Former AP Hawaii bureau chief Gordon Sakamoto dies at age 82

Published: Thursday, November 09, 2017 @ 5:45 PM
Updated: Thursday, November 09, 2017 @ 5:43 PM

Gordon Sakamoto, one of the first Asian-Americans hired to work in a U.S. bureau of an international news service, died Wednesday at 82.

Sakamoto, a former Hawaii bureau chief for The Associated Press, started his journalism career with United Press International in Honolulu in 1960. He retired in 2001 after overseeing operations in Hawaii and the Central Pacific for AP.

He died in his Honolulu home after heart failure and a long battle with chronic kidney disease, his son Kyle Sakamoto said.

Honolulu-born Sakamoto worked for UPI for 27 years in San Francisco and Hawaii. He joined the AP in 1993 after working five years as a marketing specialist for the state of Hawaii.

The AP named him chief of bureau in Honolulu on Jan. 1, 1994. The next day, he was kicked off the island of Lanai while trying to cover billionaire computer-software mogul Bill Gates' ultra-secretive wedding. It was one of the adventures in reporting he often reminisced about.

To some former AP reporters, he wasn't only a mentor, but a father-figure.

"He taught me a lot about journalism, about life, about family and to be a better person," said Jaymes Song, a former Honolulu Star-Bulletin reporter Sakamoto hired to work with him at the AP.

Song recalled Sakamoto helping a cash-strapped student at the Asian American Journalists Convention in New York City in 2001.

"Gordon gave him money out of his own pocket— a complete stranger," Song said. "He brought the guy with us to a Yankees game. That's the kind of guy he was. He took care of people, and he cared about people. That's what made him a great news leader and person."

Sakamoto was a pioneer as an Asian-American in journalism.

"He was a manager in an industry where there were little-to-no minorities in management," Song said, noting that Sakamoto graduated from Missouri Valley College.

That wasn't something Sakamoto talked about or bragged about, but it made him a leader who was sensitive to differences in culture and values, said Song, who later led the Hawaii bureau as an administrative correspondent. Song and Sakamoto remained close even after Sakamoto retired and after Song left journalism for a career in real estate.

Jean Christensen was a rookie reporter fresh out of a temporary AP gig in Minneapolis when she called Sakamoto looking for a job.

"I told him I lived in Hawaii as a kid, and he said, 'How's your Pidgin,'" she recalled of the mix of languages created by Hawaiians, Filipinos, Puerto Ricans and others who worked in Hawaii's sugar plantations.

Sakamoto's Hawaii roots shaped the way he directed news coverage of the state, said Christensen, now a bankruptcy attorney.

"His love of Hawaii was just always so apparent," she said. "We were so protective of Hawaii. We wanted to make sure that stories about Hawaii didn't just play on stereotypes."

He was a "steady hand" during breaking news events such as the 1999 mass shooting at Xerox Corp.'s Honolulu warehouse, Christensen said. He championed his reporters' story ideas, she said, recalling how supportive he was when she pursued a story about paniolos, or Hawaiian cowboys, on the Big Island.

"I remember him as a quiet man who took pride in his appointment as our chief in Hawaii and was zealous in trying to meet the members' needs in Hawaii and see that Hawaii's story made it out to the rest of AP," said former AP President and CEO Louis D. Boccardi.

On top of his duties representing AP to member outlets, he juggled the bureau's sports coverage. Retired Honolulu Star-Advertiser reporter Ann Miller traveled with him covering golf for about a decade.

"He never complained about it," she said.

In 1998, Sakamoto wrote a first-person account of being a 6-year-old Lunalilo Elementary School student when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.

While more than 100,000 people of Japanese ancestry living on the mainland were sent to internment camps during World War II, those in Hawaii fared better, he wrote: "Living in the islands, with their melting pot of ethnic groups, eased the fears of retaliation for my parents, who were second-generation Japanese-American, or Nisei. In no time, we kids of Japanese ancestry were out playing with our Chinese and Portuguese neighbors and parking ourselves in their homes."

Sakamoto's knowledge of Hawaii's culture, politics and society made him well-suited to lead the bureau, said David Briscoe, who succeeded him as bureau chief from 2001 to 2009.

"One of the great things about the AP is some of its best people do come from the local community," Briscoe said. "Gordon probably was one of the few really home-grown bureau chiefs."

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WATCH: Florida school shooting survivors perform emotional song at CNN town hall

Published: Thursday, February 22, 2018 @ 2:12 AM

Shooter Reportedly In Custody In Florida High School Shooting

Survivors of last week's deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, performed an emotional song Wednesday night to close a CNN town hall on gun control.

>> Watch the clip here

According to CNN, members of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Drama Club wrote and performed the song, "Shine," at the event at the BB&T Center in Sunrise.

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"You're not gonna knock us down / We'll get back up again / You may have hurt us but I promise we are stronger and / We're not gonna let you win / We're putting up a fight / You may have brought the dark / But together we will shine a light," the chorus says.

Minutes earlier, Max Schachter read a poem titled "Life Is Like a Rollercoaster" by his son, Alex, who was killed in the shooting. 

>> Watch the reading here

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The tributes followed a heated town hall moderated by CNN's Jake Tapper and featuring lawmakers from Florida, including Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio. National Rifle Association spokeswoman Dana Loesch also participated in the event.

Victims of the Florida High School Mass Shooting

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Alleged Florida high school shooter has $800,000 inheritance, reports say

Published: Wednesday, February 21, 2018 @ 5:23 PM

Reportedly Alleged Florida High School Shooter Has $800,000 Inheritance

The alleged gunman in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting last week in Parkland, Fla., has an inheritance from his adoptive parents worth $800,000, according to news outlets.

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But Nikolas Cruz, 19, who now has a public defender at taxpayer expense as his attorney in his murder case, cannot access the money until he turns 22, the Miami Herald reported.

Cruz was charged with 17 counts of murder last Thursday, a day after allegedly opening fire inside the high school with an assault-style rifle.

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The large amount of money could prompt a judge to review the estate and possibly make the money accessible for Cruz’s defense.

Who Is Nicolas De Jesus Cruz, Alleged Gunman In Florida School Shooting?

The Public Defender’s Office asked a judge Tuesday to review the inheritance, the Herald reported,  to help determine if any of the money can be used in his defense.

The court filing specifically asked the judge to “determine whether the defendant is indigent.”

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Cruz is charged with 17 counts of murder in the deaths of 14 students and three adults, including teachers, in the deadly rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day. More than a dozen others were injured in the massacre.

Cruz was caught shortly after the shooting in nearby Coral Springs, Fla., and taken into custody without incident.

He’s jailed without bond.

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Marco Rubio faces a tough crowd during CNN's town hall for gun reform

Published: Thursday, February 22, 2018 @ 12:01 AM

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Cameron Kasky asks a question to Sen. Marco Rubio during a CNN town hall meeting at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla., Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018. Rubio was put on the defensive Wednesday by angry students, teachers and parents who are demanding stronger gun-control measures after the shooting rampage that claimed 17 lives at a Florida high school. (Michael Laughlin/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)
Michael Laughlin/AP
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Cameron Kasky asks a question to Sen. Marco Rubio during a CNN town hall meeting at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla., Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018. Rubio was put on the defensive Wednesday by angry students, teachers and parents who are demanding stronger gun-control measures after the shooting rampage that claimed 17 lives at a Florida high school. (Michael Laughlin/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)(Michael Laughlin/AP)

During CNN’s Wednesday night town hall with Florida lawmakers, survivors of last week’s high school shooting and members of the NRA, Sen. Marco Rubio attempted to explain why a ban on assault rifles wouldn’t have prevented the tragedy, and the audience’s reaction was not quite what he was hoping for.

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While explaining what a ban on assault rifles would do, the Republican senator from Florida said to ensure no one would “get around it.”

“You would literally have to ban every semi-automatic rifle that’s sold in America.” A surprised Rubio, who appeared to have been hoping to convince the audience against such an idea, was met with a solid 10 seconds of applause that overwhelmed the room.

“Fair enough, fair enough,” the senator said as the cheers died down.

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The moment came just after a grieving father called Rubio’s reaction to the mass shooting “pathetically weak” and asked whether the senator would support banning assault rifles like Nikolas Cruz’s AR-15 in order to save the lives of children.

“It’s too easy to get. It is a weapon of war,” the father emotionally said. “The fact that you can’t stand with everybody else in this building and say that, I’m sorry.”

A flustered Rubio assured him, “I do believe what you’re saying is true,” before launching into his argument against an assault rifles ban.

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CNN’s town hall follows last week’s shooting at Marjory Stonemason Douglas High School where gunman Nikolas Cruz fatally shot 17 people and injured over a dozen more. In the time since, many of the school’s surviving students have been commanding public attention and demanding a conversation about gun reform in the United States.

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Funeral arrangements for evangelist Billy Graham are set, public viewing scheduled

Published: Wednesday, February 21, 2018 @ 9:55 PM
Updated: Wednesday, February 21, 2018 @ 9:55 PM

Billy Graham Dead at 99

Famed evangelist the Rev. Billy Graham, who counseled several presidents and preached to millions of people worldwide, died Wednesday, according to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. He was 99.

Funeral arrangements have now been finalized and a public viewing is scheduled for early next week.

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