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Journalism Plans $250,000 Building

Journalism Plans $250,000 Building

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By TARA CHETTY, editor of Wansolwara

WORK on a new F$250,000 building for the University of the South Pacific’s journalism programme is expected to start early next year.

The new building — including the campus FM station Radio Pasifik — will be a major boost for the rapidly growing programme, and is the result of hard lobbying by departing coordinator David Robie.

“We will soon have a new building, which is being planned at the moment. We hope it will be ready by the time of the South Pacific Games next July,” Robie told Wansolwara. “So things are looking pretty good in terms of facilities.”

The experienced journalist and educator is leaving USP to take up a new position next month at New Zealand’s leading journalism faculty, Auckland University of Technology school of communication studies.

Robie, 57, said he was leaving USP’s regional programme after almost five years due to health and personal reasons.

“There’s the issue of long hours and stress and the fact that my wife, Del, and family want me to go back to Auckland. And then this very good job opportunity came up at the right time,” Robie said.

AUT has a special cooperation agreement with USP.

Apart from new facilities, the journalism programme has also proposed a number of changes to course structure. The recommendations come in the wake of a recent external review of the programme.

“This is actually our first specialist media review and the reviewer was very impressed with our programme.

“He has made a number of proposals, particularly in terms of facilities and resources,” said Robie, who spent five years running the University of Papua New Guinea school of journalism before coming to Fiji.

Among proposed improvements to the programme is a plan to raise entry requirements, expand the number of courses and to provide for a single major in journalism.

The review by Australian media educator Professor Mark Pearson, head of journalism at Bond University, was part of a regular series of reviews at USP conducted earlier this year. Others included economics, education, marine science and sociology.

Prof Pearson’s review also supported the need for better facilities, including the proposed new building, Robie said.

“In the past we’ve had to rely on ad hoc facilities. There was never sufficient planning for a rapidly growing programme.

“The demand has always outstripped what we’ve had available in terms of computers and facilities,” he said.

However, the senior lecturer now predicts a bright future for the programme which has seen many changes under his leadership.

“I’m optimistic and I believe that the journalism programme’s got a good future,” Robie said.

“We’ve got a good team here at the moment, with lecturers Shailendra Singh and Steve Sharp, both of them have got a lot to offer USP.

“In some ways I’m a bit sad that I won’t be around when there’s a new building and there’s a lot of other facilities.

“But, on the other hand, I had the opportunity of being one of the pioneers to develop it,” Robie said.

Under Robie’s guidance since 1998, the student newspaper, Wansolwara and training website, Pacific Journalism Online, have won 10 awards or citations in the regional Journalism Education Association (JEA) annual Ossie Awards.

In all, USP’s journalism school has churned out 55 graduates working in the region. The degree programme was founded as a French aid project in 1994.

“Teaching is different. I find it very rewarding. It’s quite thrilling seeing people evolve and develop into journalists,” he said.

In a career spanning 37 years, Robie, one of the region’s most respected journalists, has edited or been senior editorial executive on newspapers in Australia, France, Kenya, New Zealand and South Africa.

At 24, he was the youngest editor on an Australian metropolitian newspaper, the Melbourne Sunday Observer, which campaigned against Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War.

A fellow of the Australian Press Council in 1999, he has published several books including The Pacific Journalist, a training book for South Pacific journalists, and Eyes of Fire, about the sinking of the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior by French secret agents in Auckland Harbour in 1985.

Robie leaves satisfied that USP is now committed to adequately resourcing the programme, in line with journalism’s importance in the university’s stance on good governance in the region. Vice-Chancellor Savenaca Siwatibau said Robie’s departure was a loss for USP.

“David is extremely hard-working. I know that he lives in his office. That’s an open secret in the university,” he said.

“The beginning of the programme and the funding were on shaky grounds. It was David who ran with it and now, of course, it’s working.

“We need to thank David for that.”

Dr Som Prakash, head of the literature and language department, said: “We are very sorry to lose someone with the capabilities of David Robie. He has done a lot for the journalism programme.”

USP is advertising the senior lecturer’s post, and a temporary coordinator is expected for next semester.



PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH is an independent, non-profit, non-government organisation comprising journalists, lawyers, editors and other media workers, dedicated to examining issues of ethics, accountability, censorship, media freedom and media ownership in the Pacific region. Launched in October 1996, it has links with the Journalism Program at the University of the South Pacific, Bushfire Media, the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism, and Pactok Communications, in Sydney and Port Moresby.

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