Garett H. Kamemoto’s reporting career placed him smack where news happened, from the bowels of the state Capitol to the Kauai neighborhoods destroyed by Hurricane Iniki.
Following a lengthy and distinguished journalism career that spanned three decades, Kamemoto continued to make a difference in his community in various other ways — as a public relations and communications specialist for several government agencies, and as a major force behind the Gridiron, the Society of Professional Journalists Hawaii chapter’s popular show that raises funds for college journalism students to intern at local media outlets.
Kamemoto, 54, died Dec. 6 at Pali Momi Medical Center after a brief illness.
Born in 1966 in Honolulu, he was a journalism major at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. After graduation, he worked for news radio station KHVH and TV news stations KGMB and KHNL.
Former TV news anchor Jade Moon said the two first met when both covered the state Legislature and Kamemoto was working in radio. With Kamemoto’s solid reporting chops and a passion for government and political news reporting, she urged him to apply for a job with her station, KGMB.
“Garett was always true to himself,” Moon said. His experiences were as a writer and radio person, and soon after he started in television, “news directors tried to remake him to be more ‘TV friendly,’” she said. He agreed to some of the recommended changes, Moon said, “but Garett kept on doing his job his way, dependably and thoroughly, never sacrificing substance for style.”
Both Moon and longtime television assignment editor Brenda Salgado, another close friend of Kamemoto’s, recalled that he was better versed on Hawaii’s political scene, down to local district seats, than everyone else they knew and was often called on to share his sharp analyses.
“He knew just about everyone, from the top to the frontline office staff,” Salgado said. “During election season, he would do his homework and come out with a booklet of all races and background of each candidate. Everyone in the newsroom, from anchors to reporters, would always look to Garett for help in the races.”
Former reporter Keoki Kerr noted that Kamemoto had numerous exclusives about the Bishop Estate scandals of the late 1990s and served as a researcher and consultant to CBS’ “60 Minutes” for its national piece on the estate’s troubles.
Kamemoto was also a mentor through the years for a number of younger reporters.
Following journalism, Kamemoto spent several years as an account supervisor for Communications Pacific before heading media and community communications with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the Hawaii Community Development Authority. HCDA board members were so impressed by Kamemoto’s skills that they threw a number of different assignments his way, eventually making him the agency’s interim director.
In his spare time, Kamemoto’s passion was the Gridiron show, where he was affectionately known as the “wrangler” because of his ability to juggle different tasks.
“He routinely wrote about 20% to 25% of most shows, with witty and savvy parodies of tunes from Broadway to classic hula to hip-hop,” said Robbie Dingeman, who served as the Gridiron’s co-artistic director along with Kerr.
“He wrangled the video, the lyric books, helped shape the show with creative production ideas, wrangled all of us with that dry, sardonic tone of his while entertaining us and our kids, constructing a prop or two, sharing his latest poke find,” Dingeman said. “In between, he might be fielding a work call or two, since he seemed to constantly be assigned to two or three jobs at once.”
Kamemoto is survived by his parents, Fred and Alice; a brother, Kenneth; and a sister, Janice. Private services were held through Hosoi Garden Mortuary.
Donations in Kamemoto’s honor can be sent to either SPJ Hawaii or PBS Hawaii. The Society of Professional Journalists Hawaii Chapter is a 501(c)(6) and donations are not tax-deductible. Checks may be sent to Hawaii Chapter of Society of Professional Journalists at P.O. Box 3141, Honolulu, HI 96802. PBS Hawaii is a 501(c)(3) and donations are tax-deductible. Checks may be sent to PBS Hawaii at P.O. Box 29606, Honolulu, HI 96820-2006.