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Thesis Summaries

Journalism Education in the South Pacific

Title: Journalism Education in the South Pacific, 1975-2003: Politics, Policy and Practice
(PhD in History/Politics, University of the South Pacific).

Author: David Robie, Senior Lecturer, Auckland University of Technology.

Publication: December 2003. Thesis held at the University of the South Pacific and Auckland University of Technology libraries.

University education for South Pacific journalists is a relatively recent development. It has existed in Papua New Guinea for merely a generation; it is less than a decade old at degree level in Fiji, and in the former colonies in Polynesia. At the same time, mean age, experience and educational qualifications have been rising among journalists in the major Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) member countries, Australia and New Zealand, as the news media has become more professionalised. While the Papua New Guinea media has largely depended on journalism education to provide the foundation for its professionalism, Fiji has focused on a system of ad hoc short course training funded by international donors.

This thesis examines the history of South Pacific university media education and its impact on the region’s journalism. Its first objective is to test the hypothesis that tertiary education has a critical influence on how Pacific journalists practise their profession and perceive their political and social role in a developing society faced with the challenges of globalisation. Secondly, the thesis aims to analyse the political, economic and legal frameworks in which the media have operated in Papua New Guinea and Fiji since independence. Third, the thesis aims to explain and assess in detail the development of journalism education in the South Pacific since independence.

The theoretical framework is from a critical political economy perspective. It also assesses whether the concept of development journalism, which had its roots in the 1980s debate calling for a ‘New International Information and Communication Order’ (NWICO), has had an influence on a Pacific style of journalism. The thesis argues within a context where journalists can be considered to be professionals with some degree of autonomy within the confines set by a capitalist and often transnational-owned media, and within those established by governments and media companies. Journalists are not solely ‘governed’ by these confines; they still have some freedom to act, and journalism education can deliver some of the resources to make the most of that freedom.

The thesis includes historical case studies of the region’s three main journalism schools, Divine Word University (PNG), University of Papua New Guinea and the University of the South Pacific. It demonstrates some of the dilemmas faced by the three schools, student journalists and graduates while exercising media freedom. Research was conducted using the triangulation method, incorporating in-depth interviews with 57 editors, media managers, journalists and policy makers; two newsroom staff surveys of 15 news organisations in Fiji and Papua New Guinea in 1998/9 (124 journalists) and 2001 (106); and library and archives study. It also draws on the author’s personal experience as coordinator of the UPNG (1993-1997) and USP (1998-2002) journalism programmes for more than nine years.

The thesis concludes that journalists in Papua New Guinea (where university education has played a vital role for a generation) are more highly educated, have a higher mean experience and age, and a more critically sophisticated perception of themselves and their media role in Pacific societies than in Fiji (where almost half the journalists have no formal tertiary education or training). Journalists in Fiji are also more influenced by race, cultural and religious factors. Conversely, PNG journalists are poorly paid even when compared with their Fiji colleagues. There are serious questions about the impact that this may have on the autonomy of journalists and the Fourth Estate role of news media in a South Pacific

David Robie, MAJourn Technol. Syd., PhD S. Pac., CATE

Home Invasion.

Title: Home Invasion: the role of the New Zealand media in a moral panic case study
(MA Communication Studies thesis, Auckland University of Technology)

Author: Louise Matthews, Senior Lecturer, Auckland University of Technology

Publication: January 2002

This thesis will critique the recent emergence and proliferation of a media-framed moral panic about crime. In this regard media representations of ‘home invasion’ rhetoric from 1994 to 2000 are closely examined. Three stages of development are identified: prequel, flashpoint and (retrospective) legislation.

In the flashpoint phase of December 1 – 31 1998, I examine the entirety of 'home invasion' rhetoric in the following news media sample. Newspapers: the New Zealand Herald, The Dominion, Evening Post, The Otago Daily Times, and The Christchurch Press. Television: the main 6pm bulletins of Television New Zealand’s One News and TV3; the treatment of the home invasion theme by TVNZ's Holmes current affairs programme. Occurrences of 'home invasion' rhetoric in some other news media are also included. My examination includes news source analysis and keyword analysis.

A number of theoretical strands will underpin this thesis. They include the development of moral panic theory, with particular reference to the models constructed by Stanley Cohen and Stuart Hall. After outlining the accompanying debate, I argue for a contextual approach to a moral panic analysis which is similar to that developed in Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the State, Law and Order by Hall, Crichter, Jefferson, Clarke and Roberts (1978).

In this thesis the appropriate context is the new right policy agenda in New Zealand, associated social inequalities and the ideological climate of the early 1990s. Although my critique of New Zealand's ‘home invasion’ moral panic bears strong resemblances to the model developed by Stuart Hall et al, some important differences will also be demonstrated. In contrast to Hall et al's major study, I will show that the news media initiated and consolidated the 'home invasion' panic. Major news outlets served as primary definers before moving into their secondary definer role once politicians became involved.

Furthermore, it will be argued that in this case the news media practice of simultaneous redefinition is a new development which can be used to advance the theoretical model postulated by Hall et al. This is with particular reference to their concept of the signification spiral, the process whereby issues and problems are publicly flagged, increasing public awareness of the threat rather than the problem itself. In their major study part of this process involved convergence or linking which was comparatively subtle. The process was also not immediate, but gradual. However, in the New Zealand situation my analysis shows immediate and blatant relabelling by the news media of historic and new crimes as 'home invasions'.

I contend that this simultaneity resulted in amplification and the signification spiral became as one. This combination boosted the speed and strength of the 'home invasion' moral panic, providing a firm foundation for political intervention and swift and retrospective legislation.