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International Journalism Scholarships Reap Rewards


International Journalism Scholarships Reap Rewards

By Natasha Burling

“Journalism Graduates Need More International Experience”

As two young journalists leave Auckland this month on international scholarships, one lecturer says graduates should be given a much wider experience.

Pacific Media Centre director David Robie said a lot of journalism schools focus on preparing students for the local market when they should be looking further afield: “We should be developing the full potential of graduates.” Image: AUT Pacific Media Centre's Associate Professor David Robie (right) photographed with Vanuatu prime minister Ham Lini. (Photograph courtesy of PMC.)

Charles Mabbett Media advisor for Asia New Zealand agrees that international experience is invaluable for new journalists, who he sees as the “future gatekeepers.”

“They will gain a pretty good awareness of Asia and Asian issues and this will help the New Zealand public understand the region better,” he said.

The Asia New Zealand foundation, in partnership with the Pacific Media Centre (PMC) at Auckland University of Technology (AUT) offers two scholarships to Beijing and one to Jakarta every year. This year an additional two to Jakarta were offered through the Australian Consortium for In-Country Indonesian Studies (ACICIS), which operates out of Murdoch University in Perth. Three New Zealand students, including two from AUT took part in the scheme.

China and Indonesia are key places for New Zealand as they are “two very important countries with growing importance globally”, said Robie.

Young Journalists Going To Asia This Month

Two young journalists are leaving Auckland this month on their second Asia New Zealand Foundation-funded scholarships this year.

Dylan Quinnell, 21, left New Zealand on Friday June 5 to do an internship covering the Olympics in Beijing, stopping off in Australia on the way. Quinnell’s last internship early this year to Indonesia was also funded by Asia New Zealand.

Twenty-six year old Spike Mountjoy leaves for Indonesia at the end of this month and will be spending a short time in Australia too. Mountjoy’s previous trip to Thailand in January and February this year was supported by Asia New Zealand too. He and his travelling companion Joe Barratt were also able to tag on a self-funded visit to Myanmar to this visit.


Click to enlarge

Image: Journalist Joe Barratt enjoys a photo-sharing moment while on assignment in South East Asia. (Photograph courtesy of Spike Mountjoy)


Aroha Treacher, 27, also did a television journalism internship in Jakarta with Quinnell but has no immediate plans to travel again.

Twenty-nine year old Cameron Broadhurst had work experience with the Jakarta Post, where Mountjoy will be placed, from May to June last year but also doesn’t see travel on the horizon for a while.

All the students had graduated from Auckland University of Technology (AUT) with bachelor degrees in communication or graduate diplomas in journalism.

Scholarship Applications Down

The scholarship recipients were all very positive about their experiences and highly recommended them to other recent graduates but the Asia New Zealand Foundation says applications are down.

Mabbett said surprisingly there was a lack of applications for the Beijing placement this year. This was fortunate for one student who had done a previous internship and the foundation decided they would “carry on (their) investment” in him.

However, he said applications from AUT have generally been very consistent.

Robie said applications for scholarships were down slightly last year. In 2006, the first year of scholarships were offered, applications were “highly competitive”. He said this downturn is probably cyclical but expects more applications this year.

Details Of Scholarships

Quinnell’s scholarship to Jakarta included included a two-week Indonesian course then four weeks’ work experience at the national television station Television Republic of Indonesia (TVRI).

Quinnell enjoyed Indonesia so much he decided to stay on and got a job with an NGO located on the outskirts of Bogor, a city the size of Hamilton located 70km south of Jakarta.

Recent graduate Mountjoy was given a scholarship normally reserved for mid-career journalists to go to Thailand. He and Joe Barratt, who had the idea to go, then paid for their own trip to Myanmar, which Asia New Zealand said was too dangerous for them to support.

Challenges

The graduates were undoubtedly challenged during their time away but what they gained from the experience far outweighed any difficulties.

Although South African-born Quinnell had seen poverty in his home country, the conditions in Indonesia took some getting used to. He recalls having to be extremely careful about what he ate and drank as the risk of gastroenteritis is high in Indonesia.

However, he didn’t take long to adapt to the new environment:

“There’s rubbish everywhere, it stinks, the food’s undercooked or not cooked. I mean I love it because I’ve done it a few times,” he said.

For Quinnell it was a real challenge to send images and video footage back to New Zealand because of the slow internet speed in Indonesia. His attempts to give reports to Shine TV over the phone were also thwarted due to poor phone-lines.

The larger international news networks would take satellite equipment but as a freelancer it is difficult to send material back, he said.

Mountjoy and Barratt said the main challenge for them was getting articles published when they came back. They had made contact with editors before leaving but some took a while to publish their work and then it was out of date after the cyclone hit Myanmar.

Media Censorship

Many students encountered restrictions in what they could report due to censorship.

Mountjoy said media censorship is extreme in Myanmar, with informers everywhere and huge restrictions on the press due to the military regime.

In Indonesia, media censorship was unwritten and Quinnell said his editor often guided him away from stories that did not conform to what was expected: “They’ll just sort of gently push you in the other direction.”

However, Treacher was surprised that she was able to do a story about an HIV clinic and another one on female circumcision while working for Metro TV in Indonesia. Although she said she did have to be very careful with how she worded the pieces.

Future For Scholarships

The Asia New Zealand Foundation gave grants to three students to go to Indonesia this year and hopes to increase this to six scholarships next year. The foundation will be calling for applications at the end of the year.

There will also be the usual two scholarships offered to go to Beijing.

Robie said scholarships will be available for established journalists from Asia to study at AUT next year. He hopes that an experienced journalist from Myanmar, who has lived most of her life in a refugee camp will be able to come next year.

India and Vietnam are two more possible destinations for scholarship recipients, said Robie.

Most scholarship recipients were not sure if the internships increased their employability but said the experience had been enriching on a personal and professional level.

However, one intern Marc Checkley, who did an internship with China Daily.com, has just got a job as a senior journalist and editor for the website during the Olympics.

Highly Recommended

Robie said the feedback from students has been “enormously positive”.

“They seem to grow enormously; they have a range of challenges to meet in a small time.”

Mountjoy encouraged graduating journalists to apply for the scholarships:

“I really recommend that students try for the scholarships. It’s a really valuable experience and also good fun.”

Quinnell said getting a scholarship is a chance that shouldn’t be missed:

“So really just take the opportunity, make the most of it.

“And you’re getting paid to travel, who can complain about that?”

For more, see… Asia New Zealand Foundation Website: www.asianz.org.nz

*************

Natasha is an AUT journalism student doing the Graduate Diploma in Journalism. She has lived in Colombia, France and Scotland.

ENDS

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