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Wanted: PI Journalism School

Wanted: PI Journalism School

By Suenje Paasch-Colberg

AUCKLAND (Te Waha Nui newspaper/Pacific Media Watch): The New Zealand media industry's training agency plans to establish a Pacific Island journalism school to attract more Pasifika reporters.

The Journalists Training Organisation has held recent informal talks with the Pacific Islands Media Association, Pacific Cooperation Foundation, Pacific Islands Ministry and Auckland University of Technology staff to sound out the idea.

Executive director of the JTO Jim Tucker also floated the proposal at the annual PIMA conference in Auckland earlier this month.

He says "little effective effort" is being made to attract Pacific Islanders into a media career.

Journalism has a low status among Pacific Island families as a career choice for their young people, he says.

"This is a problem the JTO needs to address."

Tucker says he found "alarming figures" when he recently asked the country's 10 journalism schools about their students' ethnic origins for an informal survey.

The figures show that 12.2 percent of current students have a Maori background and 1.6 per cent a Pacific Island background. Only 0.7 per cent of all students are of Asian origin.

Gary Wilson, who ran the Journalists Training Board in the 1980s, has been engaged by JTO to research an overview of Pacific Island and Maori media training.

He says a Pasifika journalism school would improve the flow of talent into the media.

"One of the ways to ensure a greater number of Pacific Island students come into the media is to establish courses specifically for them."

Wilson helped set up a series of five-day introductory journalism courses for Maori and Pacific Island students in the 1980s, as well as fulltime courses at Manukau Polytechnic and Waiariki.

Those introductory courses are not operating anymore and the Manukau fulltime course was closed in 1993.

The need for a specific Pacific Island journalism training is substantial now, he says.

Wilson says the special programmes during the 1980s helped to get a significant number of Maori and Pacific Islanders into the media.

But he also says while there is a flow of talented brown journalists, the mainstream media is slow to hire many.

The newsrooms of mainstream media are not capable of reflecting Pacific Island and Maori issues, he says.

Also, he says, ethnic media cannot make up for the mainstream media failings because their news organisations are small, under-funded and fragmented.

"The consequence is that most new Zealanders remain largely ignorant of Pacific Island and Maori issues - and we carry on with a media system that doesn’t combat that ignorance, or the racial prejudice which it produces."

John Utanga, chair of PIMA, says his organisation supports the idea of any initiative to get Pacific people into the media industry.

Associate Professor Barry King, head of the school of communication studies, confirms that AUT is discussing the issue with JTO.

"We think it is a good idea. There is clearly a need to develop Pacific Island-based journalism in New Zealand, just as there is a need to develop Maori and Asian journalism."

But he also says AUT views these courses as just a precursor to the ultimate goal of a pre-degree programme targeting ethnic students.

"These short courses are the first step towards the setting up of a Pacific Island journalism centre."

* AUT offers annual scholarships for New Zealand-resident undergraduate and postgraduate Pasifika media students in partnership with PIMA.



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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