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Flux Hawaiʻi hires first ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi editor in local media in decades

Nella Media Group has hired University of Hawaiʻi Hawaiian language professor Noah Haʻailio Solomon to oversee a project bringing a ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi section to local lifestyle magazine Flux Hawaiʻi.
Mahina CE Photography
Courtesy Nella Media Group
Nella Media Group has hired University of Hawaiʻi Hawaiian language professor Noah Haʻailio Solomon to oversee a project bringing an ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi section to local lifestyle magazine Flux Hawaiʻi.

Lifestyle magazine Flux Hawaiʻi is raising the bar for Hawaiian language use in the local media industry by devoting a section of its publication to ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi — or Hawaiian language storytelling.

The magazine hired University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Hawaiian language professor Noah Haʻalilio Solomon to oversee the project as the first ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi editor for a local publication in decades.

Solomon has been a resource to local newsrooms for years. Most requests are for ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi translations of already complete English pieces, which — even if he didnʻt write it himself — he sees as progress for the Hawaiian language.

"A he holomua nō hoʻi kēlā, he hoʻokuluma ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi nō kēlā hana," Solomon said. "Akā kēia hana ma lalo o Flux komo ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi ma nā māhele hana a pau. Ma laila ka lanakila."

But Solomon said what’s different about Flux’s initiative is ōlelo Hawaiʻi permeates all aspects of production, from conception to publication. Hawaiian language is no longer an afterthought, but at the source of content creation and even editorial operations.

The experience has posed an exciting challenge for Solomon’s not-so-fluent colleagues like Matt Dekneef. He’s the Editor-At-Large for the NMG Network which oversees Flux Hawaiʻi.

"He’s sending out a feeler but it’s all in Hawaiian," Dekneef said. "It’s obviously possible, it can be done, it’s so minute. But when you think about it in the milieu of a journalism newsroom, to see it in Hawaiian, there’s something about that that feels very tactile and very real."

Which in turn makes it very exciting, Dekneef said, who along with Solomon, strive to normalize Hawaiian language in local media spaces. Systemic efforts to suppress the language flourished after the 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom. ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi was brought back from the brink of extinction nearly 40 years ago and now boasts upwards of 20,000 estimated speakers.

"Hawaiian language is not just a decorative thing, it’s a living, breathing aspect of Hawaiian culture," Dekneef said. "So to see it used in a context like the one we’re trying to accomplish, it’s a way to lend credibility and likability to the language in a way that Hawaiian language speakers recognize."

Flux Hawaiʻi hired Solomon in November as the first ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi editor in the local media industry in decades. Solomon said the move may seem groundbreaking now but ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi was once the dominant language in the islands — in banks, grocery stores, on the streets and in the newsrooms.

"Ma laila ke akamai, ka mikololohua o ka ʻōlelo aia nō i loko o nā nūpepa o kēlā wā. Ma laila ku’u pu’u e kūlia ai," Solomon said.

That’s where the intelligence and eloquence of ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi was showcased in Hawaiian language newspapers of the time, and that’s the standard he holds for himself and his publication, Solomon said.

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at khiraishi@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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