Thursday, May 23, 2013

New models of funding needed, say NZ investigative journalists

Pacific Media Centre's David Robie ... “We need to educate the universities."
Photo: Jamie Small/Te Waha Nui
INVESTIGATIVE journalists are calling for new models of funding to fill a gap in the industry where the private sector has failed.  

By Jamie Small of Te Waha Nui

Nicky Hager, author of The Hollow Men and Other People’s Wars, says there is not enough support for investigative journalists in countries like New Zealand.

“I hope that one day there will be a return to serious public funding for investigative journalism,” he says.

Hager says most investigative journalists do not have much industry training or support. They are often citizens who begin investigating a crime or wrongdoing and do not realise they have become a journalist.

Professor David Robie, director of AUT University’s Pacific Media Centre, believes he has an answer.

“As the mainstream media reduces its reporting skills, universities should be picking up the slack,” he says.

Nicky Hager ... more support needed
for investigative journalists.
Photo: Pacific Scoop
Professor Robie, author of Mekim Nius, is still a practising journalist, and has been teaching at universities since 1993.

He says universities, with big teams of student reporters, are well placed to provide a platform for investigative journalism.

Support for democracy
“Universities don’t see themselves as media producers,” he says. “We need to educate the universities. They need to upgrade their commitments and support to journalism in a democracy.”

Hager says public money should go into investigative journalism, but not only through such university initiatives.

However, he agrees there is room for universities to help the industry by providing infrastructure and support.

He says they can act as a hub for journalism, and provide similar services to the unions in larger countries.

“Money is only one part of what you need,” says Hager. “This doesn’t cost money. It costs organisation.”

Professor Robie says models already exist where universities work with students and experienced journalists to produce investigative journalism.

Monash University in Melbourne and the University of Technology, Sydney have successful investigative journalism publication programmes, as does the Danish School of Media and Journalism, which is developing a partnership with AUT.

AUT advocates for investigative journalism through the Pacific Media Centre, Pacific Scoop and the Pacific Journalism Review journal, which are all edited by Professor Robie.

Professor Robie says the journalism department is trying to improve this model and educate other universities about it.

An example of an investigative documentary made at AUT University is Behind the Shroud about the controversial detention of Algerian refugee Ahmed Zaoui and NZ's secret service policies by Selwyn Manning.

Professor Robie was also involved in developing Uni Tavur at the University of Papua New Guinea and Wansolwara at the University of the South Pacific as an investigative student press.

He is also an advocate for online publication, setting up one of the first online daily news services in the area in 1996 at the University of Papua New Guinea, as well as other successful online services in the Pacific and New Zealand.

Jamie Small is a Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies student journalist at AUT University.

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