Report – By Pacific Media Watch in Deuba, Fiji
University journalism schools and communication studies programmes have a duty to provide independent news media, says a leading Pacific journalist and educator.
Professor David Robie, director of the Pacific Media Centre at New Zealand’s AUT University, said journalism schools should foster their own news publications that interacted with social media and carried out their own investigations.
“Universities should ensure they produce independent news that is never locked away behind a paywall,” he told the second PINA Pacific Media Summit this week.
He cited independent news media such as the online Pacific Scoop and Te Waha Nui at AUT University and Wansolwara at the University of the South Pacific, which is printed as a liftout in the Fiji Sun.
Dr Robie gave examples of independent investigative stories that had been triggered from social media contacts such as those that led to a major exposé of the New Zealand Superannuation Fund’s “unethical” investment in the controversial giant Freeport mine in West Papua being published in Metro magazine.
The initial links with striking miners led to the investigation trail.
Building public trust in the news media was vitally important and journalism schools had a key role to play, Dr Robie said in a panel on the credibility of social media at the summit organised by the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) marking its 21st birthday.
“Social media has become an integral and robust part of journalism education these days,” Dr Robie said.
“But remember it is not whether social media itself should be either believed or disbelieved. It’s the messenger, not the message,” he said.
“Recent US research measuring how twitter users, for example, evaluate credibility has tracked whether participants were correct in determining the accuracy of a tweet.
“Unfortunately, they were often not,” he said.
Also speaking on the panel was Fiji Sun publications general manager Leone Cabenatabua, who condemned Australian and New Zealand news media for using anti-government websites as sources of information on Fiji.
Cabenatabua challenged media for reporting unverified “nonsense” from discredited websites such as Coup 4.5.
He cited a series of false claims made by Coup 4.5, saying: “We should know better than to just report the claims of an anonymous blog site run by faceless people promoting disinformation and racial hatred.
“Unfortunately, some in Australia and New Zealand seem more interested in discrediting Fiji than getting it right.”