Opinion: Author Hits Back At Pina Nius Online Misrepresentations
* Full conference paper "Coop Coup Land: The Press and the Putsch" at: http://www.uq.edu.au/jrn/jea/full-program.htm
By David Robie Journalism Coordinator University of the South Pacific
SUVA: I was disappointed to read the PINA Nius Online report which purported to be a "news story" about my paper "Coup
Coup Land: The Press and the Putsch" presented at last week's Journalism Education Association (JEA) conference in
It fact it was thinly disguised opinion - an example of precisely the sort of distorted, unfair journalism and
misrepresentation that part of my paper deals with. One would expect a journalist dealing with such a contentious issue
to interview me to seek balance.
It would also be professional practice for PINA Nius Online to carry the byline of the author.
Amid the highly selective quotes, there is no mention of the praise that I handed out to local media, such as to the
Daily Post for its reporting guidelines during the crisis.
Any journalist who has seriously reflected on the events of the last seven months in Fiji has pondered the dilemmas and
ethical questions posed by George Speight's putsch, particularly over the Parliament media live-in "insiders".
Many foreign journalists have written about these very issues in a perceptive and honest way. Sadly, not many Fiji
journalists have done this. In fact, media ethics get little debate in Fiji and when the issue is raised by non-media
people, journalists become very defensive.
Mary-Louise O'Callaghan in The Australia's excellent weekly Media magazine last Thursday, ironically the day after my
paper was presented in Mooloolaba, focused in a three-page article, entitled "Paradise exposed", on the issue of whether
the Pacific's local media should bear some of the responsibility for the political turmoil that has engulfed the region.
She quoted the Fiji Times editor-in-chief, Russell Hunter, as saying, "We should take our share of the blame", referring
in particular to the failure of the media in Fiji to adequately explain the 1997 constitution's fundamental safeguards
to the grassroots people.
My paper addresses the poor relationship between the media and the coalition government as a factor in the upheaval, and
the subsequent coverage of the illegal regime and reconciliation.
Apart from my analysis and research, it also quotes at length prominent journalists such as former Daily Post editor
Jale Moala, Michael Field, Tom Parkinson and Brian Woodley. In many ways, their conclusions parallel mine.
The PINA Nius Online report mentions three Fiji journalists being present for my paper - not one of them actually
interviewed me (unlike Papua New Guinean journalists who did).
The misrepresentations and out-of-context quotes in the article are too numerous to deal with here.
However, for example, the article paraphrases me as saying "most Fiji journalists are young and untrained".
Quite true. But what I actually said was "the bulk of Fiji journalists are young, untrained and with limited
experience". But PINA Nius Online didn't go on to say that I cited statistics such as that almost half of Fiji's
journalists (47 per cent) have no qualifications and the median age is 22.
I have devoted more than 35 years of my life to journalism and journalism education. Fiji would have the youngest and
least experienced journalists, as a group, of any country I have lived in.
These days in Australia and New Zealand, you can barely get your foot in the door for a job interview with an editor
unless you have a basic journalism qualification.
I did have some words of praise for Pacific Journalism Online (along with other local media). I am in good company -
Australian judges have awarded Pacific Journalism Online the premier Ossie Award prize for best student journalism
publication (any medium) in the region.
Interested readers should browse my full 7500 word paper on line in context, not rely on the distorted PINA Nius Online
PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH ONLINE: http://www.pmw.c2o.org