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KS Kapālama alumni Christine Hitt and Matthew Dekneef instill an appreciation for Hawaiian culture, history and tradition into the stories of the travel publication, “HAWAIʻI Magazine”

"HAWAI'I Magazine" editors credit KSK for grounding them in their native culture

March 10, 2016

Contributed by Nadine Lagaso

Although their journey to the travel publication “HAWAIʻI Magazine” differ, Editor Christine Hitt and Deputy Editor Matthew Dekneef – both Kamehameha Schools Kapālama alumni – credit time spent on “the hill” for giving them a firm foundation for becoming storytellers.

While a student at KSK, Dekneef recalled the message in an address by former Kapālama Po‘o Kula (head of school) Michael Chun: Although moving away from Hawai‘i is a great possibility for many students, they must return to give back.

Dekneef said that at the time, Chun’s words didn’t resonate with him. He was a resistant teenager who had plans to attend Chapman University in California. Returning to Hawai‘i was not on his radar.

But after earning a bachelor’s degree in advertising, he did the exact opposite of what he had planned. He returned to Oʻahu and landed a job at a local ad agency, and eventually venturing to the alternative newspaper, “Honolulu Weekly.”

“Even at the time when I was working for ‘Honolulu Weekly,’ it was like I was training to leave again,” Dekneef said. “I wasn’t writing to give back to the community; it wasn’t for a greater good; it was more of a selfish undertaking.”

Seeking a more meaningful career, Dekneef went back to the West Coast, but for professional and personal reasons he eventually moved back to O‘ahu.

“I’ve had a lot of time to be introspective and reflect on how important going to Kamehameha was in shaping me and in addressing certain topics,” he said. “I now see the value in [Chun’s message], so for me it’s been humbling.”

During her years at KS Kapālama, Hitt was part of the yearbook and newspaper staff, and enjoyed the Hawaiian studies and history curriculum she received, not realizing both skills would be relevant to her career down the road.

After graduating from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, where she spent time as a staff member of the student publication Ka Leo O Hawai‘i, Hitt’s interest in ‘ike Hawai‘i (Hawaiian knowledge) and her computer science background led to the founding of Hawaiian Roots, a nonprofit website providing Hawaiian history information and genealogical resources for families.

“If it wasn’t for Kamehameha, I’m very doubtful I would know much about my culture and history, nor would I have pursued an interest in it,” said Hitt, who also worked for the Hawaiian archaeological consulting firm Keala Pono. “I have a general fondness for research, for history and understanding where you come from.”

That fondness and dedication led her to accepting a job as editor for “Mana Magazine” in April 2015, after time spent at HAWAI‘I’s sister publication, “Honolulu Magazine,” and a Honolulu-based public relations firm.

However, her first issue at the helm of Mana would be her last, as the magazine closed following production of its June/July 2015 issue.

“Being able to tell stories is one of my passions, and being able to tell stories of Hawai‘i is even better,” Hitt said. “HAWAI‘I is a travel publication but this is Hawai‘i; people are coming to Hawai‘i and they need to learn about Hawai‘i. I will always work to infuse history and culture into the magazine.”

Hitt’s extensive background in genealogy and archeological research, coupled with Dekneef’s diverse experience in advertising and media production have proven to be a successful pairing since their creative forces combined in late 2015.

“We don’t look at a place on the surface, there’s dimension to all our pieces,” Hitt said of HAWAI‘I Magazine’s coverage.

“I want myself and the writers to dig deep into the history of the land and the meaning behind place names so readers will actually be able to learn Hawaiian history and hold a better understanding of our islands,” she said. 

Those details are evident throughout the pages of HAWAI‘I. Readers have taking notice, sending messages of appreciation in response to pieces such as Hitt’s coverage of the remote west coast of Maui and the revitalization and preservation of the unique traditions of Ni‘ihau.

“There’s a reservoir of experience and education from Kamehameha that I feel myself constantly reaching back to, now that I’m writing and learning about different places around the state,” Dekneef said. “It’s our responsibility to cover things that are tied to our culture, our native intelligence, and our ancestry.” 

This story is part of “I Mua Kamehameha,” an ongoing effort to celebrate the excellence of KS campus and community education programs. Inspirational stories will be shared throughout the year about KS servant leaders who are improving the lives of KS haumāna and contributing to a thriving Lāhui. 

Being able to tell stories is one of my passions, and being able to tell stories of Hawai‘i is even better. ‘HAWAIʻI’ is a travel publication but this is Hawai‘i; people are coming to Hawai‘i and they need to learn about Hawai‘i. I will always work to infuse history and culture into the magazine.
Christine Hitt - Editor, “HAWAIʻI Magazine”

Hitt wrote for “Mana Magazine” and “Honolulu Magazine” before becoming editor of “HAWAI‘I.”

Dekneef wrote for “Honolulu Weekly,” and did some West Coast work before becoming deputy editor of “HAWAI‘I.”

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