Working Hard To Get It Straight

John Koko and his iconic bass. Photo from the Makaha Sons

Everyone at MidWeek Kaua’i works hard to bring you not just good stories, but also accurate stories. Two issues ago, a big falsehood slipped through, and I want to apologize and give you an explanation. The story was our Business Roundtable, one of my personal favorites because it highlights small-business owners and the things they’re doing to be successful in challenging times. They’re often inspiring stories.

In this case the subject was Trevor Ford of Pacific Island Contracting. When our writer Amanda Gregg asked if we could get photographic examples of his work, he pointed her to his website. There she saw a beautiful new home, and Ford subsequently provided her a photo of the home, which ran with the caption: “A Pacific Island Contracting Home.”

So you can imagine our surprise last week when the homeowner called us to say Pacific Island Contracting did not build his home.

Amanda followed up with Ford, who insisted he’d worked on the house. So I called the actual contractor, Joel Koetje of Koetje General Contracting. Turns out he had already seen the story, and discussed it with the project architect and the homeowner – who does not need to be named because he did not seek this publicity.

When I asked if Ford had done work on the home, Koetje replied: “I don’t know this guy.”

When I asked if perhaps he was a sub-contractor, Koetje said: “I know all my subs pretty well, and the people who work for them, and I don’t know this guy.”

There are times when a story says something that raises a red flag, and we follow up by re-checking facts. It’s not uncommon for me to ask our writers to check a fact or provide more information. This was not one of those times. Obviously we were too trusting.

Still, this is embarrassing, and I want to let MidWeek Kaua’i readers know that we’re using this experience as a reminder to make sure what you read in our pages is the straight scoop and nothing but.

* In much happier news, here’s a follow-up on my story about the Dalai Lama’s visit to Kailua High in April, because of the remarkable Philosophy for Children (p4c) program there:

The Uehiro Foundation on Ethics and Education in Tokyo just pledged $1.25 million to establish the UH-Manoa Uehiro Academy for Philosophy and Ethics in Education. The academy will be based at the College of Arts & Humanities.

“The creation of the Uehiro Academy will greatly enhance the work of p4c in Hawaii,” Dr. Tom Jackson, executive director of the p4c program in the Department of Philosophy at UHManoa, said in a UH press release. “It will expand to four the number of educators who will be working full time to extend the reach of p4c to more schools and teachers in Hawaii and abroad who have shown great interest in this philosophical approach to educational transformation.”

Later in an email exchange, “Dr. J” wrote to me: “I’m just back from a successful trip to Switzerland and Austria, where I made presentations and sat together with some kids to do p4c together. Your MidWeek article has become a centerpiece of presenting to others the powerful impact of this work on students. I know it was a factor in the success of this recent visit to the University (by the Uehiro Foundation) to expand p4c here and elsewhere.”

That’s gratifying, to say the least. And hopefully p4c will be coming to a school near you in the future.

* Big kudos to Amy Alkon, MidWeek‘s Advice Goddess, who earned two first-place awards in recent L.A. Press Club journalism competition (she resides there).

One of the judges commented: “The dangers are plenty for any advice columnist: It is easy to be trite, predictable, maudlin, stuffy, cute or just plain wrong. Amy Alkon transcends those hazards for two basic reasons: She writes with nerve and she offers knowledge based on that extraordinary attribute known as authentic research. It is rare to read an advice columnist and to think afterward, ‘I actually learned something.’ Yet Alkon’s take on the chemical basis of infatuation, or her shattering statistical dismissal of popular myths about blind dates, or her clear-eyed take on the realities of the sexual dynamic in longtime couples (a dynamic most typically and erroneously filtered, as she notes, through a male perspective) … Holy smokes. Readers walk away looking at their own lives a little differently, which is the goal of any fine columnist, period. That provides ample reason for honoring Alkon with this award.”

Way to make us proud, Amy! * So sorry to hear of the untimely passing of John Koko at age 51, while awaiting a heart transplant that never came. I had the pleasure of interviewing the Makaha Sons for a MidWeek cover story in April ’02, and recall John saying his weak heart had prevented him from playing high school football.

He approached me last year with a story idea on his two cardiologists after he had three heart surgeries. That story was published in November.

John was a kind and sweet man, not to mention one of the finest bass players I’ve heard – it’s an instrument I’ve played, and am particular about. He’s the only guy who ever signed an email to me “love you dearly.” The feeling is mutual, brother John, and I’m saving that mail. Your music and spirit live on …