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It was interesting that the issue of the use of matai titles in the media came up briefly during the recent inaugural NZ Excellence in Reporting Diversity Awards.

This was picked up by Pacific Cooperation Foundation’s David Vaeafe, one of the judges.
Mr Vaeafe says that the Pacific chiefly titles are equivalent to the English ‘Sir’

In Samoa matai are referred to by the use of their matai titles.
E.g: A story on  Pacific Island Affairs Minister Luamanuvao Winnie Laban would refer to her throughout as Luamanuvao, not Ms Laban.

To refer to Luamanuvao as Ms Laban by any media outlet in Samoa would be disrespectful.
That is in the islands however.

New Zealand media’s use of matai titles according to Mr Vaeafe is done on an organisation by organisation basis.

One of the views expressed during the awards ceremony was that implementing the use of matai titles would not be too hard.
“It wouldn’t hurt us to try”

This is a good sign for Pacific Islanders in New Zealand when members of mainstream media take this approach to something so important them.

I guess this is also a sign of NZ’s growing newsroom keeping up with the the people from all walks of life picking up the papers, and tuning into the news bulletins these days.

I was just thinking about some of the regional journalists I met for the first time during the 2004 Pacific Islands Forum in Samoa.

One of them was Robert Iroga.
Robert was working with the Solomon Star at the time as a reporter.

I was just into my second year as a cadet reporter with the Samoa Observer.
We’ve lost contact over the years and I just googled his name to find out if he was still in the Solomon’s and if the business card from 2004 I’ve still got are his correct contact details.

This is what I just found out.
Since 2004 Robert has worked his way up to the position of Solomon Star editor.

Today, however, he is working in Brussels.
He was appointed press attaché and head of the press office for the 79-nation African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Secretariat in Brussels this year in January.

Wow. I’m in awe of his great achievements since 2004.
I feel his success in the journalism field in Solomon Islands and the region is one of the many inspirations to young Pacific Island journalists.

Robert holds a bachelor of communication arts from Divine Word University PNG and an Advanced Certificate in Journalism from the Thomson Foundation, Wales.
He also studied in New Zealand at the Manakau Institute of Technology where he received a diploma in journalism.

American Samoa’s 93 KHJ News Director Monica Miller signed off one of her posts on Pacific Island Journalism Online the other day with something that really got my attention.

The uncertain future of the next generation of Pacific Island journalists.
It got my attention as I think there’s an issue here that needs to be addressed: The need to push for more young Pacific Islanders to take up journalism.

I highlighted the fact that out of my 25 Whitireia Polytechnic journalism classmates only two others were Pacific Islanders.
Hinano Andrews and Charlina Tone.

I’m yet to take a look at the numbers of Pacific Islanders enrolled in the country’s other Journalism Schools.

In Samoa despite the turnout of between 15 and 20 students from the local Polytechnic with Diplomas in Journalism each year only a handful actually move on to work in the media outlets.

Local papers, radio stations, broadcasters are always scractching around for newcomers.
The situation in neighbouring American Samoa is similar.

Mrs Miller says that as more and more media outlets open up, the competition for journalists will improve working conditions and benefits for those who practice the trade.
So there’s a need to attract more to study journalism, then there’s the need to have the benefits in place to keep them pracitsing the trade.

Pushing them in the right direction at the moment however would be to encourage them to take up journalism studies.
Then to push them in the direction where there are funds available to make this happen.

Whitireia’s projects for 2008 included the recruitment of Maori and pacific Island Journalism students.
This included the Tertiary Education Commission providing Whitireia with skills enhancement funding for up to 10 Maori and Pacific Island journalism students.

Other scholarships are available under the New Zealand short term training awards:
http://www.nzaid.govt.nz/scholarships/training-awards.html//
Maybe there is also the need to create more funding for scholarships on a regional basis.

Media consultant Alfred Sasako, journalist and former parliamentarian in Solomon Islands says that when he is in Honiara he is hounded each time by young people wanting to take up journalism studies.
That’s a good sign, at least for Solomon Islands.