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Fiji Times Trainer Praises USP Journalism Graduate

Fiji Times Trainer Praises USP Journalism Graduates

By Erica Lee

SUVA (Wansolwara Online/Pacific Media Watch): The Fiji Times training manager, Steve McCully, has praised the four journalism graduates the company hired as reporters for the newspaper this year.

McCully said it was the first time The Fiji Times had hired USP journalism graduates, adding that they performed very well.

"We are very happy with them," McCully said during a guest lecture he conducted for the USP journalism students at the Laucala campus in Suva today.

The four graduates were Shobna Gounder, Doreen Narayan (Kaila reporter), Sarika Fernando and Ashwini Prasad (business writer). Fernando later joined UNICEF while Gounder joined the Fiji Development Bank.

McCully said initially the recruits had to overcome the "shock of the newsroom" but they lived up to expectations once they settled in.

He advised the students to constantly "challenge" themselves, saying they needed to be aware of and prepared for the reality of the being a journalist in the mainstream media

"You will be required to write up to eight news stories a day. This may seem a lot but the current graduates have coped really well.”

With a newsroom staff of 56, the Fiji Times is the biggest news media employer in the South Pacific.

McCully added that an agreement allowing USP journalism students to go on short, regular attachments with The Fiji Times and other media outlets was a good way of giving students a taste of what to expect when they started work.

Under the agreement, six first year students went on attachment with The Fiji Times, the Fiji Sun and the Fiji Daily Post for a week during their semester break recently.

The thrust of McCully’s presentation was on some of the controversial stories that The Fiji Times has covered recently.

This included the alleged plans by an investor to build an exclusively gay resort. This was later found to be an attempt by a conman to discredit the investor by setting up a series of false websites and manufacturing chat channels and emails to give the impression that the resort would be marketed exclusively for gays.

McCully explained the behind-the-scene newsroom processes that took place before the decision to publish the story was taken.

In another case, he explained how notes taken by a reporter enabled The Fiji Times to challenge a senior rugby union official who made statements against Fiji rugby icon Waisale Serevi, which he later claimed were concocted by the reporter.

Claims by a Dr Keith Scott to invest US$6 billion in Fiji was another story strongly pursued by The Fiji Times.

Two days after the paper published an "open letter" on the front page questioning the validity of the claims, Dr Scott left the country.

McCully said the media coverage prevented what could have been a major scam from taking place.

He said that stories like these showed The Fiji Times was standing up for the community against corruption and exploitation.

"Do not be bluffed into believing something. Ask the right questions," he said.

On defamation, he said the best protection for a journalist was to keep notes from interviews backed up with a recording.

"Judges today expect journalists to keep good records just like accountants,” he said, adding that "good journalism is having fun without getting sued".


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