Online media postcard from Washington D.C.

By Misa Vicky Lepou* Washington D.C. 15 May 2016, 12:00AM

You can be bright and colorful as you like with any ideas you may have while coming back home from a business trip whether fully or not funded by a donor. 

Hype it up in any which way you can but I’d feel, so long as I don’t loose for not making an effort to bring about not just any but necessary changes and apply best practices to my own little professional corner.

As a matter of fact, the last thing you’d want to hear is having those innovative ideas in a challenging environment where the means to implement it is not accessible or available at all.  Even if it is accessible and available, maintenance is another story and that’s where some funded projects are unsuccessful.

For the Media and Journalism Programme at the National University of Samoa (NU.S.), I used to think that because education, health, tourism and agriculture are the top priorities of government to invest in, media education under the N.U.S. umbrella in its role within the education sector, would receive as much attention as you like. Alas, i was too naive to think back then as a young journalist-turned-into-an-educator type who thinks it was that simple.

Since then the media and journalism programme had grown in terms of engaging international partners to assist.  Ask and you will be given.  

On the other hand, you won’t be given if you can’t produce.  Our international partners like U.N.E.S.C.O funded our first campus radio in a box which up to now, the young journalists are able to get their hands on training.  

This year alone is the first time that we have partnered with other three U.N. Agencies to mark the 2016 World Press Freedom Day (W.P.F.D) national event focusing on promoting Sustainable Development Goals (S.D.G’s). 

Special acknowledgement must also be made towards the U.N. Samoa Country Team who kindly funded the (ST) $500 cash prize for the Top Journalism Student  Award in the N.U.S. Annual Graduation in December 2015.  

This year for the first time in collaboration with U.N.Women to present the first Annual Media Awards to recognize the work of individual journalists and media organizations on publicizing and promoting women and politics during the 2016 General Elections. 

The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (S.P.R.E.P) and the Media and Journalism Programme held its first official Envrionmental Journalism Student Awards as a benchmark to allow young writers write more developmental and environmental stories given the extreme impacts of the changing climate on Samoa and the region.

The Australian government funded initiative Pacific Media Assistance Scheme (P.A.C.M.A.S) became the highlight of the programme history as we received over ST$120,000 worth of media recording equipment and furniture to equip our small newsroom.  Launched in 2011, things since then started to fall in place with the generous assistance of our partners. 

We can never forget our first mini video camera funded by the Journalists Association of Samoa (J.A.W.S).  Then we were fortunate enough to have another door opened to us for a video editing suite.  The United States Embassy in Apia came to the rescue in 2009.  It was then that we started our relations with the U.S. Embassy. 

International Visitor Leadership Programme (I.V.L.P)  Broadcast Journalism: New and Traditional Media/Multi-Regional Project

I, along with 20 other broadcast journalists are in the U.S. on a Department of State funded International Visitor Leadership Program (I.VL.P).  The program seeks to build mutual understanding between the United States and other nations through carefully designed professional visits to the US for current and emerging foreign leaders. 

Visitors under this program represent government, politics, education and many other sectors including the media.  The I.V.L.P Broadcast Journalism Project will run for a full month starting in Washington D.C. to Seattle, Washington before the group splitting assignment.  What the splitting assignment intends to achieve is for small groups to study regional and relatively small media outlets in various states in Austin (Texas), Cleveland (Ohio), Denver (Colorado) and Minneapolis (Minnesota).


Pretty much everyone now has the means to report what is going on in the world around them and the fact is, journalists are up against it.

Technologies have significantly shaped the way news is gathered, reported, distributed and consumed in most parts of the world and Samoa is no exception.

The influence of social media has consequently connect ordinary people and are doing the job of journalists everywhere.  I am not surprised at all with the way the American society has engaged in various media platforms exchanging ideas and expressing individualism.  How they got there is another story to be told in another day.

New media technology, such as social networking and media-sharing websites, in addition to the increasing prevalence of cellular telephones, have made citizen journalism more accessible to people worldwide. Due to the availability of technology, citizens often can report breaking news more quickly than traditional media reporters.

Notable examples of citizen journalism reporting from major world events according to Wikipedia are, the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the Arab Spring, the Occupy Wall Street movement, the 2013 protests in Turkey, the Euromaidan events in Ukraine, and Syrian Civil War and the 2014 Ferguson unrest. 

Again, we have seen numerous examples in Samoa where the media can’t be where the people are such as individuals secretly taking photographs from the polling booths during the 2016 General Elections, photograph of the deceased employee as a result of the recent fuel tank explosion, Cyclone Amos and to name several incidents or major events taking place in the country. 

But critics of the phenomenon, including professional journalists and academics who claim that citizen journalism is unregulated, too subjective, amateur, and haphazard in quality and coverage. 

The roles of the media certainly have also changed to accommodate this generational shift.  It has been noted that some traditional mainstream media organizations have closed down due to the rise of social media and digital technologies.  

The face of news has totally transformed in America and its impacting on the way the public have engaged.  Whilst the context application is changing, media and journalism literature has also changed ever since. 

Well, America has some of the brilliant minds in media and journalism education in which access to this literature is available first hand. 

Of course, we, and I say from a vast Pacific region we will continue to face these challenges.  On the other hand, status of internet connections in Samoa is on average basis that one could argue that should we continue to say that it has the most challenging speed and connectivity compared to Fiji, PNG and Tonga.

How can we effectively and efficiently use that low connection to teach our young ones about social media. 

On that note, do the young ones have a choice? should we force them into it? or can we still argue that western influences are changing the way our faasamoa has taught us from the beginning. 

What is our role as media educators? What is our role as first teachers in our society?  Are we too conservative to think that the faasamoa can accommodate the voices of young people today that these social media platforms have transformed their way of thinking and put ideas in their minds.


Should we be engaging in more public dialogues (talanoa) to get the views of all sectors of society to find solutions and the best way forward. 

I posted this on my Facebook status this week on how i was taken aback with how Americans are engaged in dialogue sessions than regular boring seminars and panel discussions that we know of.

Am not saying we are doing it the wrong way but there’s room to think it over. It isn’t new for me but I tell you the world is too big to delve into.  It was the fall of 2007 that the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (C.S.I.S) and the Bob Schieffer College of Communication at Texas Christian University discussed creating a forum in Washington where top policymakers, journalists and policy experts could have serious, thoughtful, and nonpartisan discussions on foreign policy and national security issues.

As a result, it was launched in 2008 and I had the privilege of sitting there while Bob hosted the Dialogues in Public Policy and the Media.  Who is he again? Broadcast journalism’s most experienced Washington reporter who was with CBS. He has facilitated many Presidential debates and is an award winning journalist.  Oh well, it’s a long way to go before we get to have someone like Bob back home. 

But dialogue is a possibility. We just have to ask.

I look forward to what Seattle brings to the table this week.  Have a blessed Sunday Samoa!


*Misa Vicky Lepou is a media and journalism lecturer and website news administrator at the National University of Samoa.

By Misa Vicky Lepou* Washington D.C. 15 May 2016, 12:00AM

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