In Search of a Native Perspective: Giving Voice to Nā Kānaka Maoli

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Amee Hi‘ilawe Neves wins national native journalism scholarship

At the age of 10, Amee Hiʻilawe Neves of Waiʻanae first tried her hand at media production. She loved telling stories, and the idea of using a broadcast medium to share these moʻolelo intrigued her.

A decade later, Neves became the first Native Hawaiian to receive one of two annual scholarship awards from the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) via its new Pacific Islander journalism scholarship.

Funded with support from The Omidyar Group, the scholarship award was created in 2022 to help Indigenous Pacific Islanders pursue careers in journalism – especially in the U.S. and in U.S.-affiliated Pacific islands. In addition to Neves, the other 2022awardee is Sera Tikotikoivatu-Sefeti, of Fiji, who studies journalism at the University of the South Pacific.

Neves’ story reflects an early connection to the profession of storytelling in journalism.

Coming from an island family, her early interest in journalism emerged through her youthful storytelling in school projects. Following her first efforts as a 10-year-old, she continued while in the seventh grade by creating public service announcements.

“My parents were extremely supportive of me doing this kind of stuff,” says Neves. “They were always so supportive of me.”

Amee Neves
Amee Neves. – Photo: Courtesy

She capitalized on the well-known, popular student media program “Searider Productions” at Waiʻanae High School, where her enthusiasm for journalism grew and was nurtured.

After graduating from high school in 2020, Neves enrolled in the journalism program at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, where she is currently in her junior year. When she graduates from UH Mānoa, she anticipates using her scholarship to pursue her master’s degree in education, probably at Mānoa.

She applied for the NAJA scholarship after receiving recommendations from friends and her professors.

Neves hopes to enter the professional field of journalism after she completes her studies – she prefers broadcast media – but wants to teach broadcast journalism someday. In her work as well as in her teaching, she wants to focus on offering positive stories about ordinary people.

“I like presenting people’s stories, through broadcast media,” Neves added. “Often with print media, you get shut down a lot. I enjoy broadcast, you can tell another side of the story that people aren’t able to see.”

Regarding her experience at UH, Neves said that all of her stories are about Hawaiians.

“I do feel the need to tell as many Hawaiian stories as I can. I enjoy being like the platform for people to get their views out there,” Neves said.

Neves would like to see a greater emphasis on presenting news from the perspective of Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders and expressed concern that much of what has been taught in her UH journalism classes comes from a Western approach.

She also noted that she’s been disappointed that many UH Mānoa journalism students do not seem to care about pronouncing or spelling Hawaiian words and phrases correctly but added that she sees some improvement in one of her advanced journalism classes.

Neves said her favorite journalist is Steve Hartman of CBS News. “I really like Steve Hartman’s work – he finds a way to tell stories about everyday people. I think it’s cool.”

What are her hopes for the future in journalism?

“I just want to bring more positive news to Hawaiʻi – something that is lacking, that often gets overlooked,” said Neves. “I’m hoping it’s something we can do more of.”