Thursday, October 15, 2009

New AUT media programme targets Pacific journalists

By Christopher Adams: Pacific Media Centre

A shortage of Pacific Islanders undertaking journalism training in New Zealand will be addressed next year with the introduction of a new course at AUT University.

The Graduate Diploma in Pacific Journalism will incorporate the core papers from the Bachelor in Communications Studies degree with a journalism major, along with electives focusing on the Asia-Pacific region.

Tagata Pasifika producer John Utanga says while many Pacific students pass through communications programmes around the country, most do not choose to major in journalism.

“In the current era there is so much more choice, but we know that while some students do the journo component, not enough do,” says Utanga, who is also current chair of AUT’s Pacific Media Centre.

“The bottom line is fewer people have chosen that option over the last few years – hence the reason for getting a Pacific-focused journalism course up and running,” he says.

Both Utanga and TVNZ Pacific affairs correspondent Barbara Dreaver, along with Tagata Pasifika’s Lisa Taouma, trained on Manukau Institute of Technology’s Pacific journalism course in the late 1980s.

“That was focused on Pacific journalism, and the idea was to get Pacific kids interested in journalism,” says Utanga.

The course closed in 1994 after government funding was phased out, and no similar course has been run since.

Dr Alan Cocker, head of AUT’s School of Communication Studies, says the new course is aimed at Pacific journalists who are already in the industry, but are looking to up-skill.

It is also available for Pacific journalists from the region or other Pasifika people looking for a career change into the media industry.

Diverse communities
“One of the key things is that AUT University, as part of its strategic plan, puts a lot of emphasis on serving the diverse groups of Auckland – particularly the Māori and Pasifika communities.”

Dr Cocker says the creation of the new programme was initiated by Pacific Media Centre director Associate Professor David Robie, who ran similar courses as head of journalism programmes at universities in Fiji and Papua New Guinea before joining AUT.

Dr Robie says the new programme has been “in the pipeline” for about three years while awaiting school and government approval.

A Pacific journalist with “mana in the industry” would be recruited to run the programme.

“AUT University has set itself a strategic goal of becoming the preferred university for Māori and Pasifika students,” he says.

But he adds there is a perception in Pacific communities that journalism is not a “highly desired” career path.

“It’s certainly not well-paid and often Pacific families encourage their young people to go into careers like law or medicine.”

He says the profile of journalism as a career path needs to be raised in Pacific communities.

But despite this, Dr Robie says a “coming of age” is currently taking place in New Zealand-based Pacific journalism.

“Two young, up and coming Pacific journalists have been in Samoa covering the tsunami disaster – the New Zealand Herald’s Vaimoana Tapaleao and Radio New Zealand’s Leilani Momoisea -and they are both graduates of AUT.”

The Graduate Diploma in Pacific Journalism is due to begin in March 2010, and could take up to about a dozen students in its first year.

Christopher Adams is a Graduate Diploma in Journalism student at AUT University.

Graduate Diploma in Pacific Journalism. No fixed deadline for applications, but best to apply early.

See also Pacific Scoop

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