Rural areas feel left out of conversations that many of you say are too Honolulu-centric.

Some of you arrive with full-blown Powerpoint presentations, a bunch of you have no idea who on earth we are, but you never fail to surprise.

Welcome to a Civil Beat pop-up newsroom.

If you’re one of the hundreds of people who has taken the time to meet with Civil Beat reporters, editors and business team members during the 18 events so far, this will sound familiar. Generally you will have found us in a well-chilled meeting room in one of Hawaii’s state public libraries in places like Nanakuli, Hilo, Molokai or Kihei.

Waimanalo Road Work
Kalanianaole Highway improvements, pedestrian safety and the absence of safe sidewalks all raised the ire of community members who attended a pop-up newsroom in Waimanalo. (Alicia Lou/Civil Beat/2022)

Depending on when you’ve dropped by you will have run into a single Civil Beater or more, usually already in the middle of a conversation with someone. The format is pretty loose, intentionally. We realize that many people, even if they are already readers of Civil Beat, don’t necessarily know exactly how our journalism works.

We’re more than happy to bore you rigid with the details.

We want to get out of our newsroom bubble, let’s face it, for selfish reasons. Most of you are experts in your community and frequently you share ideas, give us the gossip and highlight issues that are potential fire starters for a new Civil Beat article.

In some notable instances you’ve shared impressive examples of research that would make any investigative reporter proud.

Flight path analysis? Forensic accounting? Mosquito fertility rates? School funding formulas or parts per million. Or just a taco place we can’t miss.

That’s why we tend to take a lot of notes when we’re talking story.

  • Behind The Story

Many of you have also asked this insightful question that I am going to try and answer: “What do you do with all this stuff?”

The first thing we do is tell each other about intriguing conversations when we break for lunch or during the trip home, and sometimes in the Civil Beat newsroom during our regular weekly “brown bags” when we end up brainstorming our best coverage ideas.

We also share a lot of those notes among ourselves in a document along with the contact details readers provide when they signed in. Being able to follow up after the pop-up newsroom is the main way that your tips are transformed into stories. A couple of months back we looked at all the notes we had taken since the first event Oct. 22 because we were curious about what themes were emerging.

Students and faculty from Joseph Campbell High School at the Civil Beat pop-up at the Ewa Beach Public and School Library.
(Matthew Leonard/Civil Beat/2023)

Housing. Again. No surprise. On Oahu, Lanai and Molokai it wasn’t just the housing shortfall but the lack of worker accommodation. Those conversations have already inspired stories on mental health provider housing on Lanai, the inching toward a teacher housing program on Oahu and a look at the roadblocks that ranchers and producers continue to face to accommodate the workforce essential to operations like coffee production on the Big Island.

As much as the need for more affordable housing is a constant concern, you also want to retain what’s unique about communities like Waimea on the Big Island, or Wahiawa on Oahu.

Join us in Honokaa on Monday. Click here for details.

Invasive species continue a relentless march across the archipelago and it doesn’t seem to matter where you are, according to you.

And what’s up with the HECO bills?

Sidewalk repair sure is a bugbear. Unless you don’t have any sidewalks at all, as is the case on the North Shore of Oahu and on many Hawaiian homelands. Everywhere, you’ve told us that the safety of anyone walking, biking, horse riding, pushing a pram or propelling a wheelchair comes a poor second to cars. Those issues were highlighted in a story that originated at the Waimanalo pop-up about concerns over interminable highway work, and the extension of the island-wide bike path.

And everywhere there is a lot of trash. Solid waste, polluted water, lead contamination, you name it. “We’re building a mountain,” someone said of the Molokai landfill.

On the upside, this is a problem where you’ve told us that your communities are taking action. Communities that feel left out of the orbit of government services, and that’s a lot of you, have developed cleanup days, work groups and actively lobbied lawmakers and departments.

Conversations at the Molokai and Lanai pop-up newsrooms about the doctor shortage on neighbor islands inspired
a recent series of Civil Beat stories. (Courtesy: Donna Gamiao/2023)

Here’s a great example of how vital the pop-up newsrooms are to our reporting and the impact that journalism can have, with your help.

Motivated by conversations with community at a Lanai pop-up newsroom, reporter Brittany Lyte has written several stories on the shortage of doctors on the rural neighbor islands. The crisis was crystallized in a story about the death of two longtime family physicians on Molokai within months of each other.

A follow-up story on the limited air medical services for patients and the squeeze on rural providers was read by Big Island physician, Dr. Ka‘ohimanu Dang Akiona, who is now in the process of rehiring one of the doctor’s staff on Molokai to reopen a Family and Urgent Care Clinic in Kaunakakai.

Coincidence? I think not.

Not all your tips will turn into stories, and some haven’t turned into stories yet. Two reporters are currently working on stories that you first told us about at our Pearl City pop-up newsroom in November.

But we didn’t forget them.

On Monday you can find our team in Honokaa, a town that some of you have told us before, has a fantastic high school band. See you there.

Pop-Up Newsroom May 22

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