East-West Center Initiatives Boost Media Industry in Pacific Islands

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HONOLULU (May 20, 2021) -- For the past few months, 16 media outlets across 11 Pacific Island countries have been able to republish content from The New York Times (NYT) as part of a new partnership between the East-West Center (EWC) and the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR). Now this successful initiative is expanding to include activities aimed at improving the Journalism Program at the University of the South Pacific (USP) by enhancing their on-campus community radio station, Radio Pasifik, and radio broadcasting/journalism course offerings. These activities, generously supported by the US Department of State, are part of the East-West Center’s ongoing efforts to help build the capacity of media industry professionals in the Pacific Islands.

Radio Pasifik studio
Photo: University of the South Pacific/Radio Pasifik

“One goal of the New York Times project is to help expose and counter false narratives, propaganda, and disinformation circulating on social media, which are designed to skew media coverage and mislead the public in the Pacific Islands,” said program coordinator Scott Kroeker. “We are doing this by providing media outlets with non-biased, world-class journalism from the ‘newspaper of record’ in the United States, which they can republish to supplement their already excellent local news coverage.”

So far the media outlets have primarily used Times articles related to US elections, the COVID-19 pandemic, global news, and the environment. In addition to the licenses, all members of the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) are being provided with online subscriptions to The New York Times.

The New York Times Licensing Group has a long history of connecting award-winning journalism from the Times with like-minded media and publishers from around the world,” said NYT General Manager of Licensing Michael Greenspon. “We are honored for this opportunity to foster first-time relationships in the Pacific Islands and offer our reporting to support the region's most vital media companies.”

The ‘Growing Independent Radio Broadcast Journalism in the Pacific Islands’ project, launching this month, is focusing on building capacity of faculty and students at the University of the South Pacific (USP) through several activities. In collaboration with National Public Radio’s Next Generation Radio Project, the program will offer a series of in-depth customized ‘virtual newsroom’ trainings for students and faculty from USP which includes one-on-one mentorships from experienced journalists in the United States.

Additionally, select faculty from the USP will participate in a short-term fellowship at a US radio station or university to gain hands-on professional experience. The project is also providing funds to upgrade the Radio Pasifik studio and the broadcast journalism program.

USP Journalism Program Coordinator Dr. Shailendra Singh welcomed the support from the State Department and the partnership with the East-West Center. “This is a major boost for USP Journalism students and staff and for Radio Pasifik,” he said. “The additional training for our young broadcasters will lift the quality of radio, which is still the major medium of news and communication in the region. Besides the much-needed boost in equipment, the trainees will be mentored by highly experienced broadcasters, and we are excited about the learning outcomes of these exchanges.”

The East-West Center is working closely with Next Generation Radio Project founder Doug Mitchell and Michelle Betz of Betz Media Consulting to carry out the project. For Betz and Mitchell, it’s an opportunity to realize the goal of taking the project beyond U.S. borders. “Doug and I have been collaborating for 20 years and both of us have worked and taught internationally as well. We are both thrilled to extend the proven success of NextGen in support of journalism faculty and students in the Pacific,” said Betz.