By Gladys Hartson, Pacific Media Watch
Most young Pacific people do not see journalism as a bona fide career path, according to three Pacific Island journalists who are in New Zealand this week as part of an inaugural exchange programme sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT).
At a panel discussion held at the University of Auckland Centre for Pacific Studies on Friday, Samoa Observer editor Mata’afa Keni Lesa said that while the challenges faced by island media are “multiple [and] too many to name”, the lack of training, resources, and manpower were key problems.
This also becomes an issue when recruiting new journalists into the newspaper.
“We get some young people coming through with some training – not top of the line training… But still, we train so many people [on the job] but as soon as the next job opportunity shows up, they’re gone,” he said.
Lesa has a small staff of less than ten people.
“We try work hard with what we got”, he added.
From the Cook Islands News daily paper, Nerys Case, a political journalist originally from the UK, said she has seen a “massive loss of population” in Rarotonga, especially as young people leave the country for better job opportunities overseas.
Cook Island News currently only employs three reporters, she said.
“There seems to be no interest from the young people to become journalists. It’s not seen as attractive”.
Similarly, Matangi Tonga Online photojournalist Linny Folau said that although there is a journalism training programme in Tonga that targets high school leavers for certificate and diploma qualifications, the number of enrolments are low.
“Maybe they think it’s too demanding… Some go through the programme and get the knowledge but after working in the industry, they don’t like it,” she said.
New Zealand Pacific media
Meanwhile, award winning journalist from the New Zealand Herald Vaimoana Tapaleao said there is a real lack of Pacific journalists in mainstream media in New Zealand.
As a result, “huge expectations” are placed on the few Pacific staff in mainstream to cover and be knowledgeable about all things Pacific.
Tapaleao encouraged more young Pacific people to pursue a career in journalism, in order to fill this gap and bring more Pacific –relevant stories into the mainstream.
“When you walk into our office, you can tell straight away there’s only one islander, and the only other Polynesian I know is the Maori Affairs reporter,” she said.
Participants discussed the possibilities of having more opportunities for NZ-based Pacific journalists to spend time with their colleagues in the islands, as part of an ongoing exchange programme.
Gladys Hartson is a Graduate Diploma in Journalism student at AUT University and is working with Pacific Media Watch.