For Lorin Eleni Gill, Civil Beat’s newest reporter, family roots in Hawaii journalism run four generations deep.
One of her great-grandmothers wrote for the Bishop Museum and the Honolulu Star-Bulletin in the early 1930s. Her grandfather reported from around the globe for The Associated Press, while her grandmother briefly covered the Territorial Legislature for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin in the 1950s. Her mother, Susan Essoyan, is the education reporter at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
“I have four sets of shoes to fill,” Eleni says.
Eleni returned home from the mainland last month to become Civil Beat’s first-ever health care reporter — and one of the few reporters covering the issue full-time in the state.
“This type of reporting fascinates me because health is connected to so many facets of life beyond wellness, like the economy and education,” said Eleni, who grew up in Honolulu and graduated from Roosevelt High. “I’m constantly learning about the complexities of our health care system in the U.S. and then looking at how Hawaii fits into that picture.”
Gill is a Report For America corps member, part of a national effort to reinvigorate local journalism in the U.S. by placing reporters in under-covered communities or to report on critical issues that get little attention from the local media. RFA, a nonprofit, provides half her salary.
Hawaii is consistently ranked as one of the healthiest states in the U.S., with residents having some of the longest life spans in the country. Its insurance system covers nearly all residents and has long been considered a nationwide model.
But those accomplishments can mask the serious health care challenges Hawaii faces, particularly in its poorest and most remote communities.
Eleni’s focus will be on a number of those issues, including the glaringly high prevalence of certain diseases among Native Hawaiians and other ethnic communities. She’ll also be telling stories from the neighbor islands, looking at how the chronic shortage of doctors and medical workers impacts access to health services in isolated areas.
“We have our fair share of health challenges in Hawaii,” she said. “But we also have unique solutions here that are culturally connected and community-driven, so it’s important to me to write about those.”
One of Eleni’s first major stories spotlighted a recent study that showed promising health care benefits from changes in lifestyle and eating habits among students working at MA’O Organic Farms in Waianae.
“I tend to gravitate toward stories about health care and youth, but I’d also like to take a closer look at the well being of our kupuna, and what it is like to age in Hawaii,” said Eleni. “Being raised in Hawaii, community and family is so important.”
Before starting at Civil Beat, Eleni earned a master’s degree in journalism this May from the University of California Berkeley.
Eleni worked previously as a health care reporter for two years at Pacific Business News in Honolulu, as well as interned for The Associated Press and Honolulu Magazine. She is also a filmmaker and producer of short documentaries, and has covered wildfire recovery efforts in California as well as the Venezuelan humanitarian crisis from Colombia.
If you have any story ideas for Eleni or just want to introduce yourself, please send a note to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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