Hawaii’s ‘This Is Now’ Bridges Digital, Broadcast
When word spread across Hawaii on the morning of Dec. 12, 2022, that Abigail Kawananakoa, an heiress who claimed to be the last member of the state’s royal bloodline, had passed away, Jonathan Jared Saupe knew he’d be able to quickly deliver a meaty segment about the event for his noontime streaming news show, This Is Now.
Saupe had easy access to two expert reporters in the adjacent newsroom of Hawaii News Now, the Gray-owned multimedia news group comprising the Honolulu CBS affiliate KGMB, NBC affiliate KHNL and the formerly independent KFVE now branded as K5. All the Hawaii News Now anchor Mahealani Richardson and investigative reporter Rick Daysog had to do was pop into Saupe’s podcast studio, souped-up for video, and tell him what they knew about the controversial figure.
The result was an 11-minute deconstruction of Kawananakoa’s complicated life at the top of This Is Now. Saupe says the segment turned out to be extremely insightful, discussing Kawananakoa’s charitable endeavors, disputes over her status as royalty and other matters. But it wasn’t always a given that colleagues such as Richardson and Daysog would take time out of their busy schedules at Hawaii News Now to contribute to their station’s digital program.
“With OTT streaming in a broadcast newsroom, the biggest problem is buy-in,” says Saupe. “TV news people don’t like to do things differently. It took a long while to really loosen up the staff, to [have them] say, ‘Oh, that’s actually cool. I like doing that.’”
After more than three years of This Is Now production, Saupe’s colleagues know that an appearance on the show is “easy, quick and simple,” he says. Referring to himself and his co-host Ashley Nagaoka, Saupe adds: “We do all the work.”
What helps make the 24-minute program, which streams live on YouTube and Facebook five days a week, such a breeze, Saupe says, is the station group’s gift to Hawaii News Now of a JVC ProHD Studio 4000 Production and Streaming Studio. It includes four HD-SDI inputs, IP stream inputs and NDI inputs, and supports multiple frame rates up to 60 fps. An integrated encoder provides 1080p60 streaming at rates up to 10 Mb/s.
Saupe says its capabilities are like that of an entire control room from about 10 years ago, fit into a contraption roughly the size of a PC. He has it hooked up to a Behringer sound board for a little easier audio control. When it comes to video editing, he connects his Edius editor with a video card.
Calling the collection of gadgets “simple tech,” he says it all works together to create the “Wayne’s World basement show of news.” A typical episode of This Is Now features multiple segments, where Saupe and Nagaoka discuss news items of the day. The stories are sometimes presented as packages or reported from the field by a colleague. Frequently, Saupe just runs some video and reads story copy himself. Guests will join them in the studio or via video call.
“What I love about this show is that it allows us to have deeper discussions with our own reporters, community members and decision makers without the time constraints and expectations of a traditional newscast,” Nagaoka says.
Another programming choice that’s helped attract viewers is This Is Now’s coverage of Asian countries. Saupe says Hawaiians — many of whom have ties to the region at the far end of the Pacific — crave the stories, and his program is one of the few in the state with the time flexibility to deliver them.
Shortly after This Is Now wraps up its livestream on digital — it now appears across TV airwaves as well — the entire video is uploaded to the station’s YouTube channel, where it typically earns between 3,000 and 10,000 views, more or less. The audio also turns up on podcast platforms.
Saupe says the modular nature of the episodes lends itself to segment “clipping,” with portions of the program reposted across Hawaii News Now’s various digital channels. Sometimes, he says, such clips perform better than the full show — though Saupe reports everyone at the station is happy with viewership.
This Is Now’s nimbleness, afforded by the compact technology, allows Saupe and Nagaoka to cover breaking news in a flash, as they did upon the death of Abigail Kawananakoa. But the stripped-down nature of This Is Now, where Saupe is seen working the controls of his gadgets, producing the show in real time, is perhaps its biggest asset.
“Trust is plummeting,” Saupe says, “so for viewers to get an understanding of how this is happening — it’s not just magic and edited and thrown on your TV, there’s a process — it does play into that trust and transparency factor and that’s super-important for any brand.”
He says because so many people now edit video on their phones, generally for social media posts, viewer “production literacy” is very high.
“People like seeing the button-pushing; they like the mistakes,” Saupe says. On the rare occasion he throws up a video he didn’t verbally cue, he says viewers easily forgive him. Apparently, they can relate.
“This is Now was born in the digital space and migrated to broadcast. That’s allowed its format and presentation to be innovative,” says Mary Vorsino, Hawaii News Now’s digital content director. She adds that the midday newscast provides “special opportunities for longform interviews with newsmakers,” as well as “reporter notebooks” that offer additional context to top headlines. “This Is Now aligns with HNN’s promise of bringing the latest news to our viewers on the platform of their choice. We’re also proud to bring a unique offering during the noontime hour, with a broad buffet of content to keep people engaged — from live local news to cultural conversations to trending entertainment headlines.”
For those digital producers of similar fare who may not get the support Saupe does — today, “after going through growing pains” — he suggests station managers “almost force people to buy-in.
“Assign people to be in the OTT room for segments, assign a reporter once a week to talk about one of their stories,” Saupe says. “Push it a little harder.”