Sunday, October 10, 2010

[pima.nius] Forget new media ‘novelty’ and focus on quality, Moala warns Pacific media

11:37 AM |

Forget new media 'novelty' and focus on quality, Moala warns Pacific media

New media panel

Pacific Media Network's Tom Etuata (from left), Setita Miller of Pasifika Broadcasting, Taualeo'o Stephen Stehlin of Tagata Pasifika and Radio Samoa's Mataio Sagala discuss the digital future at PIMA 2010. Photo: Hamish Fletcher/PMC

A group of veteran Pacific journalists at last week's PIMA conference weighed up the benefits and pitfalls new media could offer their newsrooms. While praising the opportunities the internet offers, they warned against compromising quality in the name of progress.

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By Hamish Fletcher

Pacific journalists must preserve the virtues of their craft as they embrace new media, say industry veterans.

During discussions at last week's Pacific Islands Media Association (PIMA) conference, newsroom leaders acknowledged the internet offers the ability for the Pacific to engage with wider audiences and the capacity to share near-endless volumes of Pacific stories.

However, while praising the possibilities of media platforms such as blogs, social networking sites and online video, they warned that in the rush to secure an internet presence, newsrooms should not compromise the quality of their output.

Chief executive of Tonga's Taimi Media Network Kalafi Moala says newsmakers must get over the novelty of new media and begin distinguishing between good and bad online journalism.

Kalafi Moala

Tonga's Kalafi Moala: A lot more professional journalists needed. Photo: Del Abcede/PMC

"After we become accustomed to the fascination we have with the new technology, we're going to settle down as human beings and know that there is a difference between rubbish and quality," says Moala, who is also deputy chair of the Pasifika Media Association (PasiMA).

Ongoing need
Moala dismissed notions that the rise of new media will spark the end of the profession and said with the amount of content shared online, it is essential trained journalists continue to monitor and maintain the calibre of the news.

"I think with all the changes that are happening, it's going to really require a lot more from professional journalists who can analyse and process information so the person who receives it feels it's reliable and useful," he says.

Like Moala, chief executive of the Pacific Media Network, Tom Etuata, believes there is still a place for traditional newsrooms in the world of new media.

But as newsrooms look to produce more online content, Etuata warns they must remain credible and trustworthy if journalists want their audiences to migrate to new platforms.

"People are still going to go to their trusted source of information whether its newspapers, whether it's TV, or whether it's new media," he said.

Stephen and Iulia

Tagata Pasifika executive producer Taualeo'o Stephen Stehlin and PIMA chair Iulia Leilua, of Māori Television. Photo: Del Abcede/PMC

Similarly, Tongan media veteran Sefita Hao'uli says more work needs to be done to build trust for online content, especially given the difficulties around distinguishing authoritative news from opinion disguised as reportage.

Anonymous contributors
Hao'uli blames the current proliferation of poor quality material on the cloak of anonymity enjoyed by many online contributors and the lack of accountability these writers have to their words.

He said this both undermines the credibility of online material and leaves users free to print rude and racist comments.

"It allows idiots to spoil your site by saying things they wouldn't otherwise repeat in polite conversation and it's allowed to sit there for months," Hao'uli says.

He sees problems arising when audiences can upload comments instantly before newsrooms and moderators have a chance to vet their quality.

"I do worry about the ability of new media which have [functions for] immediate feedback. It's a plus on the one hand, but if it's unmonitored and unmoderated it tends to cloud over any quality work."

Not only do these comments lower the tone of online discussions, but many are defamatory and slander individuals or organisations.

"Some of the stuff I've seen is quite actionable, people could sue you and you'd go out of business," Hao'uli says.

PIMA dcelegates

AUT's Pacific studies professor Tagaloatele Peggy Fairbairn-Dunlop, Pacific Media Centre director Dr David Robie and PhD candidate Rukhsana Aslam from Pakistan at PIMA2010. Photo: Del Abcede/PMC

Setita Miller of Pasifika Broadcasting also sees this as a problem and despite her network's best efforts to moderate what its audience posts, she says racist and rude material slips through.

Rude comments
"Both our programmes are online, and as a place or a platform where anyone can say whatever they want to say, comments can go from rude, to very rude, to the really, really, really rude," she says.

"Sometimes we can erase some of the comments, but it is hard to monitor, not having many staff."

This difficulty is not restricted to those who have recently delved into online programming.

Television New Zealand has a well-established presence on new media platforms but is still plagued by rude, derogatory and unconstructive feedback.

"We're concerned about it because some of it is so awful. Some of them would make your hair curl. It can get quite personal and nasty," says Tagata Pasifika's executive producer Taualeo'o Stephen Stehlin.

'Digital literacy'
While journalists must play their part in monitoring and filtering content, Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs spokesperson Mariota Smutz says audiences must build up their "digital literacy" to distinguish the good from the bad.

"Information will be passed on through and gathered various mechanisms. How you identify your trusted information source, really comes down the public being able to sift through it.  Part of it is as a community building up our own experience to sift through it," Smutz says.

"The Pacific people have often been late adapters, but in this space there's an opportunity to move forward in a faster way."

Chris and Marama

PIMA's deputy chair Chris Lakatani and Marama Papau of Tagata Pasifika. Photo: Del Abcede/PMC

As well as problems with moderating and managing online material, those gathered expressed concern that there is no place for in-depth journalism on new media platforms.

"It seems to me now that the contribution to new media is that if you're more than a screen's length you're considered to be too long," says Hao'uli.

"In the parting with the so-called traditional media, with the piece of paper and the several pages of good well researched, well-written material, my question is where do you find that in new media? Because in my experience, other than just the joy of reading a well written story, it tells you a much fuller, comprehensive coverage of the issue," he says.

Need to move forward

But while acknowledging that new media and the internet have their flaws, those at the conference stressed that newsrooms do need to move forward and adapt.

Radio Samoa manager Mataio Sagala says the internet offers many benefits and Pacific newsrooms need to engage with emerging mediums.

"We're nowhere near capitalising on it how we should. It so easy to capitalise on the internet and we're not," says Sagala.

Etuata says new media will allow Pacific newsrooms to expand commercially.

"It's exciting for us because it opens up things to us. It's a very big market and you can connect with anywhere, so we need to be there," he says.

"At the end of the day the young market is commercially driven, so if the dollar says so, the reality is that we've got to operate in the market. But let's not forget that good journalism will never be replaced.

Regardless of how Pacific newsrooms adopt and use new media, all at the conference agreed that change must be carefully planned and managed, and technological progress must not be privileged over journalistic integrity.

And even though the way forward is unclear, Moala declares that Pacific media will move with the times.

"The future for us as professional media is going to be dependent on how much we can adapt to the changes that are happening. I don't know how we are going to do it but we are going to do it," Moala says.

Hamish Fletcher is a Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies student on the Asia-Pacific Journalism course at AUT University. He is also editor of Te Waha Nui.

pacific islands media association
aotearoa, new zealand
The pima.nius googlegroup is a facility for discussion and distributing information. Content sent by this googlegroup are forwarded from various networks and media publications.
DISCLAIMER: These emails are unedited and discussions made through this googlegroup are unmoderated. Announcements made through this googlegroup do not constitute endorsement for the organisations, individuals or opinions featured. Please check the integrity of organisations and individuals before exchanging personal information with them.
- - - - - - - - -
comment here:
send an email comment here:
more options
- - - - - - - - -