Pidgin stories by Nathan Yuen
  • Hawaii news and commentary by Louise Kubo

In fact, the “Hawaii NewsList” became a true multimedia enterprise soon after its birth thanks to Internet Radio Hawaii, an online radio station by renown broadcaster Robert Abbett that ran for over a decade. Abbett would read selections of “Hawaii NewsList” reports between blocks of Hawaiian music.

This volunteer-driven, grass-roots online news service had built an enormous audience. It was only natural for it to make the jump to the World Wide Web. At first, Abbett donated his time and server space to maintain a public archive of “Hawaii NewsList” features at Hawaii’s H4 (and the archives, starting in 1995, are still available today). Then, in March 1996, as the Honolulu Star-Bulletin‘s website finally came online, I also started posting the news summaries on the web on my personal website (hosted by Hawaii OnLine). That was to be its official home for the next two years.

After 1997, the “Hawaii NewsList” and “Ka `Upena Kukui” underwent several name changes and upgrades, operating briefly as “LeahiNet News,” and then, “Islenews.com.” By that time, nearly every other traditional media outlet had a web presence, and indeed other online-only news enterprises were attempted. Competition increased, readership subsided, contributors moved on, and as I turned my focus to finally completing my Journalism degree and supporting my new family, updates became few and far between.

I sent out updates when I could, and — out of school and working a regular job in downtown Honolulu — I never lost my obsession with the news business, and media issues as a whole. A message sent to my old university e-mail account in 2002 referenced the “Hawaii NewsList” and urged, simply, “Hana hou!”

So in January 2003, I gave online news another go with HawaiiNews.com. It represented a broader, more flexible approach to the original “Hawaii NewsList” mission. Though I periodically reported on major stories and continued to distribute regular features (including “Volcano Watch” and CrimeStoppers bulletins), I used the site to publish press releases and public announcements (with an eye toward highlighting community programs, arts, education, and charity efforts as a public service). Focus was as much on timeliness as on depth (reflected in part through the site’s “weblog” architecture).

The end of 2010 brought yet another name change, and the launch of HawaiiStar.com. My vision is still to create a more robust independent news outlet, a local publishing venue for original reporting and commentary. And I invite anyone to contribute whatever they can to help make it happen.

— Ryan Kawailani Ozawa

Other News

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    Hawaii Herald launches online edition

    The Hawai‘i Herald today took a major step forward in its more than thirty­ year ­history with the launch of its online edition. The debut issue is focused on the Primary Election, with a story on the “David vs. Goliath” gubernatorial race between incumbent Governor Neil Abercrombie and veteran State Senator David Ige, as well as a Q&A forum on the issues with responding candidates for the major offices.

    “This is an historic moment for The Hawai‘i Herald, the only Hawaii­-based newspaper dedicated to covering the local Japanese American community,” says Keiichi Tagata, president of parent company Hawaii Hochi, Ltd. “After 34 years of sharing stories in print with loyal readers, mostly in Hawaii, we look forward to sharing the Herald with a wider audience of readers around the world.”

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  • Featured Technology Honolulu happy hour app taps new beacon tech

    Honolulu happy hour app taps new beacon tech

    Happy Hour Pal, a Honolulu-based startup, is the first business to deploy beacon technology into restaurants and bars throughout the state.

    Happy Hour Pal is a searchable website and free GPS-based mobile app that allows people to save money while dining out, by locating happy hour specials in their area. Integrating beacon technology will make Happy Hour Pal even easier for users to identify nearby happy hour specials, and provide local businesses an effortless opportunity to engage directly with customers and increase awareness and sales during the most powerful internal promotion – happy hour.

    Happy Hour Pal’s website and mobile app users can search for happy hour specials by food, drink, time, and location, and easily access happy hour menus and daily specials for each business. Users can share information via text message and email, and invite friends to join them for happy hour. Users can also earn points for rewards when they check in to a business on the app.

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  • Featured Publicity Science Third historic volcano found off O‘ahu

    Third historic volcano found off O‘ahu

    University of Hawaii researchers, working with colleagues in California and France, have discovered evidence of a third major shield volcano making up the island of O‘ahu.

    Previously, geologists believed the island’s current profile is the remnants of two volcanoes, Wai‘anae and Ko‘olau. But extending almost 100 km WNW from Ka‘ena Point, the western tip of the island of O‘ahu, is a large region of shallow bathymetry, called the submarine Ka‘ena Ridge. It is that region that has now been recognized to represent a precursor volcano to the island of O‘ahu, and on whose flanks the Wai‘anae and Ko‘olau Volcanoes later formed.

    The team included scientists from the University of Hawai‘i–Mānoa, Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de L’Environment in France, and Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.

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  • Education Featured Publicity Science Technology Leaf Doctor: UH plant expert launches third app

    Leaf Doctor: UH plant expert launches third app

    Fresh from his success with two widely utilized smartphone apps, plant pathologist Scot Nelson has created a new and more technical app, the Leaf Doctor, for a more specialized audience.

    Nelson, who works at the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources at the University of Hawaii, doesn’t anticipate that the Leaf Doctor will have the same broad, popular appeal as his Plant Doctor app. For many of those who will use the Leaf Doctor, though, it is likely to be a professional game-changer.

    The Leaf Doctor focuses on the finer points of diagnosing plant diseases.

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  • Featured Health Publicity Study: Shorter men may live longer

    Study: Shorter men may live longer

    Short height and long life have a direct connection in Japanese men, according to new research based on the Kuakini Honolulu Heart Program (HHP) and the Kuakini Honolulu-Asia Aging Study (HAAS).

    “We split people into two groups – those who were 5-foot-2 and shorter, and 5-4 and taller,” said Dr. Bradley Willcox, one of the investigators for the study and a UH Mānoa Professor at the John A. Burns School of Medicine’s (JABSOM’s) Department of Geriatric Medicine. “The folks that were 5-2 and shorter lived the longest. The range was seen all the way across from being 5-foot tall to 6-foot tall. The taller you got, the shorter you lived.”

    Researchers at the Kuakini Medical Center, JABSOM and U.S. Veterans Affairs worked on the study, which was recently published in PLOS ONE, a peer-reviewed medical journal.

    The researchers showed that shorter men were more likely to have a protective form of the longevity gene, FOXO3, leading to smaller body size during early development and a longer lifespan. Shorter men were also more likely to have lower blood insulin levels and less cancer.

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  • Featured Science Deep origins to the behavior of our volcanoes

    Deep origins to the behavior of our volcanoes

    Kīlauea volcano, on the Big Island of Hawaii, typically has effusive eruptions, where magma flows to create ropy pāhoehoe lava. But Kīlauea sometimes erupts more violently, showering scoria and blocks over much of the surface of the island. To explain the variability in Kīlauea’s eruption styles, a research team analyzed 25 eruptions that have taken place over the past 600 years.

    Their research shows that the ultimate fate of a magma at Kīlauea — that is if the eruption will be effusive or explosive — is strongly influenced by the variability in composition of the deep magma. In short, more gas-rich magmas produces more explosive eruptions.

    “Gas-rich magmas are ‘predisposed’ to rise quickly through the Earth’s mantle and crust and erupt powerfully,” Houghton explained.

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  • Education Environment Featured Transportation Bike Commuting Celebrated on Thursday

    Bike Commuting Celebrated on Thursday

    This year’s “BikeUHM,” the annual appreciation and promotional event for those who cycle and who are thinking of cycling to UH Mānoa, coincides with the University’s Earth Day Festival on Thursday, April 24. “BikeUHM 2014: Earth Cycles” will be held along Legacy Path (near Dole Street) from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m.

    To further enhance the cycling experience at UH Mānoa, the University has implemented Sharrow lanes (shared by both motorists and bicyclists) and free bike parking in any of the more than 150 racks positioned around campus. Coming soon is the installation of a secure, enclosed bike shelter in the Lower Campus Parking Structure and bike-share stations on campus, as recommended in a recent feasibility study for bike-sharing in Honolulu.

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  • Education Publicity Winners named in school attendance video contest

    Winners named in school attendance video contest

    Winners of a video contest to discourage school truancy were announced yesterday. The “Be Pono – Be in School” video contest was organized by schools on the Windward side of Oahu. Judges awarded prizes valued at $10,000. More than 1,500 students – some in kindergarten – created and produced a total of 60 video entries. Described as the state’s first district-wide attendance-campaign video contest, it launched last month and drew participation by one-third of all Windward District schools. Entrants submitted 30-second spots […]

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