Barbara J. Tanabe has broken new ground as an Asian-American journalist more than once. Hired by KOMO-TV in Seattle, Washington, when she graduated from the University of Washington's School of Communications, Barbara initiated, wrote, and narrated "The Fence at Minidoka" in 1971. This documentary, aired on December 7, 1971, described for the first time the experiences of Japanese-Americans interned in the United States during World War II. It drew hate mail, but it also earned an Emmy. In 1974, Barbara moved to Honolulu and joined KHON-TV as reporter, anchor, and assistant news director. During her time at KHON, she sought to report stories that would be particularly relevant to the variety of Asian peoples living in Hawaii. In 1987, she left broadcast journalism and joined Hill and Knowlton/Pacific Communications, Inc., where she was recently named President and Chief Executive Officer.
In preparation for this interview, I read several books on broadcast journalism, including Waiting for Prime Time, by Marlene Sanders and Marcia Rock, Evening Stars, by Barbara Matusow, The Imperfect Mirror, by Daniel Paisner, Hard News, Women in Broadcast Journalism, by David H. Hosley and Gayle K. Yamada, Newstalk II, by Shirley Biagi, and Women in Television News, by Judith S. Gelfman. To learn about the history of Hawaii, I read Shoal of Time by Gavan Daws; to understand one of the major issues in Hawaii today, I read A Call for Hawaiian Sovereignty, by Michael Kioni Dudley and Keoni Kealoha Agard.
Barbara and I made arrangements for this oral history interview in telephone conversations, and we agreed on three sessions over a ten-day period. In order to have time for the interviews in Barbara's busy schedule, we began each session at 7:30 a.m. The second of the two sessions was conducted in the studio at Hill and Knowlton and was videotaped. Because of the limited time available for the interview, I felt it necessary to concentrate on the major activities and accomplishments of Barbara's career in broadcast journalism; little time was spent on specific stories in detail or on her current responsibilities at Hill and Knowlton. In spite of her other commitments, Barbara gave her full attention to each interview session and, like the businesswoman she is, reviewed and edited the transcripts both carefully and quickly.
Donita M. Moorhus
April 28, 1994
© 1994, Washington Press Club Foundation.
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