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Innovative Engagement: Managing a Media Service Center During a Pandemic

Updated: May 13, 2022

At the end of March 2020, just like every other business in Hawai‘i, ‘Ōlelo was forced to radically alter our operations, while still fulfilling our mandated duties as O‘ahu’s non-profit public, education, and government access provider. In accordance with the lockdown of DOE campuses, ‘Ōlelo’s 5 campus-based Media Service Centers – Kaimukī, Kāneʻohe, Nānākuli, Wahiawā, and Waipahu – have all been temporarily relocated to our Māpunapuna headquarters, utilizing makeshift socially distant office spaces throughout the building.

With that change came a set of adjustments for both the staff and the public. All of the centers adopted unified, but limited, office hours. Production equipment can still be checked out and hard drives with shows for air can still be turned in. However, members of the public are not allowed inside the building; all interactions are by appointment and “curbside” only. Also, Basic Media Training and one-on-one mentoring are now done mostly virtually via Microsoft Teams.

During down time, Media Services staff are invited to be crew members on various facilitated productions to keep their own skills fresh. These productions include ‘Ōlelo’s virtually recorded Signature series Live at the Legislature and Island Focus, as well as the daily legislative hearings recorded at the state capitol. Some staff members are also given editing duties for our new virtual PSA service for community organizations called Giving Voice.

Fast forward six months from the lockdown. Our Media Services staff are continuing “to strengthen our island voices and advance co

mmunity engagement through innovative media”, as our mission statement says.

‘Ōlelo is currently working with the DOE on creating a plan to get the centers open again by developing a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) that is in line with each school’s guidelines.

In the meantime, how can we continue to engage with our clients and still be innovative?

Managers Mana Franquez and Neal Rivera social distancing in the screening room.

To keep his Junior Academy for Media (JAM) students active, Waipahu Media Services Manager Neal Rivera has been working on a unique curriculum. Neal states, “Going into JAM: Year 2, we are training students on how to record themselves doing virtual interviews/news programs and ultimately producing a show on their COVID experience.”

Neal predicts that when their center finally opens again on the campus of Waipahu Intermediate School, availability of staff and services will still be limited to safely interact with the public. Mentoring over the phone and online submissions will still be the prime method of engagement, which may not be a terrible thing.

“One positive aspect of this whole new normal is that by having virtual mentoring sessions, we are allowing our clients to engage with all of our staff members as opposed to staff from a specific location,” Neal explains. “The clients are getting a vast array of expertise and the staff are experiencing perspectives they’ve never had before.”

For a final message of hope to his clients, Neal says, “Even though our services are limited, we are still here for you. We are working on ways to expand and reach people virtually, which is really speaking to our mission about innovative media.”

CLICK HERE to read an essay written by one of Neal’s JAM students about the program.

Written by Dane Neves, Communications Specialist, ʻŌlelo Community Media

Originally published on September 10, 2020 at

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