Putting a media career on hold in order to go to back to journalism school was a tough choice, says Gladys Hartson, a former broadcaster at the Pacific Media Network currently studying at AUT University.
“It’s hard being out of school for so long,” she says. “Not having a full-time job, not earning money when you’re used to an income – that’s hard.
“If anyone wants to do this, there’s a lot of sacrifice, but I’m enjoying it.”
Hartson, 37, worked as an announcer for eight years at Radio 531pi, then as an issues assistant at the Mangere Electorate office of MP Su’a William Sio in 2007.
She describes her return to school as a “milestone” in her career.
Her classes at AUT span from news reporting, journalism law and ethics, communications theory to television journalism.
“I’ve learnt that what’s good for TV or broadcasting may not necessarily be good for print.
"There’s a real practical side to broadcasting, but mastering the basic tools for journalism – that’s another story,” she says.
Pacific journalism Her experience outside the classroom has also helped in “making sense” of academic material.
Hartson, an ethnic Samoan (Afega/Eva/Fa’asitoo’uta/Fagalii) raised in Invercargill, said that Pacific media practitioners need to put forward a strong identity in mainstream media.
“What Pacific people may deem as important may not be important in mainstream. The challenge is to be faithful to what’s important to us,” she explains.
She adds that Pacific journalists should expect to be “slammed” for reporting on certain issues and that it’s important to approach certain topics with care.
“One minute you’ll be dealing with high power leaders or academics, and the next minute you’ll be thrown in with grassroots people - in a house in West Auckland dealing with a story on domestic violence … You learn to adapt.”
While adjusting to an intense academic routine – including several hours of classes each day and a load of assignments – Hartson said the experience is “worth it”.
She wishes to bring more attention to Pacific “unsung heroes” at the grassroots level, and raise awareness in the media about struggles faced by recent immigrants from the Pacific Islands.
Josephine Latu is a postgraduate communication studies at AUT University from Tonga and contributing editor of the PMC's Pacific Media Watch project. Photo: Gladys Hartson by Josephine Latu
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