The ABC executives take time out to chat with a first-year student inside the newly-refurbished journalism newsroom on Laucala campus. Picture: Geraldine Panapasa
By AKANSHA NARAYAN and GERALDINE PANAPASA
The University of the South Pacific’s Journalism Programme is open to strengthening engagement and partnership with the Australia Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) following the recent visit of senior ABC executives to Fiji.
Last week, ABC International Services head Claire Gorman, ABC International Development public affairs lead Jo Elsom, ABC Sport head Nick Morris and ABC Asia Pacific News managing editor Matt O’Sullivan met USP Journalism coordinator Dr Shailendra Singh and staff to discuss ways ABC International Development (ABCID) and its regional media development programme (PACMAS) could assist the media in Fiji and journalism students at USP.
The discussions with the visiting ABC delegation focused on the possibility of content sharing, student professional attachments as well as priority areas for partnership such as youth, gender and regional cooperation to strengthen capacity-building and opportunity for growth.
USP Journalism students and staff have participated in a number of ABCID/PACMAS capacity-building workshops and trainings including the Women Leaders Media Masterclass, Reporting the Story of Us: Media Masterclass, Factcheck webinar, Pacific Resilience Masterclass as well as a Training of Trainers short-course for Fiji journalists at the Fiji National University’s National Training Productivity Centre.
According to Dr Singh, it was a historic visit by a strong ABC team who wanted to get a feel of the situation on the ground and obtain first-hand information, since they spent a lot of resources covering the Pacific and conducting training to build media capacity in the region.
On how the partnership could enhance the future of the media in Fiji and the Pacific, Dr Singh said, “ABC has a lot of experience in journalism in the Pacific and we have our knowledge and experience as the people on the ground, with first-hand experience. We are trying to see how we can leverage our strengths for the best outcome for Pacific journalism.
“Because of the nature of their media capacity-building work, they are interested in our research in Pacific media. PACMAS partially funded USP research on Pacific journalists’ demography and professional views which was published last year (2021). We are in discussions to see how we can collaborate further.”
According to Dr Singh, news content by ABC served as teaching material, as does the research conducted by PACMAS.
“In the past, we had internships for USP journalism students. We are seeing whether this can be revived or not. Our students also participate in PACMAS training in the region, so their learning is broadened,” added Dr Singh.
The ABC executives were also given a brief tour of the newly-refurbished USP Journalism facilities at Laucala campus. ABC’s Jo Elsom said they wanted to visit USP to listen and learn.
“We were keen to hear insights about recent analysis of media in the region, as well as discuss what USP sees as the opportunities and priorities for future collaboration,” she said.
“The role of independent media is critical to serve the public interest. We discussed how the ABC and Pacific media can work together to help Australian and Pacific citizens to stay connected, through providing information, news and entertainment.
“We discussed the role of media training (programs such as the Pacific Media Assistance Scheme, PACMAS) and content (programs such as the ABC’s Sista’s Let’s Talk) in addressing gender equality. We also talked about the importance of building journalism skills to cover issues such as elections, climate change, as well as opportunities to develop journalism standards and ethics, given the importance of media freedom to upholding democracy. These are issues that are important whether you are a journalist in Australia or a Pacific country.
“We also discussed the importance of diverse content, reaching all audiences including youth, people with disabilities and women.”
Ms Elsom said the ABC looked forward to continuing its partnerships with Pacific media and providing an opportunity for Pacific people to have a voice to tell their stories to not only their fellow citizens but also to the region and the world.
She said climate change was an issue where the world could learn more from the Pacific.
“The feats of Pacific sports men and women are to be celebrated, not just by the nation’s they represent, but also by the region and the world. And when our leaders come together on the global stage, or for regional Pacific Island Forum meetings, to tackle issues affecting our futures, this is important information to share with all our citizens,” she said.
“Media working together supports the public interest, holds those in power to account and includes the voices of all citizens in public discussion. It informs, educates and entertains.”
ABC International Development currently delivers the Australian-Aid funded Pacific Media Assistance Scheme (PACMAS) and the Women in News and Sports (WINS) program. Both of these broader programs are likely to have opportunities that will be relevant to senior USP students.