Monday, July 12, 2010

TVNZ helps bring colour to newsrooms through diversity scholarships

By Thakur Ranjit Singh: Pacific Media Centre

Alisha Lewis, winner of this year's TVNZ Journalism Diversity Scholarship at AUT University’s journalism school, sees a positive future for cultural minorities in the Nerw Zealand news media. She is grateful for the award which has allowed her to pursue her dreams and ambition to enter a journalism career.

“I always loved writing and was interested in journalism. While at Epsom Girls High School, I was a literary leader, organised literary events and started the school newspaper there. I had a class in writing for publication in transactional and creative writing. I had interest in both the forms and had entered competitions. Once I took this course, this fuelled my passion for journalism," Lewis said.

Lewis’s passion may not have been realised had it not been for the TVNZ Diversity Scholarship. She was getting ready to be enrolled at another university for a Bachelor of Arts course when she was called for the scholarship interview and offered the award. She is now pursuing a Bachelor in Communication Studies degree at AUT.

Her origin is India. Her parents originate from Mangalore in the state of Karnataka in India. She was born in India’s business and commercial capital Mumbai and moved with her parents to Auckland in 1995 at the age of four.

Her father is an engineer and her mother is a school counsellor. The only other sibling, a sister, has finished a law degree at Auckland University and is an intern for four months at the New Zealand diplomatic mission in New York.

Having lived in Hamilton, Napier and Auckland and undertaken primary and secondary education in New Zealand makes her well exposed to the Kiwi way of life. A very energetic, enthusiastic and motivated lass, she still regards herself as an Indian – a Kiwi Indian.

Literary activity
With a very supportive family which encourages here to work within her strength of literary activities, she equally enjoys her studies at AUT.

“I am loving my course. There is a paper called media ethics, we discuss Western news values and how stories and issues about developing nations are never deemed newsworthy, and how there is stereotyping within media,” she added.

On the concern about lack of interest by ethnic minorities in general and Indians in particular in journalism studies, she added that: “This is partly due to ingraining we have within our culture that it is a tough career choice, it is not very stable and it is not easy to get a job as a journalist, so people tend to go for more dependable degrees than journalism. May be, that is something we need to work within our cultures.”

She noted that the number of Asians and Pacific Islanders in journalism courses at AUT was increasing, and there was good hope for diversity. But she is disappointed at the fewer number of Indians pursuing studies in journalism.

Lewis believes TVNZ has added considerably in the quest for encouraging journalism among minorities. Two previous recipients of this award include Chinese Kiwi and Maori students.

“This scholarship is great because in the New Zealand mainstream media in general there needs to be huge increase in intakes of ethnic journalism students and reporters. It is a great step that TVNZ is taking by having specific diversity scholarship. There is huge room for improvement,” Alisha told the Pacific Media Centre.

Intern breaks
As a condition of her scholarship, she has to work as an intern at TVNZ during university breaks, and she enjoys every minute of it. She is very ambitious of going further in her chosen profession and her country of birth would certainly play a part in it.

“I would love to be a foreign correspondent and would love to work in India for an attachment. India is not projected properly in media; my Kiwi friends still feel that India is backward. I was there recently and saw huge developments since I was last there when I was 10. I saw huge developments and there are substantial changes. In so many ways, it is more advanced than New Zealand. Not necessarily backwards, but they do not really know how much India has progressed, that is what people in developed world fail to realise – that India will soon be one of the main powers of the world,” she added.

Lewis believes she would be able to make a difference as a journalist and is thankful to TVNZ for this opportunity. She has called on other media organisations to step up and start encouraging diversity and offer opportunities like TVNZ has offered to minority ethnicities to gain experience and start working in their respective organisations.

Thakur Ranjit Singh is a postgraduate student in Communication Studies at AUT writing for the Pacific Media Centre.

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