By Violet Cho: Pacific Media Centre
With a passion to raise the voice of the “voiceless”, Fiji-born reporter Dominika White has won the Māori Television Prize and Pacific Media Centre Storyboard Award for diversity journalism for a series of articles in Spasifik magazine.
At the annual AUT University communication studies awards last night, White, who graduated as a Bachelor of Communication Studies in February, told of her strong motivation and interest in doing diversity stories.
“There are many stories out there which are newsworthy and do not get reported because they are a niche,” she said.
Not simply defining “diversity” as a term representing tangata whenua, Pacific islanders, Asians and other groups, she believes the word includes people with disabilities, elderly and those who are not necessarily in the news.
She says mainstream media needs to cover more diverse people in the society and raise their voices.
And she intends to pay attention and report about these voiceless people, which mainstream media don’t always cover.
Peter Rees, editor of Spasifik, praised White as a deserving winner of the diversity journalism awards.
“She has a good grasp of issues important in the region - and domestically - particularly indigenous issues that are making an impact in our Māori and Pacific communities which make up our core readership,” he said.
“With this understanding as her foundation, she was able to produce several thought-provoking and informative feature stories for our magazine.”
First working as an intern student and then as part-time reporter, White spent her time working closely with the editorial team of Spasifik website and magazine, a weekly glossy magazine that has focused on the achievements of Pacific people as well as local and regional issues.
Some of the news stories she did last year included the New Zealand election which was reported from a Pacific perspective and a profile of a renowned Fijian women’s rights campaigner, Virisila Buadromo, winner of International Woman of Courage Award in 2008.
She also reported on the 10th Festival of Pacific Arts in American Samoa and interviewed some business tycoons such as Rick Fala.
Representing a sponsor of the diversity journalism award, Sonya Haggie, Māori Television’s general manager of sales, marketing and communications, said her channel supported and promoted acceptance of and respect for ethnic and cultural diversity.
“New Zealand is home to peoples from many different cultures and backgrounds, and each of us has a unique contribution to building the nationhood of our country,” she said.
“Diversity provides dynamic, interesting and inspiring perspectives, and having the freedom to be proud of who we are, where we come from and our own traditional beliefs enriches our country.”
White would like to work as a journalist in New Zealand. However, she also wants to help out her community in Fiji, which is currently ruled by a military-backed regime, and the Pacific region.
In his interview with the Pacific Media Center, Peter Rees, also encouraged Pacific journalists to be more engaged with diversity reporting.
“As Pacific journalists, their ability to draw on their own cultural background gives them a more innate understanding of diversity issues.”
“Foreign journalists not familiar with local Pacific customs are often accused of ‘parachute’ journalism. This highlights the importance of getting more Pacific people into journalism.
“It will help people living outside of the Pacific have a better understanding of what is going on in that part of the world.”
PMC director David Robie, who donated the East Sepik storyboard for the centre’s award three years ago, said it was really encouraging to see what an impact the winners were making on diversity reporting.
He recalled that the first winner, Qiane Corfield in 2006, had gone on to work for Mana magazine and was now deputy editor of Spasifik. Moana Tapaleao, who won in 2007, became a reporter on the New Zealand Herald and was “developing really well”.
In other diversity awards and scholarships last night, Pacific Islands Media Association (PIMA) deputy chair Chris Lakatani presented scholarship certificates to John Pulu (undergraduate) and Thakur Ranjit Singh (postgraduate) and Television New Zealand corporate affairs manager Peter Parussini presented a diversity journalism scholarship to Kimberlee Downs.
Asia New Zealand Foundation media adviser Charles Mabbett also presented international internship scholarships to Kristina Koveshnikova and Guanting Liu (China Daily.com, Beijing), Claire Rourke (Jakarta Post) and Keira Stephenson (Philippine Daily Star).
He spoke warmly of the four-year partnership with AUT over Asia-Pacific journalism.
A total of 34 prizes were presented to current and former students at the communication studies awards.
Katie Llanos-Small, currently in London, won the inaugural postgraduate Asia-Pacific Journalism prize for an "outstanding" assignment portfolio. Her father, John, collected the award on her behalf.
Pictures: Top: Winner Dominika White with the Storyboard Award, Māori Television's Krishan Marinas (left), Laura Quigley and PMC director Dr David Robie; centre: PIMA's Chris Lakatani (left) and John Pulu; Asia New Zealand Foundation's Charles Mabbett with China Daily's Wang Nan (left) and Violet Cho, of Burma; above: The PMC "mob". Photos: Alan Koon. More pictures.
Reporter Violet Cho, from Burma, was herself a scholarship recipient. She won the inaugural Asian Journalism Fellowship at AUT funded by the Asia New Zealand Foundation and is attached to the PMC.
Asia New Zealand Foundation
AUT communication studies awards night - photo gallery