19 November 2019

The editor’s emailbag

Write to Te Waha Nui today: wahanui@aut.ac.nz



Students reflect a materialistic Kiwi culture
3 September 2007

Dear Editor

Firstly having worked on Te Waha Nui last year I've been very impressed with the general layout and quality that your team have produced this year, as well as some really interesting stories.

The photos particularly seem to be of a much higher standard than when I was there.

I read Eloise Gibson's column in response to Chris Trotter's column with interest.

It’s nice of Eloise to state that her and her fellow students want to change the world. Good intentions are a good place to start.

But from my experience of journalism students last year, there was a clear lack of interest in issues that were of a weighty content. Most students are so caught up in the materialistic and selfish culture we live in that they have little time for highlighting the injustices that a good investigative journalist is interested in.

It seems the current crop of journalism students are more worried about getting a job, getting paid and getting famous. I’m speaking from my experience from the past two years, as I’ve met the second-year Bachelor of Communication students from last year and I've also met students who have worked at my newspaper this year.

They are simply a product of our New Zealand culture which holds up journalists as “celebrities” because we lack high-profile figures in our small media landscape. I think many students take the course with the hope of becoming “celebrities” themselves.

The reason there are no role models is probably the same, as journalists who got into this game before us have replaced their journalistic fire with an underlying agenda to make a name for themselves.

The journalists who are the real role models don't get the high profiles because they aren't “sexy”. But if you want role models go and talk to David Robie and Greg Treadwell for 20 minutes about what true investigative journalism is. Maybe you haven't read the articles that they have written but they have made huge impacts on the communities they have worked in through gutsy investigative work.

It may seem I am throwing stones from my glass house because I'm not exactly working for North and South but we all have to start somewhere and that's the Western Leader for me. But I aim to tell stories which will make a difference in the lives of the community I work in and I think I'm doing that.

Justin Latif

Journalism and Capitalist Media
20 August 2007

I was delighted to read in Eloise Gibson's response to my Dominion Post column on the state of New Zealand journalism that she and her “optimistic, idealistic and passionate” colleagues “still want to change the world”.

My response to her response, however, is: “Change it in what way?”
Are Eloise and her colleagues foes of capitalism? Enemies of globalisation?
And, if so, how do they propose to carry the fight to the enemy from within the belly of the beast?

I would have welcomed Eloise providing some hint as to this new generation's overall battle-readiness.

How many of her colleagues, for example, are already members of the journalists' union, the EPMU?

How many plan to join on gaining employment?

A quick show of hands at her next lecture might reveal fewer "world changers" among her colleagues than she thinks.

Good journalism has always emerged in spite of, rather than because of, the capitalist news media.

Fine writing and acute analysis have the power to break through the structural ideological barriers of media created to preserve and advance the interests of the ruling class.

My point is – only fine and acute journalists can provide it.

Chris Trotter
Dominion Post columnist

Te Waha Nui looks great
5 April 2007

I was in the graduate diploma of journalism class of 2004 and am doing some reporting from India for Fairfax at the moment. Anyway, I was taking a look at Te Waha Nui on the net today (a quiet day) and just wanted to congratulate your team on how it looks.

It has obviously gone from strength to strength since my year - the photography especially looks great and would be the envy of many newspapers over here.

Well done.

Sharon Marris 
(class of 04)

A mockery of a serious issue
22 March 2007

It doesn't get much worse than the Herald Online's caption competition which appeared on the site this morning. In a grand example of just how trivial journalism has become, the usual stories covering Prime Minister Helen Clark's meeting with George Bush were accompanied by an invitation to readers to submit a caption describing her thoughts.

The photo associated with the competition is appalling. The Prime Minister is shot from a high angle and cropped below the shoulders; President Bush looms in the foreground, his mouth open. Behind him, Helen Clark looks to look positively Gollumesqe.

To add to this, readers have been prompted to invent infantile phrases articulating Helen Clark's silent thoughts such as "Darn, I think he just got a whiff of the curry I had last night", and "Anyone got a sick bag?"

The Prime Minister is in fact doing a good job negotiating with Bush. They've had a two-hour meeting (the most for years) and made progress on a Free Trade Agreement between the two countries. Moreover, Clark has achieved all this while maintaining New Zealand's anti-nuclear stance.

President Bush also praised NZ for its work in the Pacific and Afghanistan, peace-keeping and nation building which we can be rightly proud of.

The meeting between Clark and Bush was the ideal opportunity for the New Zealand public to debate the nature of our relationship with the United States. Issues such as: the exact nature of the NZ SAS involvement in Iraq; whether NZ should be pursuing a Free Trade Agreement at all, or the best way to deal with security issues in the Pacific, should have been have been high on the Herald's agenda.

Instead, by trivialising the issue, publishing a photo of Miss Clark as a gremlin and then running a caption competition, is to make a mockery both of the meeting and the Herald readership.

Felicity Brown
School of Communication Studies
AUT University

Post-coup ‘truth and accuracy’
13 March 2007

I am teaching 30 new enthusiastic young students at the University of the South Pacific who all want to be good journalists. I face an increasing difficulty in talking about truth and accuracy in journalism, when Commodore Bainimarama gives the media conflicting messages.

He is on record as saying he will uphold media freedom and yet the army continues to summon or invite journalists and editors to the military camp for questioning, intimidation or possibly worse?

This week the Commodore again repeats that people will still be taken to the military camp, if it is seen as necessary. Was he talking as Prime Minister or the Military Commander or both? What sort of a mixed message is that for young journalists to hear?

What happens if an invitation is declined? As I understand my human rights, I may decline an invitation but I will do it at my peril?  I know the army cannot take away my human rights. But, I am pragmatic enough to know that the army will do what it wants to do, when it wants and with whom it wants.

I was aware that the US State Department Report on Human Rights practices was due, so I gave my students a copy of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. As they read it and later viewed the US State Department Report in the local newspapers, they must surely start thinking about the comments leveled at the Fiji Director of Human Rights, Shaista Shameem.

They will wonder even more why the Military spokesperson, Major Leweni refused to comment on the report. It said the military government arbitrarily detained and sometimes abused coup opponents, conducted searches without warrants, engaged in intimidation of the media and restricted the right to assemble peacefully.

Journalists have always known that a “no comment” on a controversial statement has its own level of meaning.

In journalism training I examine different Media Codes of Ethics. I will talk with my journalism students about the well-established procedures in Fiji for dealing with media complaints from any member of the public, whether they wear a uniform or not. But, at the same time I will be able to tell my students that the army “deliberately” ignores and continues to bypass the proper procedures for dealing with media complaints.

As for truth, that elusive icon of journalism, I find myself unable to define it at the moment. But I am thinking about ideas from the author of Alice in Wonderland and the thoughts of Mao Tse Tung. If something is said three times, it must be true or is power coming out of the mouth of a gun?

Patrick Craddock
Lecturer in Broadcast Journalism
Laucala, Fiji Islands
(This is my personal viewpoint and not that of the USP or other staff members)

For the record
16 October 2006

Metro editor Lauren Quaintance says she never mentioned The New Yorker in the October 13 story by Sarah Menzies, “Award-winning Iraq coverage no longer wanted” (Edition 16, page 2):  “I mentioned New York magazine. They are entirely different publications. The New Yorker clearly has a long tradition publishing foreign stories. It is not a city magazine. New York magazine is a city magazine and has never run pieces from foreign correspondents. I would like this to be corrected.”

Putting a halt to the pylons
13 October 2006

Dear Editor,

I would like to respond to your well balanced editorial in your September 29 issue (“Halting ads and pylons”, Edition 15).

Firstly, the community directly involved in the Transpower 400kV project are grateful for the involvement of AUT Ad Creativity students. The standard of work produced is very high. 

I would particularly commend the students on the thorough research completed and the level of knowledge they showed in their presentations - this is a highly complex issue. 

The net result is some very creative and powerful work that does exactly as we/you would hope - attracts attention, generates debate and develops awareness with Aucklanders.

One of our major concerns is that the health effects from 400kV power lines are not definitively established but there appears to be such impact that it would be prudent for people not to live in close proximity of high voltage transmission lines. (We have more background on this on www.notowers.co.nz)

While Transpower has established that if they build the 400kV line, there will be clear easements, the secondary issue is that they are not interested in dealing with the issues within the urban environment where people have no choice but to live under similar lines.

The reality is that people struggle to buy their own home, typically fully extending themselves and with the escalating housing prices in Auckland, someone always ends up disadvantaged, usually those with least choice!

The rural landowners issues are that the lines impact significantly on the environment (Transpower acknowledges this by ruling out a number of routes "because of high visibility and potential visual impact") and dramatically restricts the use of the land for the farmer.

The Transpower grid upgrade plan was deficient in that it did not consider all viable alternatives. Also absent from the debate are questions on future lines.  The proposal from Transpower creates a situation where if for some reason (mechanical failure, weather event, earthquake, accident etc) the 400kV lines were suddenly taken out of service, as the rest of the system endeavours to balance, there is the serious risk (perhaps more than risk - it would happen) of a cascade failure.  

This therefore means the system must be balanced with additional high capacity (400kV) circuits. Where will these go? We again end up with many communities affected.  Is it necessary? Normal practice throughout the world is to fully utilise existing assets before we build new.

Man is having such dramatic impact on our world that we need to think about the legacy we leave behind.  Encouraging for us is the information that there is a better way with this project; the existing assets can be upgraded to ensure the lights do not go out in Auckland and the impact on the land is neutral compared to building new (400kV) lines.

Unfortunately there has been some panic and misinformation has created an environment where there is fear.  Fear creates news, whereas, sadly it seems that logic and commonsense do not sell newspapers or attract viewers. 

The aim of our campaign is to create more interest, dispel unnecessary fear and to inform on a very limited budget. Thank you to the ad creativity students and Te Waha Nui for helping to balance this vital debate that affects us all.

Steve Hunt
Chair, Homeowners Against Line Trespassers (HALT)

Support for struggle
29 September 2006

Dear editor

Thank you for drawing the New Zealand public’s attention to the human rights abuses and genocidal policies as practised against my people, the people of West Papua.

I have met a great many New Zealanders and spoke at many public meetings since I arrived in your country before the West Papua human rights conference at AUT University last month.

It is encouraging  and humbling that so many New Zealanders care about our plight and share our concern for the future of the indigenous people of West Papua.

Your article, “No watchdogs for West Papua" [Issue 14], showed very graphically how the media in New Zealand have shown very little interest in West Papua, unlike the people. And I thank Dianna Vezich for the article.

But I must say as I travelled around the country that many other media started to show interest. Radio New Zealand International, Canterbury Television, National Radio and the Dominion Post were among them – and, of course, Te Waha Nui.

Just recently an article in the Sydney Morning Herald focused on the issue of 2500 Papuan refugees at East Awin in Papua New Guinea. And a further 8000 Papuan refugees close to the border between the StarMountains and Torres Strait. It’s a never-ending story of desperate, displaced people and a culture wanting to survive.

Rev Socratez Sofyan Yoman
Fellowship of Baptist Churches of West Papua

More on West Papua coverage
29 September 2006

Dear editor

I wanted to compliment your newspaper on the high quality of the articles generally.  I was particularly impressed with the article in your September 1, 2006, edition entitled “No watchdogs for West Papua”.

I attended the conference held last month at AUT on West Papua: The Hidden Conflict which was organised by the Indonesian Human Rights Committee to draw attention to the plight of the West Papuans.  Your article explains very well why the conflict will remain hidden from view in New Zealand. 

It is good to see that an important issue 'in our Pacific backyard' is being covered by the journalism students at AUT University, even though the mainstream media have all sorts of reasons for not having even mentioned it. 

Perhaps this article could also be circulated to the mainstream media.  This way excuses such as time constraints, other priorities, lack of resources, inability to get visas, lack of relevance can be addressed by using the very professional piece which your own journalist, Dianna Vezich, has produced. 

Dr Heather Devere
School of Social Sciences
AUT University

Excellent West Papua coverage
10 September 2006

Dear editor

I'm writing to express my absolute appreciation for the brilliant media coverage AUT journalism students gave the recent forum on West Papua in the Te Waha Nui newspaper, its website and on scoop.co.nz.  Despite being an important issue right on our doorstep, the brutal 44-year-old military occupation of West Papua by the Indonesian military, backed by multinational corporations and Western governments, receives very little media attention in Aotearoa. 

AUT's student journalists did an excellent job covering all the key issues raised during the forum. 

Following the end of the conference our group, the Indonesia Human Rights Committee, has been rather busy lobbying the NZ government to speak out about human rights abuses in Papua.  On September 2 we wrote to Foreign Minister Winston Peters expressing our concern about the treatment Papuan students, detained in relation to the protests against the pollution caused by the American mining company Freeport McMoRan in March, at the hands of Indonesian police.  Freeport also provides large payments to Indonesian soldiers for 'security'. 

One young student, Nelson Rumbiak, was severely beaten by Police officers after a court appearance on August 28.  Earlier he had accused police of ill-treating him and other detainees, as well as coercing students to provide statements.  One young man, who has been sentenced in relation to the March protests, says he was forced to confess information while a senior police officer pointed a gun at him, threatening to shoot.

Many students have been hiding in Papua's forests since March, too scared to return to the city.  They fear if they do they'll be murdered or at the very least beaten and sentenced to long prison terms.

Journalism is an extremely powerful tool in the fight for social justice.  It's no coincidence that powerful people committing terrible injustices aren't usually friendly to decent journalists.  The Indonesian government bars journalists from visiting West Papua. 

I imagine they remember how the work of courageous journalists, like Max Stahl who filmed the 1991 Dili massacre that killed around 200 people, made it so Indonesia's brutal occupation of East Timor became an international issue and people in the US, Britain, Australia and NZ started holding their governments to account for supporting the Indonesian military.

Keep up the good work AUT journalists!  Work like yours is an important tool to raise awareness and help the West Papuan people.

Cameron Walker
Indonesia Human Rights Committee

Pollution – is this true?
1 September 2006

Dear editor

I read your newspaper today for the first time and was very impressed - at the range, style and depth of content. Congratulations.

In reading the articles, I was instantly engaged and have the following comments/questions:

“Walking to our graves” - is this true? Or are these deaths attributable to a range of respiratory diseases, not just due to pollution?

“The changing face of crime” - with all these challenges why were so many police standing next to the supremarket/progressive protesters in Queen St today? Hardly a crime threat?

Keep in touch with Maire Leadbeater - a real jewel in civil rights.

Noah Hickey - who really cares about the All Whites? A huge opportunity to seek out the real soccer stars in New Zealand. There are so many teams and individuals out there way better than these losers. Check out business teams and weekend tournaments with different ethnicities, eg Fiji, Somalia.

Sally Peake

Rats turning off
30 August 2006

Dear Editor,

My sister brought this paper home? But she was appalled by your centrefold on disgusting rats. In fact, it made her sick.

This compelled me to write a letter. Surely you must have something else to write about. 

This isn't the most important issue in NZ, or even Auckland, at the moment. It would be good to have news about other parts of Auckland (ie. South Auckland and West Auckland) where there are more pressing issues affecting the people. Don't they count?

Also, how about more articles about the many migrant groups in our country? It would make your paper more interesting.

Jude Brown
Point Chevalier

Missing issues
28 August 2006

Dear Editor,

I'm an international student living near the campus and I always enjoy reading Te Waha Nui, it's so different from Debate.

But I was so disappointed with the last two issues. The things I look forward to are missing, such as international issues and intelligent and engaging articles.

What happened to Te Waha Nui? Has it become a parochial newspaper?

I have always thought of it as being a fresh alternative to the mainstream media.

Nancy Shea
Business School

Bicultural journalism
24 August 2006

Dear Editor,

I was really moved by Qiane Corfield's writing at Te Waha Nui online about the tangi of the Maori Queen, it was awesome!

It occurs to me as cutting edge journalism, beautiful description, lyrical, factual, honouring of te reo and encapsulating biculturism. The wairua bubbles through. Things have come a long way since I was teaching Taha Maori journalism five years ago!

If only our mainstream media had the courage to put writing like this in prominent positions!

Kia Ora
Andrew Melville
Communication Studies, AUT

* Andrew Melville is a communications consultant who won a Media Peace Prize for a radio documentary on Maori approaches to conservation in the 1990s.

Counting on the difference
14 July 2006

Dear Editor,

Congratulations on producing another issue of Te Waha Nui. I'm counting on this paper to be an alternative to the mainstream. However I'm rather disappointed because this issue is very parochial and mostly student issues. What has happened to the paper?

As an international student, I would have liked to see pictures of the earthquake in Indonesia, the natural disaster at that time and maybe an in-depth article on this impact of this destruction in the region.

In my opinion, the story on the "loan shark" could be the headline (leading story) because a lot of people, especially the poor, are victims of the so-called financial services.

Be more informative and less entertaining. That will make you different from the mainstream.

Maria Johansson
Art and Design, AUT

Tradition carries on
26 June 2006

Good work on your first edition for 2006. It was great to see the tradition continue and I was amazed it was that time of year already!

To the student team, best of luck for the upcoming semester, enjoy yourselves and be kind to David, Allan and Greg and all the other proofreaders - they're invaluable!

Best of luck and enjoy, it's a great experience.

Nicholas Moody
East & Bays Courier (former TWN editor)

Congratulations on winning the Ossie Award
4 December 2005

Congratulations -- yet again. It's a very fine student newspaper with well developed professional values.

John Henningham
Jschool: Journalism Education & Training

CONGRATULATIONS! to you and all staff of Te Waha Nui on your Ossie Award. I remember as a journalism student at UPNG when Uni Tavur won the Ossie Award in 1995. It was sensational. I hope the feeling is the same.

You were there and you made it happen, I believe you have done it again.

Jessie Abiuda-Mitir
Papua New Guinea Forest Research Institute,
Papua New Guinea

David, congratulations to you and the students. An excellent result. Must dash - I'm in Brisbane en route to the Middle East, and just racing for my flight.

Jon Stephenson

Congratulations everyone - it looks as if we might need another party!

Nicholas Moody
Current TWN editor

Fantastic news David. All that hard work has been rewarded by the students and you and Allan.

Peter White
Former TWN editor


Congratulations on winning the Wallace Award
4 November 2005

Congratulations to all concerned.

Selwyn Manning
Auckland editor

Excellent, well done to you all!

Matt Mollgaard
Radio Curriculum Leader
School of Communication Studies

Congrats David and your team. I always enjoy reading the paper; a highlight.

Catherine David
School of Communication Studies

Congratulations to the Te Waha Nui team - and their senior mentors. It's a great newspaper that I always look forward to reading - and always read new and interesting things in!

Kind regards

Aline Sandilands
Senior Lecturer in Communication Studies
Auckland University of Technology

Congratulations, David, and congratulations to your team. It's wonderful for you and for them to get this recognition.

Anna Holt
School of Communication Studies


Perceptive comments on David Lange
2 November 2005

I was interested to read the article by Duncan Greave, a journalist student of AUT (Te Waha Nui, No 11, "Mourning for Reagan and Lange", p 8). It was clear from his comparison of the passing on of a former American President (Ronald Reagan) last year and the passing on of a former New Zealand Prime Minister(Mr Lange),that our response here was "rather restrained" and "excessively subdued".

The mourners for Lange numbered just 2000, compared to 200,000 for Reagan not to mention that Lange was given a private burial as against a "state funeral" for Reagan.

Duncan Greave's perceptiveness is captured in his concluding comments when he says, "it seems that our nation barely flinched when one if its greatest, most committed leaders passed on".

Even this journalism student recognised that our "tall poppy syndrome" excesses may have stood in the way of a healthy development of national pride and nationalism.

Dr Tupeni Baba
Centre for Pacific Studies
Auckland University

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