Hawaiian Language Story Ends Happily Ever After

Whew! There’s a good finish to the story we told you about the other day — the one in which Leslie Wilcox, President and CEO of PBS Hawai‘i, took a stand and told the producers of a national program that PBS Hawai‘i wouldn’t air their documentary, filmed on the Big Island, unless they redid the narration to correct the pronunciation of Hawaiian words.

It’s a program that Richard appears in, yet he agreed with her position 100 percent.

The problem with the Hawaiian language as originally narrated wasn’t a “malihini’s earnest stumbling,” Leslie wrote, but a “cavalier approximation.” And yet the show’s producers dismissed her concern.

Richard told me, “I posted on Leslie’s blog that I didn’t mean to put pressure but that I know that even President Obama, who grew up here, would cringe.

“It makes me chuckle to think what that must have been like,” he says, “when the light finally went on. ‘Phone for you. I don’t know what he wants; he says he’s the President of the United States.'”

As support for PBS Hawai‘i’s position swelled, the program’s producer capitulated a bit and offered to let PBS Hawai‘i re-narrate the program that would air here — but not to the rest of the country.

Leslie didn’t let it go.

And now, a happy ending. The program’s producers have agreed to redo the documentary’s narration.

Keola Donaghy of the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo volunteered to record an audio sample of the correct pronunciations, and then coached the mainland narrator by phone until he had it down. He also listened as the narrator committed the words to tape.

Leslie Wilcox writes:

“Good job by the voice man, a respected on-air talent who was open to learning and who learned quickly. Keola says the man ended up pronouncing the words better than some Hawaii natives.”

Read her full blog post about this here.

Leslie Wilcox and PBS Hawai‘i, we salute you!

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