AUCKLAND (Pacific Media Watch): 95bFM's The Wire: Southern Cross programme on the Pacific is back for 2015 - from today.
Pacific Media Centre's director David Robie and Pacific Media Watch contributing editor Alistar Kata started this week's show discussing the New Zealand media's coverage of the Pacific region.
"Pretty abysmal," was Professor Robie's summing up. "It's appallingly bad."
"New Zealand media by-and-large, I think, has deteriorated in the last two decades and there was a time when most of the mainstream media actually gave a lot of attention to the Pacific region and most of the main newspapers, then The Dominion, The New Zealand Herald and so on, all had specialist Pacific affairs reporters."
Dr Robie said the state of Pacific coverage today was "marginalised".
"The only real issues that are picked up are the disasters, Fiji in case of the coups, but very little reporting about what's going on between or providing context or background".
Lack of money 'an excuse'
New Zealand's lack of resource and money to send journalists to Pacific countries was labeled by Dr Robie as an "excuse" .
"It's about maximising profits for the shareholders for most media organisations, but why is it in other media in the region, for example, take Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age actually have foreign correspondents," he said.
"Apart from Radio New Zealand International, which does a really good job, the rest of the media are not really all that interested in the Pacific."
Alistar Kata, also a postgraduate student from the Auckland University of Technology, agreed with Dr Robie about New Zealand's coverage.
"I'm so glad I've got opportunities to work for places like the Pacific Media Centre and Pacific Media Watch," she said.
"In my opinion, there is such a lack of Pacific issues in our mainstream media and our media needs to take responsibility because it's such a worry for us Pacific students,especially in the journalism department, that there aren't enough outlets for us to get involved and that really take Pacific issues on board."
Vanuatu's Cyclone Pam
When asked about the coverage of Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu, Dr Robie said the reporting was "mixed".
"It was very focused on New Zealand and the impacts on New Zealanders living in Vanuatu," he said.
"When you consider that the local media was put into a very difficult situation, without power.
"For example, the Vanuatu Daily Post wasn't able to publish for four days and it wasn't until that sort of media came on tap again that we got some really good coverage."
Dr Robie referred to "disaster porn" - a term coined by Scoop columnist Gordon Campbell - to sum up the voyeurism coverage of Cyclone Pam and said the creation of Pacific Scoop in 2009 in response to "disaster journalism" had "focused on stories that aren't being told" and looked at the gaps that aren't being filled by mainstream media.
Kata said the term sums up New Zealand's media coverage very well.
"Getting these extensive reports about the deaths, disaster and destruction means that people are focusing on this too much."
"It's important to give aid to these places, but they need to have a look at the issues behind what is happening, things like climate change and educating people on what they need to be doing to prepare for these disasters."
Programme host Nick Bond also highlighted Dr Robie's recent book Don't Spoil My Beatiful Face: Media, Mayhem and Human Rights in the Pacific.
Alistar Kata will feature on the Southern Cross show every Monday to talk through Pacific current affairs. The Southern Cross is hosted by The Wire's Nick Bond and directed by Gary Farrow.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand Licence.