Gina Mangieri is an investigative reporter for KHON2 television station in Honolulu. Before moderating a Zócalo/Daniel K. Inouye Institute “Pau Hana” panel discussion titled “If We Love Hawaii So Much, Why Don’t We Vote?” at Artistry Honolulu in Hawaii’s state capital, she spoke in the green room about growing up in the Snow Belt, having a mother who was a journalist, and why Hawaii residents don’t get freaked out by disaster warnings.
Your mother was a journalist. What are some of your memories of her working life, and how did she influence you?
Well, by the time I came along she was out of newsrooms. However, when she was a reporter, back in the late ‘60s, early ‘70s, she was the first woman reporter in her newsroom, at the Buffalo Evening News. She would tell me these great stories.
Given how few women worked in newsrooms in that era, how did she get treated?
Well, her job interview would’ve just been unheard of today, where the editor basically said, “I never hired a woman. I never wanted to. But I hear you might be pretty good, so let’s give it a try.” I never faced that, going into newsrooms. There hadn’t been a woman reporter [other than on] the fashion pages.
So what did she cover?
Politics, investigative, government, waste, fraud, and abuse. So she was really breaking the mold. And I think that set a good example for me, hearing that story of what she had to go through to pave the way for eventually her daughter but also other women. Hey, thanks Mom!
What was it like growing up in Buffalo? There was a lot going on at that time, with Love Canal and white flight to the suburbs.
And Bethlehem Steel going down the tubes, and watching the new bridge in the county be built out of French steel! You were in a city in such transition.
As a journalist here, do you feel somewhat distanced from some of the things that the mainland media focuses on?
I think we’re a bit removed from what the hot topics can be. We haven’t had many examples here like with the reckoning over sexual harassment.
Hawaii announced this week that it’s going to resume doing nuclear warning tests, in response to what’s happening with North Korea. How is that affecting you here?
You know, I think from having been the scene of the Pearl Harbor attack, we’re no strangers to having been in the center and being the spark that ignited World War II. For a lot of people, it’s bringing back old memories—granted with more modern technology. And as far as siren warnings, we hear the other ones anyway—tsunamis, hurricanes, other things that can do quite a bit of damage. We have a very level-headed manager of our civil defense agency, an older man, and he’s just very calm, cool, and collected when he speaks about it. If you hear the promos, they play ukulele music in the background. It’s very island style.
Is that very Hawaiian, to combine an awareness of danger with a love of beauty and a relaxed outlook?
I think it is. If you look at the way these islands were created, with violent volcanic upheavals, and ripping and roaring, and we’re familiar with tsunamis and lava and all these things. You know you have to be ready for that.
Do you ever get back to the Snow Belt?
Yes, I love to go skiing!