Pacific Media Centre Pacific Media Watch Pacific Journalism Review Pacific Scoop

Volume 15, Issue 2

The public right to know
'Giving them what they want'
October, 2009

Children climbing on dead mangroves in Kiribati. Cover photo ©Maria Timon/ Pacific Calling Partnership.

October, 2009

ISSN: 1023-9499

In this issue…

Trauma, environmental journalism, health reporting and te reo Māori in new PJR

Trauma and exiled writers, the challenge of environmental journalism in Delta land, issues of editorial “slant” in health reporting and use of te reo Māori in newspapers are some of the topics featured in the latest edition of Pacific Journalism Review.

The October 2009 edition is a special “Public right to know” joint issue published by the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism and AUT University’s Pacific Media Centre.

A selection of eight peer-refereed papers, mostly drawn from the PR2K7 conference with the theme “Giving them what they want” (PR2K), has been published in this edition co-edited by professor Wendy Bacon, director of the ACIJ.

The PR2K conferences, which have been held regularly since 2000, have mostly focused on how the right of people to know what is happening has been frustrated by legal, political and social constraints on the media in the Asia-Pacific region.

“While these key concerns remain, in 2007 and 2008 the conference organisers challenged participants to present papers which explored how contemporary media developments are shaping and being shaped by new relations with the public,” Bacon writes in the editorial.

Bacon herself contributed a major role in one of the key research articles, along with two Bangladeshi colleagues, about the urgency of environmental coverage of Delta land, showing up the “neglect” of reporting ecological devastation by Australia and New Zealand media in some parts of the region and why change is needed.

This year is the Year of Climate Change in the South Pacific and several small island nations have stretched their resources to provide better environmental reporting.

John Carr focuses on journalism as storytelling and argues that a “viable public sphere” needs narrative templates for critical social, political and environmental issues that need to engender a sense of shared participation.

John Roberts and Chris Nash examine the reporting by two Sydney newspapers of the controversial issues of a safe injecting room in the face of complaints of bias.

Investigative journalism
Marni Cordell presents a pilot study on the state of investigative journalism in Australia with a focus on the ABC’s flagship Four Corners programme. PMC director associate professor David Robie provides a comparative case study on the controversial Fiji news media “review” in the lead up to the regime imposing martial law and censorship at Easter.

Other articles outside the main PR2K theme include a study of the “intentional use” of te reo Māori in New Zealand newspapers in 2007 by the Kupu Taea project at Massey University, a comparative study of teenage views on journalism as a career in Australia and NZ by professor Mark Pearson of Bond University, and a New Caledonian mediascape from aid analyst Nic Maclellan.

The review section includes a feature essay on the book Shooting Balibo written by Tony Maniaty about the murders of the “Balibo Five” television reporters and journalist Roger East by invading Indonesian troops in East Timor in 1975.

This edition, co-edited by Jan McClelland and Dr Robie, has been dedicated to AUT research administrator Jillian Green, who had been a strong colleague, friend and supporter of PJR and this month lost her struggle with cancer.

The next edition of PJR has the theme “reporting conflict” in association with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and will be published in May 2010. – Pacific Media Centre


1. Editorial: A viable public sphere?
Wendy Bacon


2. Covering the environmental issues and global warming in Delta land: A study of three newspapers
‘Giving the people what they want’
Akhteruz Zaman, Jahnnabi Das, Wendy Bacon
3. Reporting controversy in health policy: A content and field analysis
‘Giving the people what they want’
Chris Nash
4. 'Letting them eat cake': Narrative templates in current affairs/news journalism
‘Giving the people what they want’
John Carr
5. The question of crime: How much does the public have the right to know?
‘Giving the people what they want’
Joy Cameron-Dow
6. Behind the Fiji censorship: A comparative media regulatory case study as a prelude to the Easter putsch
‘Giving the people what they want’
David Robie
7. What is happening to investigative journalism? A pilot study of ABC’s Four Corners
‘Giving the people what they want’
Marni Cordell
8. Arts journalism and exiled writers: a case study of fugal, reflexive practice
‘Giving the people what they want’
Ruth Skilbeck
9. Media convergence in Bhutan: Case studies in 2008 link local voices to central infrastructure
‘Giving the people what they want’
John Cokley, Kinley Wangmo


10. Intentional use of te reo Māori in New Zealand newspapers in 2007
Amanda Gregory, Angela Moewaka Barnes, Belinda Borell, Hector Kaiwai, Raymond Nairn, Tim McCreanor
11. A comparison of teenage views on journalism as a career in Australia and New Zealand
Mark Pearson