I feel like I could just stop now. The headline really says it all this time.

But for those who need it, here’s the back story:

Lee Cataluna, a longtime Hawaii journalist and one of the state’s preeminent storytellers, joined Civil Beat’s staff on Tuesday. She’ll be writing a column for us two days a week, Sundays and Wednesdays.

Her first column is scheduled for this coming Sunday.

Lee left the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in June and has spent the summer doing what she loves — writing.

“I wrote so much,” she says.

That included a couple of plays, among other writing projects. In particular, Lee was one of eight playwrights who was selected to write short plays for La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego in a project to support artists, families and schools. The idea was to produce something that families could perform in their living rooms and for teachers to use in distance learning programs for their students.

Lee’s play features the stars in the sky, looking down at the people on Earth, and wishing them well. She decided to make the characters stars so that anybody could play the roles regardless of age, gender identity and race. “I was happy about it,” she says.

Honolulu Civil Beat Lee Cataluna sits at her desk on her first day of work.
Lee Cataluna has a new desk in the Civil Beat newsroom. The longtime Hawaii journalist joined our staff this week. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

Born on Maui and raised on Maui, Kauai and Hawaii island, Lee graduated from Baldwin High School. She left the islands for college in California — including an MFA in creative writing from the University of California-Riverside — but returned to her home state where she has worked for the past 25 years as a journalist in television, radio and newspapers. She’s also taught journalism here.

Lee is known for her articles and columns about ordinary people in Hawaii. She even published a book, “Folks You Meet In Longs,” that features her unique storytelling as she introduces us to dozens of our neighbors.

“I love stories,” Lee told me when I made her sit down and talk to me for this intro piece. “I love listening to people … I like spending time with people and having them unravel the things that they love, the things that worry them.”

But Lee also is a sharp commentator on public affairs in Hawaii and especially the politics. Those are Civil Beat sweet spots and very ripe topics right now. We are looking forward to her diving into both, which she will do both as a columnist and as a member of our editorial board where we welcome her view on how best to move Hawaii forward in this unprecedented situation we find ourselves in.

For her part, Lee says she is hoping to learn from her new colleagues and “to up my game.”

She is eager to be in a creative and innovative environment like Civil Beat offers, a newsroom where she can find “ambition balanced with purpose.”

“Let’s not just throw out facts and figures, let’s talk about ideas and solutions,” she says. “It’s closer to the community journalism I started out with.”

We are delighted to have Lee’s insights and her vision for Hawaii to share with you along with her stories of the people who make this such a special place. Especially as we struggle as a community to push through this pandemic and hopefully come up with better ways of doing things as we reach the other side.

And maybe you’ll even see a Civil Beat play someday.

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