Our new criminal justice reporter is getting here at a good time.
Yoohyun Jung has arrived just as the biggest corruption and conspiracy trial in Hawaii history is about to start.
And the federal investigation into former Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha, his wife, Katherine — a former deputy prosecutor — and several Honolulu police officers may be just the tip of the iceberg as the Justice Department continues to probe the Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and the city’s office of Corporation Counsel.
That alone would be enough to keep one reporter busy. But we’ve also asked Yoohyun to delve more deeply into all aspects of public safety and the legal system — kind of a broad mandate to take on the traditional news beats of cops, courts and corrections in a meaningful way.
We don’t generally cover breaking crime news here at Civil Beat, the latest convenience store robbery, for instance, or another traffic fatality.
Instead, we’re more interested in the bigger picture of what is affecting the public’s safety and the public policy response to those systemic problems.
To that end, Yoohyun should get a look inside a couple of the major institutions responsible for public safety and how they have been operating as she joins reporter Nick Grube in team coverage of the Kealoha trial, which begins Monday with jury selection at the Blaisdell Center.
You can read more about Yoohyun’s background here on her author page. The short version is she was formerly the public safety reporter for the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson, where she also developed an expertise in data reporting, a skill we hope to put to good use here. More recently, she was a radio writer for Korea Broadcasting System’s World Radio division in Seoul, South Korea.
She also spent a year as an investigative fellow at Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting, where she did a deep-dive investigation into a rapidly expanding international school network.
Yoohyun, who was born in Korea and grew up in that country and Canada, attended college at the University of Arizona, graduating in 2014. She is fluent in Korean and Japanese.
“I’m interested in covering injustice,” Yoohyun told me when I asked her to chat about what she hopes to accomplish in this position. “The beat says criminal justice, but more often we will find more injustice than justice being served and disparities in how justice is being served.”
She wants to help bring about meaningful change by using journalism to shine a light on what’s wrong — along with what’s right — in our policies and institutions that guard the public’s safety.
Her interest in data journalism also will bring a new level of storytelling to Civil Beat readers. Hawaii agencies have historically been reluctant to release public data and Yoohyun says she wants to work to uncover information and put it out there for the public to use.
“So much more needs to be known about police agencies and how they conduct their business,” she says. “Officers on the ground collect a lot of different data from people they encounter on the ground, like what time or where things are taking place.”
“I’m not just focused on what government agencies are doing right or wrong,” she adds, “but also things like what types of crime people are being affected by, and where.”
Still, she says, her biggest interest at least right now is in corruption and accountability.
Patti Epler is the Editor and General Manager of Civil Beat. She's been a reporter and editor for more than 30 years, primarily in Hawaii, Alaska, Washington and Arizona. You can follow her on twitter at @PattiEpler, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 808-377-0561.