Think Big

If you thought former TV executive John Fink and his popular “Think About It” commentaries were history, think again.

Beginning with this issue, Fink’s insightful takes have officially made the jump from TV to newsprint, and will appear on the crossword page of Kaua‘i Midweek each week. And while the print medium is new territory for the man whose friendly face and soothing baritone voice were regularly transmitted into tens of thousands of homes for 19 years, his musings promise to be just as poignant.

“When I retired from KFVE in January, I said, ‘I’m not done,'” recalls Fink, 63, who served as the station’s vice president and general manager since 2009, and as vice president and general manager of both KFVE and KHNL from 1996 to 2009. “I said to myself, ‘What is it I do and what do I love doing?’ Well, I love communicating with people and I love making a difference.”

He pauses for a second, thinking about the impact he’s had on scores of viewers over the years, and the opportunity he now has with Kaua‘i Midweek readers.

“I’ve had local women come up to me and say, ‘You always say what the rest of us are thinking, but we don’t have a forum for it,’ or ‘It’s not local style to say that,'” he says.

“But I’ve always felt that I’m an everyman. I’ve never felt that I was Mr. Big Media Guy.”

Fink expects his opinionated column to cover the local gamut of “endless dilemmas and philosophical issues.” And in the spirit of aloha, this aloha shirt-wearing gentleman plans to deliver his messages without any mean-spiritedness.

“We need more empathy in the world, so I’m definitely not going to be a curmudgeon who’s blasting the system every week,” pledges the man who considers himself a political agnostic. “That gets tiring.”

Fink, though, never seems to wear down. In fact, he’s been thinking big these days following the launch of his multifaceted business, which specializes in public speaking and media consulting services: Think About It, LLC.

Among his current projects are a three-hour-long seminar brimming with life lessons, sage advice, personal reflections and great music; and a book stuffed with many of the 2,000 or so “Think About It” editorials he produced while at KFVE.

The book is slated for release in December, while the seminar, tentatively scheduled for January at Ala Moana Hotel on O‘ahu, promises to be filled with humor and colorful anecdotes.

“I’ll tell stories about underdogs, including two examples of people we have heard about: Linda Lingle and Barack Obama,” explains Fink about the upcoming seminar. “If you had told me way back when that those would be people who would be leading our state and our country, I’d go, ‘Wait a minute … a twice-divorced and Jewish mainland haole, Moloka‘i resident, Republican and female, and she’d beat a Democrat — twice!?

“Then you go to Obama. The guy wasn’t even born in this country, supposedly, and he’s the president?!”

Thus, it appears that Fink has no plans to stop working — no intention to stop thinking of ways to make a difference in the community.

Before his “Think About It” segments became a hit on evening newscasts, Fink got his break as the voice of University of Hawai‘i soccer and Wāhine volleyball. Right from the start, he was a natural, despite knowing that, at least when it came to volleyball, he could be performing in front of 100,000-plus die-hard viewers on any given night.

“I’ve never had to wear a different hat … I’ve never had to turn it on or turn it off,” says Fink of his ability to shine as an announcer.

That passion for media and sports began early in life for Fink, who was born in New York and raised in Chicago, and who grew up idolizing many of the greats of sports broadcasting.

“When I was young, I used to play in the basement with a football and go ‘and he’s on the 10 … the 5!'” he recalls.

But while his dreams of broadcasting remained alive, Fink understood his days of football grandeur would have to stay in his basement, and immediately set his sights on a new sport.

“I started playing soccer in high school when I realized I was getting beat up in football,” he says.

The switch to soccer turned out to be a fortuitous move for Fink, as it ultimately brought him to Hawai‘i.

As he explains, his father, Arthur, was fed up with Chicago’s “traffic, freezing winters and crappy politicians,” and moved his family to the islands in the mid-’70s. But Fink was then stuck on the East Coast as a student at Wesleyan University.

“All my friends at Wesleyan were going to Harvard for graduate school — and I’m the ugly duckling,” says Fink, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in East Asian history and a minor in communications. “I have no job, and I’m going to live with my aunt on East 69th in Manhattan … I have no clue what the hell I’m doing!”

But thanks to a serendipitous meeting between his father and an official with Team Hawai‘i of the North American Soccer League, Fink was offered the position of public relations director days before graduation.

“I went from being the ugly duckling to the coolest guy on campus, because I’m going to Hawai‘i and I’m going to be working in pro soccer,” he notes, chuckling at the memory.

Fink helped promote the fledgling sport by first crafting, then hand-delivering press releases. The gig was cool, he admits, but once the season ended, the team decided to relocate to Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Fink was given the option of coming along, but chose to stay in the islands, transitioning into radio before securing a job as an account executive with KGMB.

It wouldn’t be long before he was hired as general sales manager at KHNL and KFVE, and by the mid-’90s, he was running the show at both stations.

His tenure in TV was highlighted by his close relationship with UH athletics, which resulted in years of exclusive broadcast coverage, and his creativity in coming up with new local programming to fill time slots. Among the shows birthed under his watch were “Heineken Hot Hawaiian Nights” and “What’s Cooking Hawai‘i?” while annual events that he helped create increased coverage for were Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards and Merrie Monarch Festival.

To understand Fink, you have to know his heart and recognize what makes it beat.

Music is his first love. “It’s my addiction,” he states matter-of-factly.

At age 2, he jonesed so much for melodies that he would stand in front of the fire-place and, with the record player on, conduct music.

Years later, he found himself grooving to hip artists such as Del Shannon, Bobby “Boris” Pickett, The Dave Clark Five and The Animals.

One day, his exasperated father demanded an explanation for his radical taste in music.

“Now you’re listening to Alice Cooper? What happened to you?!'” Fink recalls Arthur asking. “And I said, ‘Dad, Beethoven is dead.'”

Fink still swears to love most styles of music, and regularly produces reviews and lists of his top bands, albums and songs for a select group of friends. “There’s really no genre that I’m not at least interested in delving into.”

Nor is there a worthy cause he’s unwilling to share his time with. Over the years, Fink has been a member of numerous boards, including St. Francis Healthcare System of Hawai‘i, Big Brothers Big Sisters Foundation of Hawai‘i, Kapi‘olani Community College and Koa ‘Ānuenue.

Reaching out to assist others makes perfect sense for Fink, whose parents were involved in fair housing and civil rights movements back in the ’60s; whose sisters, Sue and Margaret, once worked in the education and social work professions, respectively; and whose wife, Shari, is a hospice nurse.

“I think it’s in our genetics that we’re involved with helping and giving back,” he says. “My mother, Alice, was involved with Meals On Wheels, Friends of Kailua Library, Hawai‘i Theatre for Youth, Reading Is Fundamental … and my father was a huge believer in education.

“So what I always tell kids is the reason you want to do well in school, or at least work hard at school, is that it allows you to have options, whether it’s for work or for college. Life is about options, and the more options there are, the more fun you’ll have.”

Which is exactly what the Fink has these days: opportunities to make a difference.

“Maybe I’ve always been an underdog guy and interested in fighting for the underdog,” he says. “Come to think of it, I’ve never worked for the No. 1 station. I had options, but I always liked it where I was.”

And now, he won’t be leaving his “Think About It” fans either.