USP Journalism's First Pacific Media Studies Grad
SUVA (Wansolwara/Pacific Media Watch): A leading Fiji Times columnist and women's advocate has become the first graduate of the University of the South Pacific's Postgraduate Diploma in Pacific Media Studies.
She is Seona Smiles, 59, best known for her witty, weekly columns in the Sunday Times.
Smiles began working as a journalist in Australian urban newspapers at the age of 19, straight out of high school. It was 40 years later that she earned her first tertiary qualification.
"I would like to say that I did the postgraduate diploma to be a shining example to my student daughter [journalist Tara Chetty], or to show that an older person could achieve something like that, but I have to admit I did it because gaining a university qualification was really special for me," she says.
Smiles is currently the communications officer for Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN) in Fiji. As a special project in journalism, Smiles did a research paper on the use of media by a women's NGO, the Fiji Women's Rights Movement.
"It discussed how a woman's rights organisation disseminates information into the community to provide a perspective on how women as information initiators communicate, including their use of , and relationship with the mainstream media," she says.
"It tried to show the methods and constraints of a feminist organisation in terms of transmitting information to the wider community in order to effect change and improve women's lives in the context of a mainstream media."
Smiles says the mainstream media under-represents women and women's concerns despite the increasing number of women journalists.
She hopes to pursue this area of research further next year when the DAWN secretariat relocates to Nigeria.
Smiles, who ran a weekly Media Council workshop series from August to October 2004, says the postgraduate diploma helped her as a trainer.
On journalism standards in Fiji, Smiles feels that with the training available, standards are improving and the profession is attracting more educated people.
She believes that the industry should make use of the training that is available and that the long-standing problem of low salaries should be rectified, as this keeps out a lot of people or makes them leave the industry.
"I think that good journalists are worth good money," she says.
Smiles joined the Fiji Times from Australia in 1969 and eventually became editor of the Sunday Times in 1977.
She left the Fiji Times in 1981 to join USP as information officer. After 18 years at USP, she joined DAWN.
Her Sunday Times column tackles, in a lighthearted and disarming manner, serious issues such as government corruption and corporate monopolies that make life difficult for ordinary people.
PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH
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 based in Sydney, Journalism Studies at the University of PNG (UPNG), the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism (ACIJ), Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand, and Community Communications Online (c2o).
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