New history book recaps history of Hawaii television

Local broadcast historian AJ McWhorter’s new book, “Honolulu Television,” sums up 65 years of television history in Hawaii, from the first day this state launched a local signal in 1952, to a major change in the TV landscape in 2009 when two affiliates merged into a duopoly. Hot off the press, the 127-page book tells the story of this visual medium most appropriately – using photographs to convey the message.

The book, released in January 2018, debuted at number one on Amazon’s new books in the categories of  television and video engineering.

McWhorter spent a year putting the book together. It’s a labor of love that was borne out of a big change in a different medium: print journalism. It was the fall of 2016, and he had just lost his Honolulu Star-Advertiser column after eight years of penning “Looking Back,” a monthly article that reflected on Hawaii’s media history and personalities.

“I still felt I had a couple of years’ worth of columns, and I wanted to express it. I thought, ‘Maybe I should write a book,’” recalls McWhorter, a former KITV and KHON staffer. Not one to sit still for long, he quickly found a publisher and sold the proposal.

The book moves chronologically, recounting Hawaii’s television history through wonderful photographs of both places and people; to kids’ programs (I loved Checkers and Pogo) and favorite local shows (my grandfather loved Let’s Go Fishing); and includes a nod to public broadcaster PBS.

McWhorter spent hours combing various sources for photos, like the Hawaii State Archives, media outlet archives, his own collection, as well as asking friends – like me. My four photos from KHNL (NBC) made the cut out of over a thousand pictures, and are on pages 122 and 123.

As one who has spent most of her career in TV news and much of her life in Hawaii, I love the book. I find it meaningful to look back at shows I grew up with or newscasters I watched as a child. It tickles me to move through the decades and see friends and colleagues – or a few times, myself.

I’m currently on call at KITV, so I’ve now been employed at all the stations here; I feel a real connection to the material presented. (I’ve not worked at KGMB, but I was at KHNL for 13 years, and it’s half of Hawaii News Now, so if viewed that way…)

McWhorter says he’s been interested in the past his whole life. “I’ve been told countless times I’m an old soul in a young man’s body,” he laughs. “I just have tremendous respect for those who came before. They set the groundwork for us. I respect my elders in general and try to learn from them.”

McWhorter hopes his book will take readers on a nostalgic walk down memory lane. “People can look back fondly at a time gone by, when there were just a few stations on the dial and life was so much simpler,” he says.

What’s next for McWhorter? He’d like to turn this book into – what else? – a documentary, and possibly produce a book about Hawaii’s radio history. As we say in the business, stay tuned for that.

“Honolulu Television” is available on Amazon at It’s also on bookshelves at Barnes & Noble at Ala Moana Center. He’s also in talks to supply the book to Walmart, Target, Native Book & Beautiful Things, Bookends, and Costco. 

More on McWhorter's tape collection and services at .

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Diane Ako