15 Jul 2016

Pacific needs more trained journalists

5:15 pm on 15 July 2016

Media educators and trainers have come together to form a new regional body to address the decreasing number of journalists and educators in the Pacific.

Pacific media in action.

Pacific media in action. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

Members of the Media Educators Pacific group met today as part of the World Journalism Education Congress being hosted by Auckland's University of Technology.

The group's president Misa Vicky Lepou, who is also head of journalism at the National University of Samoa, said there are serious challenges in Pacific journalism.

"The industry is struggling to find qualified and trained journalists. We too, the education sector, is facing the same challenge. Vanuatu is struggling. Tonga is is struggling. So, I think the industry and the education sector need to come together and publicise and promote our course - doing media in the region."

The University of the South Pacific's head of journalism, Shailendra Singh, agreed the the lack of Pacific journalists and educators is a complex problem and said the industry is not competitive when it comes to salaries and graduates do not last long in the industry.

"We keep hearing these complaints about how much aid is being pumped into the journalism sector and then you see so little return," he said.

Radio New Zealand International reporter Koroi Hawkins works without power.

RNZ International reporter Koroi Hawkins filing from Vanuatu by battery after Cyclone Pam. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

"After maybe three or four years, they are head hunted and recruited by NGO's and all these other organisations," said Mr Singh.

"So we have this constant problem of lack of skills. Just when they've developed, just when they are ready to do some serious journalism, they are plucked or recruited by these organisations."

But despite the low number of trained journalists the chief editor of Papua New Guinea's Post Courier, Alexander Rheeney said the media industry in the Pacific has grown.

Radio New Zealand International's Sally Round interviews the Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna in Rarotonga for te maeva nui 2015

RNZ International's Sally Round interviews the Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna. Photo: William Framhein

He said alongside the need for more journalism training in PNG, there also needs to be a change to the media codes of ethics.

"Social media has funnily become a movement in Papua New Guinea. How do we work within the code of ethics and apply - how can journalists in Papua New Guinea apply that to their profession today. You know, we need to have a code of ethics that actually reflects those changes."

Sessions on journalism education in the Pacific as well as reporting climate change issues in the region will also feature at the global journalism conference.

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