Where Have The Pacific Journo Graduates Gone?
47 University of the South Pacific journalism graduates have gone into news or media-related jobs since the first students graduated in 1996. Others have opted for "better career paths" and higher pay in the double major options. AKKA RIMON reports.
April print edition, 2002
SUVA (Pacific Media Watch):
"The desire to search for the truth, the importance of balanced, unbiased reporting, and knowing legislation relating to the media to protect ourselves and to challenge any legal constraints on the freedom of the press.
"These are among the few things that most Pacific journalism students strive for when they enter the Journalism Programme at the University of the South Pacific."
THIS COMMENT was made by Tongan journalist 'Ana Tapueluelu, last year's graduate and winner of the Radio Australia Prize and the Storyboard Award.
Now back working with the Tongan Catholic monthly newspaper Taumu'a Lelei, she was talking to Taimi 'o Tonga publisher Kalafi Moala.
Tapueluelu has now finally entered the "reality" of her journalism field. As senior reporter and computer assistant for the Tongan Catholic diocese newspaper, she told Wansolwara:
"I like my job. Even though it is very challenging, I enjoy it, especially after graduating.
"My one year of professional training at USP has given me the confidence to inform people the truth, without fear," said the 25-year-old journalist, who last year graduated with a Diploma in Pacific Journalism.
USP's journalism programme has so far produced 55 graduates from around the Pacific region since 1996.
Forty six students have graduated with BA double major degrees in journalism and eight with Diplomas in Pacific Journalism.
Most students are from Fiji, but the high achieving graduates include students from the Federated States of Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tahiti and Tonga.
The programme has also attracted "international" students, including from Australia, Germany, Maldives, Nigeria and the US.
According to a Wansolwara survey:
* 33 graduates became working journalists;
* 14 took on media-related jobs such as information and public relations officers;
* three took on higher tertiary studies such as a masters degree;
* two became teachers;
* one became an economist; and
* the careers of two graduates were unknown at the time of going to press.
One recent graduate, Peter Emberson, who now works as a journalist for Communications Fiji Ltd’s FM96, says he had not realised the importance of journalism as a career choice when he first started training.
He has now grown to appreciate and love what he does.
"I realise that information is a vital tool in any country’s quest for development," says Emberson, a 2001 graduate and winner of the Pacific Islands Broadcasting Association (PIBA) Prize for best radio journalism.
Emberson told Wansolwara via email from Singapore, where he is currently attending a course on internet broadcasting, that what is even more challenging about journalism is giving the people of Fiji information that is already there, interpreting it and reporting it accurately.
However, not all graduates have stuck to the journalism profession.
Shital Ram, 23, graduated from USP in 2000 with a BA degree in journalism and economics. She is now an economist with the Reserve Bank.
Ram, who was runner-up to the 2000 gold medalist journalism student, told Wansolwara poor pay and lack of career opportunities in journalism forced her to choose an economics career.
"It is a better offer. There hasn't been much emphasis given to journalists in Fiji. The pay for graduate journalists should be comparable to other salaries such as teachers' pay. The pay for journalists should be raised to get the best people into the field," she said.
Ram said her journalism training at USP had given her a head start with her career.
"My work as an economist involves a lot of writing for reports and briefing papers for the Reserve Bank and for the Government, and mainly for internal use.
"Studying journalism has made me more confident. It has improved my writing skills and has broadened my thinking," she added.
Graduate Anish Chand, who is now a journalist with Fiji TV, believes it is a matter of commitment to the profession.
"The starting salary for new graduates in Fiji is low, but if you want to become a 'real journalist' and want to uphold the noble work of journalists, you will never weigh the pay against the profession," said Anish, who won the Caines Jannif Prize for best indepth/investigative report.
Susan Kiran, a 1998 graduate, is currently studying part-time for a Master of Arts degree with a media topic in literature. She wanted to expand her knowledge.
"I decided to pursue postgraduate studies because it was an ideal opportunity for me to gain further knowledge on literary theory, and also the social, political and economic issues - not only in literature but also journalism," she said.
Kiran, who has worked as public relations officer for the Ministry of Information for three years after graduating, said the journalism programme offered more than just basic skills.
"Getting a degree also meant that I actually had some knowledge on the wider issues in journalism rather than just basic reporting skills," she said.
"Apart from journalism, we have to do another major, and this complements basic reporting in that it makes us journalists relate to the story in a wider context.”