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NZ media professionals urge more ‘ethnic’ news reporting of Pacific issues

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By Lei Shi

Three journalists working on Pacific issues are expressing hopes for better media coverage of the Pacific region.

Former Radio New Zealand International senior reporter Sara Vui-Talitu has been at the radio station for close to a decade.

She said although New Zealand’s influence in the region had declined, the country’s media were still very important in the Pacific context.

Vui-Talitu, who is currently working at AUT University as a journalism tutor, also said “there is definitely a place for indigenous reporting”.

She said that often the mainstream media did not cover indigenous issues, and that was where indigenous reporting could have a place.

“Māori TV have a great show Native Affairs. That show picks up on a lot of stories mainstream media would not touch.

“They have stories that really affect native communities, like the pollution of waterways where indigenous Māori get their food.”

New Zealand as a watchdog
Interim chair of the Pacific Islands Media Association (PIMA), Will ‘Ilolahia, said New Zealand had done a very good job as a watchdog in the Pacific.

“When Samoa was criticised for the government misspending of the tsunami aid, a lot of Samoans got their information through a channel I was managing Kiwi TV, and we had on-demand from Campbell Live.

“A lot of Samoans didn’t get their information locally because their government was trying to hide what they were doing, actually got it through New Zealand,” ‘Ilolahia said.

However, ‘Ilolahia also said that in order to better cover Pacific stories, New Zealand journalists needed to gain a deeper understanding of the “island way such as the fano process,” a process where consensus in any issue is deeply emphasised.

Contributing editor of Pacific Media Watch Daniel Drageset argued news media would benefit from bringing qualified Pasifika people into newsrooms

He added there were many “blind spots” in the current Pacific media coverage, where a higher representation of Pasifika or other ethnicities could contribute in uncovering the “blind spots”.

Listen to Lei Shi’s audio report – read introduction below:

2013 is an important year for the Pacific region.

Media have provided a few Pacific stories throughout the year – such as the Majuro Declaration on climate change leadership, China’s controversial aircraft to Tonga and the fiber-optic cable between Fiji and Tonga giving new opportunities to the kingdom.

The region is changing fast. But behind these stories, there are many more stories, and things are never what they seem to be.

The Pacific is a contested region for many major world powers today, not only because of its rich natural resources, but its political influence on the international stage. How do we interpret this complicated map of intertwined relationships? And what does the future hold for New Zealand’s place in the Pacific, as well as for these island nations?

Locally, Māori are significantly under-represented in the mainstream media coverage, so where is the place for indigenous reporting? Questions seem to be endless.

In this radio programme, Lei Shi takes you on a journey to explore these questions from the eyes of some experienced journalists in the country, and to discuss with them some of the challenges ahead for the media.   

Lei Shi is a Graduate Diploma in Pacific Journalism student at AUT University writing for Pacific Scoop.