I rented a conference room at the BoxJelly coworking space in Kakaako while applying for the job. My heartfelt thanks to them for their support.

Leaving Hawaii for The Washington Post

All things must pass, and now, my eight-year journey in Hawaii will end.

I’ve accepted a position at The Washington Post, one of the greatest news institutions in history — powerful enough to have taken down a U.S. president, and ranked today as the most innovative media company in 2015.

I’ll provide more details about my new position at a later date. To have a sense of why I’m so excited, click the quote below to a Columbia Journalism Review article outlining Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ vision for the future.

Mr. Bezos has turned The Washington Post, one of America’s newspapers of record, into the only legacy institution that now considers itself a technology company.
“What has been happening over the last few years can’t continue to happen. All businesses need to be young forever. If your customer base ages with you, you’re Woolworth’s.” — Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, owner of The Washington Post

As someone who still calls himself a student of journalism, this is a longing fulfilled. This brings sweetness to my soul.

But this also means I’m moving to Washington, D.C. sometime in April. I leave the Pacific with some sadness, and also immense gratitude to my life in Hawaii, for the privilege to tell the stories I did, and to the people I’ve met and even loved.

It’s been a crazy ride that started in 2006 when I moved from my home island of Guam to Hawaii without a job, simultaneously the bravest/stupidest thing I have ever done. I took a risk, but I had always wanted to live in Hawaii. This isn’t just paradise. Sometimes it feels like the center of the universe, doesn’t it?

So I picked up job applications everywhere. I had two initial job offers: either be a Starbucks barista, or do sales at the now-defunct Honolulu Weekly.

As luck would have it, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin hired me as a reporter.

My first Facebook profile photo in 2007, when I covered the Waikiki memorial service for legendary Hawaii singer Don Ho. But first, photographer Dennis Oda and I had to take a selfie.

And boy, I had the time of my life. Then the Great Recession of 2009 hit, and led the Honolulu Star-Bulletin to lay off several reporters. I was one of them.

Then, in a twist of fate, the Star-Bulletin rehired me seven months later. Three months after that, in 2010, the Star-Bulletin announced that it would purchase the Honolulu Advertiser.

Even before the layoffs, I saw what was happening to our industry, so I taught myself to experiment on how social media can serve journalism. I shoved my way into the online department of what eventually became the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. I was no longer a reporter. I was becoming someone different.

In 2012, I voluntarily left the Star-Advertiser and joined TLC PR to fulfill a longstanding curiosity into the public relations industry.

My last day at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. For years, the journalists there were the only family I knew in Hawaii.

And in 2013, I joined Civil Beat to be Hawaii’s first engagement editor, a position focused primarily on social media.

I’m proud of my work there, especially creating a series of live events called Civil Cafe with the aim of fostering discussion among issues that don’t otherwise have an easy outlet, whether it’s the gentrification of Kakaako to the troubles Hawaii’s hiking community faces.

The Civil Cafe events were rewarding to host and produce. Mahalo to everyone who visited and supported us. You made me happy.

My faith in journalism was once shaken, but I’ve returned with a renewed sense of purpose and optimism. This isn’t just a job, this is a calling.

I’m forever grateful to my mentors and employers in Hawaii, including my former editors at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin/Star-Advertiser, who never lost faith in me; HMSA where I took refuge after the layoffs; TLC PR, where I learned importance of planning, organizing and details in all things; and Civil Beat giving me the autonomy to grow the site’s social media presence while other legacy papers in the mainland faltered.

It pains me to leave, but I feel it’s a necessary step in my career. After reading about the Post in this column by the late, great New York Times columnist David Carr, I knew it is the best place I could go to test my skills and grow. I seriously can’t believe this is happening. I’m going absolutely crazy just thinking about what I’m about to do.

There’s a difference between deciding to leave, and knowing where to go.

Thank you all for your support, the whiskey shots we’ve had, the events you invited me to, the parties you threw, the jokes you told, the music you played, the songs you sang, your patience when I was arrogant and foolish, your late-night texts when I was feeling sorry for myself, your shoulder to cry on, and your acceptance of who I am.

This was the most beautiful chapter of my life. And I’ll miss you.

Now without further ado, here is the President’s Own U.S. Marine Band with the all-American classic, “The Washington Post.” Until we meet again.


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