AAP closing its PNG bureau may result in less informed stories - academic
An Australian academic says AAP closing its Port Moresby office may result in parachute journalists who produce less informed stories.
A Pacific media expert says the Australian Associated Press, or AAP, closing is Papua New Guinea bureau may result in more parachute journalism and less informed stories on the region.
After a 60 year presence in Port Moresby the news agency has decided to close the its office there, saying fast-changing times meant it could better deploy its resources elsewhere.
Mary Baines reports:
The editor in chief of AAP, Tony Gillies, says the decision to close the bureau was not taken lightly, as it has played an important role in covering PNG since the mid-1950s. But he says this won't mean AAP will be abandoning coverage of PNG.
TONY GILLIES: We'll be monitoring developments out of PNG daily from our national desk here in Australia. We are building a network of freelance reporters and photographers and we have scheduled a number of visits to PNG to focus on feature stories and news stories that aren't so time-critical. So we'll maintain a presence in that way.
A Queensland University of Technology academic, Dr Mark Hayes, says having a correspondent in PNG means informed, accurate and fair reporting to metropolitan audiences. He says journalists parachuting into the region to cover big news stories is not enough.
MARK HAYES: It doesn't give you the depth of insight, the depth of understanding about what is, in fact, going on. Anybody who knows anything about a place like Papua New Guinea knows that it is a very complex country with all sorts of interests and forces at work in that country that need to be understood.
Dr Hayes says it seems as though the economy drove the decision to close the bureau, rather than a declining interest in Pacific affairs. He says there is now just one full-time Australian correspondent there, from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. He says Australia is the local super power - and if it's not well-informed about major developments in Papua New Guinea, and other Pacific nations,Australian perceptions will not be as they should be.
MARK HAYES: Informed Australian coverage of Pacific affairs is woeful, it is profoundly disappointing, when there are so many stories to be told in the Pacific - not just in Papua New Guinea - all sorts of stories that deserve informed reporting.
Dr Hayes says part of the problem is the non-existent profile the Pacific has in Australian journalism education. The Pacific bureau chief for Agence France-Presse, Barry Parker, says AFP understands the difficulties of covering the region and the costs involved. He says AFP has maintained a presence through stringers, and by sending journalists in to cover stories when necessary. But he says coverage can be a challenge.
BARRY PARKER: To be honest, it's not an easy region to cover. Whether it's transport, whether it's communications, they are not as good as we might like them to be and even the advent of internet hasn't really made things as good as we would expect. The use of email is all that widespread.
The Chinese News Agency, Xinhua News Agency, which set up a bureau in Fiji in 2011, would not comment on whether it plans to extend its presence in the Pacific. Tony Gillies says AAP has no intention of closing or reducing its two New Zealand offices - its only bureaus left in the Pacific.
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