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Monday, March 10, 2014
News Flash: He's Local
By Melissa Moniz
On the KGMB set with Guy Hagi, Kim Gennaula and Liz Chun.
KGMBs newest addition to its evening news team, Tucker sits side-by-side with Kim Gennaula, Guy Hagi and Liz Chun - all of whom he considers great friends.
Im not even just saying this, this is totally true - Channel 9, the KGMB crew are top and are so much better than anywhere else Ive worked in terms of caring for the news, double-checking stories and trying so hard to get it right every single day, says Tucker. And in the newsroom culture, just getting along and people actually liking each other and hanging out together - theres a real positive feeling in the newsroom and its such a great place to go to work every day.
His journey to the KGMB anchor seat wasnt always smooth sailing, but its a place that the 31-year-old says that he always wanted to be.
Ironically as a child, Keahi remembers not having TV, so he spent most of his bike-riding days in the cane fields or reading countless issues of National Geographic. This is where an interest in journalism sparked - as he wanted to be the one writing the interesting stories he read. Soon thereafter Tucker moved to the west side of Kauai to attend Waimea High School, and there he remembers going to his friends houses to watch TV news - and it stuck.
Tucker also remembers getting picked on because he was different.
I had a pretty normal childhood for a haole kid from Kauai, says Tucker. I wasnt the oddball, but definitely the minority. Any haole who grew up on Kauai can pretty much tell you that theres some rough spots, but in the grand scheme of things, nothing too major. It kind of makes you tougher in the end.
Tucker went on to attend UH-Manoa to major in broadcast journalism and was quick to see just how tough the television news industry can be. Even with a journalism degree, internship experience at Channel 2 and work experience at the UH radio station and at Channel 9 - Tucker could not get a job as a full-time reporter.
I was pretty much forced to move to the Mainland and even there I had the hardest time getting a job, says Tucker. I actually got rejected like 30 times from different small markets all over the place - no one would hire me. So my news director actually had to hook me up with a job at his old station in Topeka, which is like the opposite end of the world from Hawaii culturally.
Soon enough Tuckers dry spell ended - six months after he arrived in Kansas as a rookie reporter, the stations 19-year anchor retired - and at the age of 23 Keahi moved into the main anchor seat at the NBC affiliate.
I could read the news as best I could, but theres so much more about being an anchor in terms of leadership and I wasnt ready, admits Tucker. There were some growing pains, but it was a valuable time for me.
Tucker might have stayed in Kansas if it werent for his girlfriend back in Hawaii. Barbara Ho, a former KHON reporter (they met when he was an intern) moved to Washington, D.C., to attend law school, and Tucker wanted to reunite with her before it was too late. But D.C. is a big city in TV news, and the only job offer Tucker received was for one day of work at the local FOX station.Its kind of romantic actually. I quit my main anchor job and moved to Washington for one day of work and I asked her to marry me the day I arrived. And we live happily ever after.
Now his wife, Barbara Ho is former KHON reporter and, long story short, she graduated from law school and is now a lawyer.
A freezing Keahi Tucker doing a story in Baltimore while holding a thermometer that reads 10 degrees.
After Washington, Tucker moved to Baltimore and covered everything from the Olympics in Athens to everyday killings in the neighborhoods throughout the inner city.
I worked in Baltimore and we covered a lot of killings, and it was to the point we wouldnt cover a shooting unless it was something out of the ordinary, sad to say, because there were too many, says Tucker. So just seeing that and being in the middle of that was life changing. I had to drive through West Baltimore every day at like 11:30 at night going home from work and you see stuff like a little baby with diapers on the street alone or drug dealers being chased by police.
It was while working in Baltimore that Tucker reached a crossroad in his career. With the help of a great agent, a door opened for Keahi to advance to the next level - he took job interviews at every network, as well as CNN and MSNBC.
He remembers sitting in meetings with NBC anchor Brian Williams and then-CBS anchor Bob Schieffer with butterflies in his stomach. But he says it wasnt excitement, it was dread.
During the interviews all I could think of was coming home to Hawaii, and I realized it was the wrong move, says Tucker.
He was about to take a correspondents job with the CBS early show, when he heard of an opening at KGMB. So I flew down here, got the job and never looked back, he says.
Its been almost a year since Keahi joined the KGMB team and he truly loves it - from the buzz of the newsroom to the rush of delivering a big story.
When hes not in the newsroom, Keahi is primarily at home taking care of the kids, doing chores, or at the beach surfing - though he would never say hes a good surfer.
Hes no Andy Irons, but Tucker loves his surfing.
My surfing ability is basically that I suck riding on the waves - Im pretty much a total kook, no joke, says Tucker. I take pride in my duck dives, in my wipeouts, in my timing, in my paddling. You know tall, dorky surfers like me need to take pride in the whole package. I may not rip on the wave, but I can get around and surf if I need to.
Kook or not, Tucker has a passion for surfing. But he also has a passion for his family. He has a 10-year-old daughter, Eden, who lives in Canada. And he and his wife have two young boys, 18-month-old Jack and 3-week-old Charlie.
Before his second son was born, Tucker says he was surfing about four to five times a week. However, a new baby means more diaper changes and less time in the water - which, of course, he gladly accepts.
Swimming, however is actually Tuckers true talent. He was a swimmer at Waimea High and also swam on the UH swim team for two years. He says he was forced to quit the UH team because he needed to get a job.
I was broke and realized I needed money more than a speedo tan. And that began Tuckers string of odd jobs to pay off his student loan.
I counted once how many jobs Ive had, and Ive had about 20 jobs in my life outside of journalism, says Tucker. I was a dishwasher, a retail store clerk, a yard worker, a construction worker, surf instructor, a busboy, a waiter, a valet, an extra in a movie and a stuntman. So I actually shared screentime with Nicolas Cage, and a stunt man in a show with Andy Bumatai.
And in case you were wondering, the movie was Honeymoon in Vegas, and the Bumatai show was Marker.
Twenty jobs and three states later, Tucker is extremely content with where his road has taken him. Having your dream job at age 31 is a huge accomplishment - add three children, a supportive wife, weekends spent surfing, and being able to live in this paradise we all call home - and you have a pretty lucky guy. Its not luck, however, that Tucker leans on - but instead good old hard work.
Hard work trumps everything. It doesnt matter how rich or poor or how lucky you are, he says. You can make just about any of your dreams come true with hard work. As long as you have that ethic, you will always be OK.