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General-interest journalism.  After J-School, in 1990, I was a dedicated beat reporter (albeit with a bent for ethnic culture). I worked as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner, SF Weekly, and the Gilroy Dispatch. I intended to move on to investigations and psychological profiles.

I soon switched to magazines, including Wired, Health, The Atlantic, Smithsonian, Afar, and Honolulu. Today I write mostly profiles, especially for the Journal of Alta California, the Princeton Alumni Weekly, and Hana Hou. I walk a kind of journalistic high wire, balancing between hard news, cultural reporting, and creative nonfiction.

Some examples:

In the runup to the Democratic Convention in 2020, I teamed up with Ella Bell Smith to write about candidate Joe Biden’s vice-presidential pick, in Fortune magazine.

In 2006, I followed the fascinating case of Doe v. Kamehameha Schools, which went all the way to the Supreme Court. I wrote a small piece during the runup for Honolulu magazine, but my imagined definitive article was scotched when the parties settled.

“Lifeform,” which appeared in in Wired magazine 1996, is a Q & A—a form that demands much creativity on the part of the editor. It’s about dancer and computer programmer Thecla Schiphorst.

“How Do You Say Computer in Hawaiian?” appeared in Wired magazine in 1995. It looks at the challenges facing some school teachers as they integrated digital learning in the classroom.

Then there are the hundreds of stories I wrote for newspapers, ranging from Eldridge Cleaver’s final act as a recycler to finding skeletons next to a freeway in Gilroy to the never-ending controversy over Berkeley’s People’s Park.

Articles on Hawaiian culture. Much of my journalism has been focused on the music, dance, history, and language of the islands I call home. Some of this is travel literature, some straightforward reporting. (In the 1990s, I focused on tragedy of Queen Lili‘uokalani and the politics of the Hawaiian Sovereignty movement.) Some of this work also involves portraying people.

Shakespeare in Hawai‘i? You bet. Though even the wordmaster Mercutio would have trouble spitting out his Hawaiian name, Hoonaueueiehe. “Hawai‘i & The Bard” ran in Hana Hou! in 2018.

In “Hawaiian Language: Dead or Alive?” which ran in  Honolulu magazine (November 2013) I report the dramatic rise in the number of people who speak the ancient Polynesian tongue, whether in school classrooms or McDonald's.

“Beyond the Little Grass Shack:" tells you where to go to find authentic Hawaiian music, with its storytelling tradition and distinctive plaintive sound. The story ran in the  Los Angeles TimesMarch 27, 2005.

In “The Last of the Waimea Cowboys,” National Geographic Adventure, (February 2006), I go to a parade, a ranch, a rodeo, and a late-night party all in celebration of the glorious history of Hawai‘i’s legendary paniolo.

In “The Hula Movement,” published in The Atlantic, July/August 2002, I argued that the ancient Hawaiian art is catching on nationwide—even worldwide.

Recent collaborations. My journalism includes hands-on editing and collaborative writing as well as reportage. Two of the most meaningful projects of my career fall into this category.

For Imagine: Reflections on Peace, I was part of a small team that produced a 400-plus page volume of writing and photography. We sent top narrative journalists and photographers back to countries they had covered in war. This time we asked them to cover the peace. As the primary text editor, I schooled myself in the conflicts in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cambodia, Colombia, Lebanon, Northern Ireland, and Rwanda, editing journalists, scholars, politicians, diplomats, and international-court justices, including Jonathan Powell and Samantha Power.  But the story of how to carve peace out of brutal conflict would not be complete without first-person accounts from everyday people. I became an eye-witness-whisperer, listening to the testimonials of survivors and delicately shaping their stories. Here’s an account of the experience.

For “Oaktown,” I am collaborating with photographer Malcolm Ryder on an ambitious project about the California city few manage to really see and many willfully malign. The series of exhibits, essays, and articles combines evocative photos, gumshoe work on land use, oral histories, profiles, and selected commentary. It is taking shape first as a series of exhibits (“Thirteen Ways of Looking at Kasper’s,” “The International Boulevard,” and “Black Lives Matter on the Wall.”) The goal: a book. Photography and work in progress here. 

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