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Advertiser collumnist visits HPU

by Yonie K. Espiritu, Associate editor


“I have always had this ‘leap and the net will appear’ attitude,” said the Pacific University (Forest Grove, Ore.) graduate, who majored in psychology and dance.

Those who have watched her career might say that attitude has allowed Lee Cataluna to move through the industry in leaps and bounds.

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Oct. 15, in the HPU Kalamalama newsroom, this acclaimed Hawai‘i writer, visited HPU journalism students and talked about her 10-year career.

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.

“But, once again, I grew bored and left that job. I really didn’t have anything lined up,” said Cataluna. “I just had faith in myself.”

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.



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