Samoa Observer welcomes Co-Editor

The Samoa Observer Newspaper Group has welcomed the services of James Robertson as a new co-editor of the country’s biggest newspaper.

James brings a wealth of experience in journalism to the role and worked as a reporter for Australia's oldest and best-read newspaper, The Sydney Morning Herald, from 2011 to 2018. 

He has been writing for newspapers for 15 years, previously as a freelance contributor to the opinion and arts sections of newspapers and magazines such as The South China Morning Post, The National Post (Canada), The Listener (New Zealand) and The Financial Times and The Spectator (UK). 

He says decision to join the Samoa Observer was driven by the newspaper’s long-standing history of ethical journalism. 

“I read about some of the work that [Editor-in-Chief] Savea did in the early days of the newspaper to establish the paper; to establish a free press in Samoa and I was very attracted to that; to the paper’s obviously very strong ethics. 

“I was also very drawn to the fact that the paper has done such a commendable job of establishing itself as an independent voice.

“The Samoa Observer held the line on issues of [freedom of the press] and today, according to the World Press Freedom Index, Samoa is the 23rd most free nation in the world and that compares to Australia, which is 22nd

“[That] reflects not only just reforms by the Government, but the way in which the Samoa Observer has influenced the nation which it covers and influenced it with an ethic of transparency, a free press and accountability and that’s something that I think is very admirable.” 

James hopes to develop and grow investigative journalism at the Samoa Observer and improve online content for Samoans and online subscribers of the newspaper.

The 32-year-old said writing has always been his passion and being a journalist drives him. 

“I think you have to find your job meaningful in order to get out of the bed every morning with enough energy to apply yourself, and I find daily journalism very meaningful,” James said. 

He said the difference with the Samoa Observer newsroom is its size and working with a team that’s more connected to the community. 

“In Sydney we have a newsroom in the hundreds covering a city of millions of people, whereas here we have reporters covering a city and a country that I feel like they are more intimately connected to and I think that they better reflect the country that they are in, and that’s one advantage. 

“I see a very strong commitment to certain values here like objectivity, transparency and most of all just plainly telling the truth and I think those cut through more than anything else. 

"But I’m sure all reporters are also shaped by their community.” 

It’s his first time in Samoa but his dad had lived on the island briefly in the ‘80s as part of his work in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Australia. 

“When I told my dad about this job, he said: ‘Son you’ve got to go; it’s going to be the time of your life’.” 

“It has been so far so good in Samoa.  I’m wary of clichés but everyone always says that Samoans are very hospitable and welcoming people and I must say that has been my experience so far.” 

James was born in Denpasar, Bali. 

His mum was an international school teacher and dad worked in foreign services. They lived in India and Saudi Arabia because of work and later returned to Australia. 

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