By DAVID ROBIE
SO it’s Scapegoat Season again at the University of the South Pacific journalism programme. Barely more than a year has elapsed since the last incumbent was dumped as head.
|Dr Ian Weber ... out the USP |
Photo: Jay Folio blog
His litany of complaints about the USP establishment is much the same as many coordinators have expressed in the past, in private if not always publicly – “favouritism, lack of consultation and unethical pressure” plus general lack of support.
So what’s new? Well, this time Dr Weber has launched into an extraordinary and unfounded personal attack on his distant colleague, a local Fiji Islander who is well on the way to becoming the first Pacific Islands media educator at the regional university with a doctorate in journalism.
And Shailendra Singh, a former editor of the Fiji news magazine The Review who has put in far more of the hard yards for the benefit of Fiji and Pacific journalism over the past decade than any expatriate fly-by-nighter, is not even on the Laucala campus in Fiji.
|Shailendra Singh ... contribution to |
Pacific media research.
Photo: Pacific Scoop
So why is he being unfairly blamed? From afar, he has fired off a broadside in response to Weber on Fijileaks.
Just like the term “parachute journalists’, there ought to be an epithet used in the academe for “parachute academics”.
Recently the USP programme has faced a host of problems:
• The award-winning journalism training newspaper Wansolwara (it means "One ocean - one people"), publishing as a liftout in the Fiji Sun (an innovative industry partnership), was inexplicably dumped last semester. (This model newspaper that gave USP a high profile has been the subject of an international academic profile case study.)
|Wansolwara student editorial staff |
in the Fiji Sun press room.
• Former Fiji Times journalist Irene Manueli was also dumped at the end of her contract. She was enormously popular with students and did wonders with a Wansolwara facelift and in steering the newspaper to double prizes in the 2012 Ossie Awards – annual prizes for the creme of student journalism in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific.
|Irene Manueli ... worked wonders |
Photo: PMC archive
Any university management that let Manueli go so easily with all her practical skills and experience must surely be brain dead.
The argument goes, apparently, that she lacked higher academic qualifications - as do many experienced professional journalists around the Pacific.
No problem. The university should simply have made a serious commitment to supporting her get appropriate academic qualifications. This is called an investment in the future.
Instead, USP just relies on the expatriate revolving door to solve its problems.
Sure the Wansolwara Online site, first founded in 1999, has been revived but it hasn’t been updated since last October.
And this is hardly a substitute for the print edition with a proud history since the days when lecturer Dr Philip Cass and inaugural student editor Stanley Simpson and his team founded the paper in 1996.
While the tiresome slanging match goes on from the expatriate brigade, it is worth noting some of the achievements of USP journalism, penned by former journalism head Shailendra Singh after the 17-year-old Wansolwara’s success in the 2012 Ossie Awards.
Notably, USP has also won awards at national and regional levels, both in the student and open categories. In the inaugural 2004 Fiji Awards for Media Excellence, USP won ahead of 25 national print media entrants. It repeated this feat in 2007 when it beat the mainstream print media for the top award.
Regionally USP was a triple winner at 2010 SPREP Vision Pasifika Awards in the Open Category, Student Category, and a Special Commendation awarded to USP for helping develop environmental journalism in the Pacific. All this with two or three staff at the most, which is something that sometimes goes unappreciated.
So to set the record straight, Wansolwara has achieved much, and is well regarded, irrespective of comments to the contrary. Rest assured, USP journalism has been making a positive impact in the region for many years, despite attempts to rewrite its history by some.
My special thanks to Irene … [she] was hired specifically to oversee Wansolwara, her area of strength … I hope that the School recognises that she is a major strategic asset. People with Irene's vast industry experience combined with academic qualifications are rare, not only in Fiji, but the region.
|Broadcaster Pat Craddock ... back to USP. |
That's worth celebrating by USP, rather than closing the publication at the first hiccup, and then jumping ship.
Pat Craddock is coming to rescue the leaking ship, along with "gonzo" journalist from the Sydney Morning Herald Dr Matthew Thompson, author of Running With The Blood God and My Colombian Death.
Disclosure: The author, an expatriate, was head of journalism for five years at the University of the South Pacific, 1998-2002, the longest serving foreigner at USP. He is now director of the Pacific Media Centre in New Zealand.
- Pat Craddock and Matthew Thompson on track for USP journalism
- Fijileaks on the USP journalism upheaval
- Wansolwara's international credentials
- USP refuses to reply to Weber criticisms
- 'Scapegoat Season' at the Fiji Sun
- 'Scapegoat Season' at The Daily Blog