Call for more Samoan journalists, training

Samoa needs to continue building up its private media industry, as the national journalism training program goes on hiatus this year, a media proprietor says.

Talamua Media founder and owner Apulu Lance Polu said while the National University of Samoa journalism programme appears to have dwindled, it is essential the country develops the next generation of journalists.

“We are coming to an age where the guys who started a very strong and vocal private media are fading out, they are aging. We need to keep the momentum going,” he told the Samoa Observer on Saturday.

“That is one of the main reasons we in the private media through the Journalists Association pushed for some kind of training for journalists and media people up at the university.”

The National University of Samoa was offering a Bachelor's Degree in Media and Journalism, but in 2020 revealed it would undergo a “restructure” and shelve the programme for an unspecified period of time.

N.U.S. Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alec Ekeroma, told the Samoa Observer in an email that low student enrollment for this academic year was a major factor behind the university’s decision.

“Last year they graduated only one person and now they are closing it for a while,” Apulu said.

“We need people with proper training so they can then learn on the job.”

He said while in the past, more people did graduate the journalism course, very few of those graduates are now working in journalism, choosing instead to do public relations in Government departments.

“Through the Journalists Association, we tried our best to help it (N.U.S.) out, even mapping out some kind of a test to see who we can identify with the attitude and interest in writing, or getting them in front of a camera to see if they have the natural talent for it. 

“A lot of people look at marks from school and one of the last courses they could get into was media, so they came and had no interest at all, and left halfway through.

“Nobody is choosing to do the hard stuff, maybe it’s too difficult.”

He hopes there are young people out there who do have a passion for journalism.

“There has to be people with an interest, the aptitude, and the talent to do it. 

“We need to identify those people and interest them in carrying the flag for the next generation. People like myself, the Editor in Chief of the Samoa Observer, we are growing old but we need to carry on the momentum of media freedom by a private and independent media to balance out what the Government has.”

As well as this, the industry itself needs to undergo some community awareness campaigning and educate people on the role and value of the fourth estate, Apulu said.

Members of the public still consider journalists to be antagonistic, looking for the negative in any situation and reporting only that, he said.

Even Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi appears to hold this view. In early 2020, he told members of the media to stop reporting on child rape and paedophilia in Samoa lest it damage the country's reputation abroad.

Apulu said journalists, perhaps through the association, need to get out into the community and inform people about their jobs.

“We need to talk to the public: the churches, community, village council, about the importance of and crucial role the media plays, and information plays,” he said.

“They look at the media as something that is coming to get them, to report negatively on them.”

“People need to understand the vital role that information plays in their lives every day. It’s not about only the bad things but things that matter and affect their lives.”

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