USP Journalism dedicates awards to media ‘champion’ David Robie

The award-winning USP journalism newspaper Wansolwara ... reporting on the university's own award winners. Image: Wansolwara

By Wanshika Kumar in Suva

The 20th University of the South Pacific Journalism Student Awards in Suva last month were dedicated to retiring Pacific media professor Dr David Robie.

In his remarks to the USP journalism students, the coordinator of the programme, Dr Shailendra Singh, also paid tribute to USP journalism alumni making a “sterling contribution to the region”.

Dr Singh reminded students that they had an important role to play and as journalists to never underestimate their responsibilities to society.

“The region faces many challenges. Climate change is seen as the gravest one of all. But even before climate change we faced problems like corruption and environmental degradation, that have become entrenched,” he said.

“As journalists, it is our responsibility to draw sustained attention to these issues.”

He described Professor Robie, former coordinator of USP Journalism Programme and the founding director of the Pacific Media Centre based at New Zealand’s Auckland University of Technology, as a “champion” of media freedom and media development in the Pacific.

David Robie
Professor David Robie with his wife, Del Abcede, and Tagata Pasifika broadcaster John Pulu at the Pacific Media Centre’s symposium last month when David and Del were farewelled after 18 years with the university. Image: PMC/John Pulu

“Professor Robie introduced these awards 20 years ago and it is only fitting that on the 20th anniversary of the awards he is honoured for his contribution to media in the region,” he said.

Smaller affair this year
The 20th USP Journalism Student Awards was a much smaller, internal affair due to constraints caused by covid-19.

According to Dr Singh, the awards were the longest running and most consistent journalism awards in the Pacific region.

At the 2018 USP Journalism Student Awards, Professor Robie, invited guest speaker at the time, reflected on being at the university when he set up the awards.

“It is with pride that I can look back at my five years with USP bridging the start of the millennium,” he said.

“Among high points were gaining my doctorate in history/politics at USP — the first journalism educator to do so in the Pacific – and launching these very annual journalism awards, initially with the Storyboard and Tanoa awards and a host of sponsors,” he had said.

“When I look at the outstanding achievements in the years since then, it is with some pleasure.

“And USP should be rightly delighted with one of the major successful journalism programmes of the Asia-Pacific region.”

Ten awards presented
Ten special awards were up for grabs at the 20th USP Journalism Student Awards.

Dr Singh said the event recognised and rewarded students who excelled in their coursework, and this included producing news for print, online and broadcast media.

The awards were organised by the USP Journalism Students Association and USP staff.

Speaking on behalf of the graduating class, Shreya Kumar said the past three years had been a humbling experience.

“We created more memories than we realised which is why I am also filled with anxiety and sadness,” she said.

She urged her peers to persevere in life despite the hardships and challenges.

Earth Journalism News Pacific Partnership coordinator and USP Journalism alumni Donna Hoerder said covid-19 brought about a huge challenge for everyone but as a journalist there was always a story to be told.

“Whatever you publish or broadcast you can always relate it to the current situation,” she said.

“But don’t stop there, be sure to look at how this relates to the region and even at the global level,” she told journalism students.

“Remember your role is that of a watchdog or the fourth estate of power. Use your influence to tell a story that relates to now and one that can be linked to the wider picture not only because that’s how you get more recognition.

“But most importantly because you hold government, civil society and the private sector to account,” she said.

Wanshika Kumar is a reporter with the USP journalism newspaper Wansolwara, which was distributed last week by the Fiji Sun as a liftout. She was also one of the award winners. Asia Pacific Report collaborates with Wansolwara and USP Journalism.

Recipients of the 10 awards:

  • Most Promising First Year Students Award – Viliame Tawanakoro and Sera Sefeti
  • Best Radio Student Award – Josefa Babitu
  • Best Television Student Award – Ioane Asioli
  • Best Documentary – Group 2: Kim Rabuka, Swastika Singh, Verenaisi Domoika and Ian Chute
  • Best News Reporting – Wanshika Kumar and Jeshu Lal
  • Best Sports Reporting – Bulou Naugavule
  • Best Feature Reporting – Brian Lezutuni (Solomon Islands)
  • EJN Best Environmental Reporting – Ben Bilua (Solomon Islands), Jared Koli (Solomon Islands), Sera Sefeti and Patrick Lestro
  • Exemplary Student Award – Dhruvkaran Nand
  • Most Outstanding Graduating Students – Jared Koli and Shreya Kumar


USP journalism students
USP students at the journalism awards night. In the centre is the Tanoa trophy, one of the founding awards, with coordinator Dr Shailendra Singh (behind, black shirt), and other journalism staff Eliki Drugunalevu (bula shirt) and Wansolwara editor-in-chief Geraldine Panapasa on the right. Image: Wansolwara
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