Editor's Page: Tikis and Talent

Passionate interests make for great magazine features.

Photo: Linny Morris

Story ideas usually come to us from writers, but not always. Some of the magazine’s best partners are the photographers with whom we work regularly. Example: this month’s “The Tiki Tribe." Photographer Olivier Koning had told us about people he had met who were crazy about 1950s-era tiki kitsch, including a man who spent 17 years trying to locate every tiki on display in Honolulu. The people were passionate about their interest—we love that kind of story—and the idea had natural visual appeal.

The idea sat until the right time came along, when we dispatched writer David Thompson, armed with Olivier’s leads and the general assignment of telling us more about these tiki people. From there, Thompson branched out to the ceramicists who craft their own tiki mugs, the bartenders reviving tiki-era drinks, the artists doing tiki-themed paintings, the musicians keeping the ’50s sound of Exotica alive.

Naturally, Koning shot the feature, just one of more than 170 stories he’s photographed for us over the past eight years (the extent of our online, searchable archive, and he’s been shooting for us years longer than that). In “The Tiki Tribe,” I especially like the still life, which immediately conveys the destination for readers.

As for Thompson, “The Tiki Tribe” was his last article for us as a freelancer. He is now on staff full-time as senior editor, which means you’ll be reading a lot from him. In his first weeks, we threw a few January Calabash assignments at him as well, with short turnarounds, and sent him out to explore the city for a big neighborhood feature coming next month.

Thompson has been writing for us for seven years, and his first piece, “Dog the Bounty Hunter,” Sep. 2004, is still his favorite. “This was before anybody knew who Dog was,” Thompson recalls. Dog was just beginning the reality show that would make him a household name. “I rode around the Big Island with him. We caught a ‘skip’ one day … I’ve never seen the episode showing that, but if there’s a guy with a notebook in the background watching the whole thing, that was me.”

Readers may recall some of his other recent features—last month’s “Silver Surfers,” or November’s exhaustive look at all things opihi, for example.

Raised in Kailua, Thompson spent the past 10 years living in Hilo before moving here for this job. “The Big Island is incredible; it has this raw, palpable energy that you don’t feel on the other islands. It’s Hawaii on the grandest scale.” He has written for Hana Hou Magazine, MSNBC.com, and once spent four months living in Alaska, a place he’d never seen before, to become expert enough to write a first edition guidebook to that state for Pauline Frommer.

Now with us, he’s looking forward to getting out of the office, scouring Honolulu in search of the people and stories that make for great magazine writing.

We’re looking forward to the results!