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Linda Coble shares her life as a journalist and Rotarian at Rotary Club of Pahoa

Rod Thompson/Special to

Linda Coble

Linda Coble

In 1987, broadcast journalist Linda Coble was invited to join a Honolulu Rotary club, newly opened to women because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, she told Rotarians gathered in Leilani Estates subdivision Saturday afternoon.

Some members in the formerly all-male bastion would not be happy having a woman. But Coble had become very popular on television. “We want you so they will shut up,” a Rotary leader told her.

In 2000-2001, Coble became statewide governor of Hawaii’s Rotary clubs, the first woman to hold the post. Years earlier, she had become the first woman television news anchor in the nation.

None of it was easy, she told members of five Big Island Rotary clubs as they met in Leilani Estates for a Charter Celebration party publicly marking the founding of the new Rotary Club of Pahoa Sunset on April 1.

After receiving a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Oregon in the 1960s, Coble discovered no one would give her a job in Portland.

“In those days, women were not on the air,” she said. One employer told her bluntly to come back when she had a sex change operation.

Arriving in Honolulu on vacation in 1969, she managed to get a job in television…as a newsroom secretary with duties such as making coffee. But soon she was reporting news, and eventually she became a news anchor.

The broadcast door had opened to women journalists, but the Rotary door stayed shut to women until 1987. When it opened, a Rotary leader said he would even pay her dues if she would please join.

Coble moved to KSSK radio where the format allowed her to comment on the news, rather than simply reporting it.

“I’ve got to put my advocacy somewhere because you can’t do it on television,” she told the Rotarians.

After ten years at KSSK, trouble popped up again. One day her boss announced her salary “stuck out like a sore thumb.” She was out the door.
It could have been crushing, but within days, her Rotary club told her they were still her family. “We still love you,” they said.

In order to get the same kind of ohana feeling at the new Pahoa club, Coble urged members to “get involved right away.”

Saturday’s ceremonies involved “passing the gavel” to the Pahoa club’s new president, Karolyn Lundkvist. The club meets every Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. at the Akebono Theater.

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