Five months of journalism in Samoa

By Mathias Huckert ,

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EXPERIENCING JOURNALISM IN SAMOA: Samoa Observer Reporter Vatapuia Maiava and Mathias Huckert from Germany, who spent five months at the Samoa Observer.

EXPERIENCING JOURNALISM IN SAMOA: Samoa Observer Reporter Vatapuia Maiava and Mathias Huckert from Germany, who spent five months at the Samoa Observer.

Leaving is never easy. 

Having experienced Samoa and especially its tumultuous world of media in all its glory and variety, there simply is nothing more that I could ask for.

One of the first lessons that I have learnt as a journalist for this paper is that Samoa is not as it is often praised; some sort of dreamy paradise. 

There are two reasons for that. First of all, paradise is a place that simply cannot be found on earth, as the term’s meaning already suggests. 

As a proud Christian nation that is founded on God, Samoa and its population should agree with that. Secondly, Samoa has its problems – just like every other country has too. 

There are crimes, there is poverty and there are health issues which have to be addressed. 

But as mentioned before, these matters are found all over our planet. 

However, there are still unique features which belong to Samoa and which distinguish this small archipelago in the South Pacific from the world overseas.

People are considerate and curious towards everything new they experience. 

If you wear a smile, it will be returned by your counterpart. 

This is a precious gift that is not seen often in our world; especially not in my home country, where most people stick to their own business rather than think outside the box. 

From a reporter’s point of view, the fact that people are actually interested in having their quotes in a story and their photo published in a nationwide newspaper like the Samoa Observer is absolutely valuable. Not only does this make a journalist’s job much easier – more importantly, it also shows that people are caring about public opinions. This is one of the most important features an independent country should bring to the table: media which is not linked to the government, to guarantee the freedom of expression and opinions for every single citizen. 

As I experienced it, this is what Samoa Observer campaigns for and it is something, the people of Samoa can be proud of.

Sure, Samoa might be a tiny little spot in the Pacific and Samoa Observer is certainly not the New York Times, but it does fulfil its purpose as an independent newspaper – even with its fairly limited resources. 

After all, I have to admit that Samoa’s smallness even might be one of its biggest advantages; at least through the eyes of a journalist. 

Where else can you interview the country’s Attorney General in the morning, speak to the rugby team’s national coach afterwards and do a story about organic farming later on the same day? 

These moments made the five months I was able to spend in the paper’s office in Vaitele (or rather on Samoa’s streets, chasing for stories) more than special. I have gained more experience than I could ever ask for and I think this is one of the greatest gifts I can take home with me. 

This would have never been possible without the support and advice that I was able to receive from the staff of Samoa Observer. 

From day one on, I was taken under the wings of a great team of reporters and editors, who have shown me how journalism works on the other side of the planet. 

I was able to express myself and bring in my own ideas right from the beginning, which was one of the most enjoyable parts of my internship. 

There are a lot of funny memories I will take home to Germany and I am sure that once I will be back home, I will miss those times interviewing the people of Apia and its surrounding areas, the car rides to the next job and the pressure of finishing a story on time.

Another aspect that I will miss is the endless variety of interesting people this country has to offer. 

When you are meeting escapists who have seen almost the whole planet during their lives, ambassadors of several different nations or farmers who are about to revolutionize their industry all by themselves, these encounters leave a mark on you.

Then, there is the gift of Samoa’s natural beauty. 

One has to travel to the other side of the planet to experience the gorgeous greens of Samoa’s environment and the beautiful blue sky of these small islands which to a stranger’s eye almost seem too quaint to believe that they actually exist.

As mentioned before, Samoa is not paradise, but at least for me, it is pretty close to it. 

I will never forget the time I spent on this tiny spot in the Pacific and therefore I thank all the people at Samoa Observer for supporting me during this journey, my host family and Samoa as a whole, for being a more than welcoming place that I was allowed to call home during all those months. 

Fa'afetai tele lava.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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