Matthew Dekneef, managing editor at Nella Media Group, is sharing the hopes, dreams, and struggles of the people that define Hawaiian culture


At Nella Media Group, a multi-media company specializing in Hawai‘i lifestyle and visitor-industry print publications, managing editor Matthew Dekneef has his finger on the ever-changing beat of Hawai‘i culture. He has created a vivid channel to amplify Hawai‘i’s voices and share its many perspectives through robust storytelling. Dekneef is inspired by the humanity of Hawai‘i, the stories and voices that form the emotional narratives that live next door to the contextual facts and figures of traditional journalism. Through collaboration and a deep respect for the unheard and underrepresented, Dekneef curates compelling stories grounded in Hawai‘i’s rich history, stories that testify to the strength of diversity.



OluKai: People from all over the world write about Hawai‘i and its people. How does your local perspective differ from those other voices and what does that bring to story?

Matthew Dekneef: I’m very interested in communities and people that are underrepresented, feel invisible, or are portrayed differently in mainstream media. If you’re born and raised in a place, you just come with a different perspective and a different approach to storytelling in that place than someone that is new to the place. There are hundreds of ways you can tell the same story, but I’m only concerned with telling it in a way that hasn’t been told, or focusing on an angle that hasn’t been exposed. I’m trying to get as deep as possible or in terrain that hasn’t been explored.


As an editor, how do you develop your story lines?

Basically, I identify people, communities, places, and creatives, just interesting points of view and perspectives about the islands—what it means to live here, what it means to have a family here, what it means to be an artist, chef, or writer in Hawai‘i. I’m really interested in the humanity of Hawai‘i and what that looks like, what that sounds like, and what that feels like. As far as editing is concerned, my role is to find a place for those voices and those stories to be heard and to be visible. I’m always on and everything is timing to me. We’re constantly following up with people over the course of a year—I’m a really patient person—or we’re working with a photographer to see what areas of the island or communities they are interested in. My creative process is just remaining interested all the time.


Do you draw on the past to inform your perspective for current pieces that you’re collaborating on?

I’m very drawn to and curious about how the generations before us experienced Hawai‘i. I draw comparisons from the universal storyline between all the people that came before us and how they perceived certain subjects and their environment. I look for the commonalities and the differences and reconcile the two. Then I filter that in a way that makes sense for today, bringing in my own feelings. There’s a degree of nostalgia to it that’s always kind of fascinating to me. Hawai‘i is in this constant state of change all the time, so I like to ride all those different waves and figure out where we are in the whole scheme of it.


You have a penchant for exploring native Hawaiian stories and disseminating those stories to a much larger audience. What is it about Hawai‘i that captures your interest?

Hawai‘i’s greatest strength is its diversity. The people living here express so many different points of view, and not just all the great things, but all the struggles that people have, too. My stance on curation in this field is not along a spectrum of what’s good and what’s bad, and it’s not necessarily anything to a taste level. It’s collaboration. It’s talking with local writers, photographers, designers, and seeing what excites people or what starts a conversation. It’s also recognizing what kind of language people use when they’re discussing certain subjects.


What drives the message home, words or images?

I want Hawai‘i stories to reach as many people as possible. I’m very drawn to the potential of something. How far can we take it? What boundaries can it cross? I think the content that we produce here is very visual because the visual component is very inspirational. The relationship between words and images tells a well-rounded and rooted story. I’m always thinking about the relationship—the dichotomy or the interplay—between the two.



Matt's choice of Nalukai:

Nalukai Sandal