Oct. 15, in the HPU Kalamalama newsroom, this acclaimed Hawai‘i
writer, visited HPU journalism students and talked about her
A native of Maui, and a Baldwin High School graduate, Cataluna
returned home from college unsure of her future.
“I got out of college and thought, ‘Okay, I have a psych and
a dance degree, what do I do now?” said Cataluna. She was sure
on one point—idleness was not her thing. Cataluna found her
first professional work on Kauai. The self-proclaimed “nervous
public speaker” found herself at a small Kauai television station.
She and five colleagues broadcast a half-hour news show five
days a week.
She recalled one of the biggest stories that she covered on
Kauai was when the City and County put up a stop light in Lihue.
“That story ran for an entire week,” said Cataluna. “I would
tell my producers that I had eight minutes (of a half-hour show)
dedicated to that story and they would ask me if I could extend
it to 12.” It was Lihue’s first traffic light. Cataluna refers
to her time on Kauai as dreadful, but doesn’t regret the knowledge
she acquired. Ambitious, she took that knowledge to the sound
stage of KHON, Fox 2, and finally considered herself an “established”
journalist. Cataluna covered mostly federal cases.
In 1995 Cataluna received an even better opportunity that
included a little seniority. She joined News 8, on KHNL, and
as an in-studio anchor. At the time, Channel 8 was the only
station, nationwide, to use digital signals, something she was
excited about. Cataluna, and all of News 8, spent a month rehearsing
with the new technology.
She speaks of the experience with laughter, and like all her
encounters. abruptly interrupts her narrative with the word
“But, once again, I grew bored and left that job. I really
didn’t have anything lined up,” said Cataluna. “I just had faith
During this period, 1998, she wrote her first play, Da Mayah,
which humorously captures Hawai‘i’s cultural idiosyncrasies.
Today, she continues to write plays. Her last work, Super Secret
Squad, which debuted at Kumu Kahua early this year, was such
a success that the theater extended the show two extra weekends.
During her time away from the public eye, Cataluna moved back
to Maui and experienced some hard times. Looking for work, she
responded to an ad for a Maui -based reporter for the Honolulu
Advertiser. She received a note from the publication that basically
said “Thanks, but no thanks.” Cataluna wasn’t satisfied, so
she called Honolulu and spoke to the editor. She offered to
work without pay for two weeks if he would just give her a shot.
He agreed. After two weeks at the paper, he offered her a position
as a columnist.
“Cool. What’s a columnist?” said Cataluna. It didn’t take
long for her to catch on to the trade. As a columnist, she insist
that it will be a while before she gets bored of this job.
Lee Cataluna’s column is featured Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays
in the Honolulu Advertiser.