Report by Pacific Media Centre Research
From the cover of Alex Perrottet’s MCS thesis.
Monday, October 19, 2015
The term “development journalism” has been used for four decades in Asia, but in the Pacific and even more so in Western countries such as New Zealand and Australia, the term is met with scepticism, particularly from working journalists. There is extensive debate in the Pacific about the role of development journalism, but little consensus on what it actually means. Some have called for a “unique Pacific approach” to the media but many share concerns that such an undefined approach is simply a veiled capitulation to state censorship (Dixit, 2010; Hanitzsch, 2007; Obijiofor & Hanusch, 2011; Papatsouki & Harris, 2008; Romano, 2010; Seward, 1999; Singh & Prasad, 2008; Robie, 2004, 2014). With the evolution of Pacific journalism academia, and the perennial global discussion about how much advocacy there can be in a fair, balanced and accurate journalistic work, this thesis examines whether there is a model of development journalism practised in the Pacific, and whether “development” is a news value for the Pacific, as distinct from developed countries. It also examines what Pacific newsrooms need to do in a development communication context. Through a case study comparing the approach of Fiji, Vanuatu and New Zealand newspapers in their coverage of the 2011 Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) in Auckland, a content analysis reveals a range of distinct approaches and priorities. What emerges is an argument that greater analysis is required in Pacific reporting and a greater reliance on Pacific authorship of that analysis, in order to realise an effective brand of development journalism.