Lee Duffield

Edited by Lee Duffield
Freedom and Truth

Divine Word places future of PNG journalism in safe hands

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The first-year journalism students at DWU.

If the future of journalism in Papua New Guinea is relying on the graduates of Divine Word University, Madang, then it is certainly in safe hands. There is a pressing need for quality journalism in PNG and the young students going in at first-year level are not only aware of the current problems journalists are facing, but are determined to bring about change. They will be a welcome addition to the journalism industry of tomorrow.

The 23 aspiring journalists, who grew up in various parts of PNG, as far away as Bougainville island, or the capital Port Moresby, are a talented group – some of whom have already being published in national news publications.

Most students pursued a career in journalism after enjoying English subjects at school, and wantin g to become writers. For others, the allure of international travel motivates them.

“I chose journalism so I could travel and meet people,” says student Geraldine, “My family told me I was good at talking and asking questions.”

With competition for journalism places tough at Divine Word, these students are amongst the elite of their country.

As first-years, they are facing the same challenges as students the world over — as well as some unique to them as students of a developing country.

Sonia - enjoying life at DWU.

Sonia - enjoying life at DWU.

And a number one task for many, right at the start, is to become completely confident, and competent in the writing and speaking of English language.

It’s the prime business and official language of the country, matched with Tok Pisin, but for most it is their second or even third language.

Head of the Creative Arts Department teaching journalism, Brother Michael McManus, says some students really struggle at first, having completed their school education without ever learning how to speak English.

“I do find it hard to communicate with people … speaking English,” Anita, a first year student, explains. For this reason alone these students’ graduation will be an enormous achievement.

Whilst emerging journalists in Australia are being told they should be worried about future job security, these students are well aware that PNG is in desperate need of quality, trained journalists.

Its news is about an expanding, but struggling economy, a vivid, but often violent culture, and a democratic, but problematic political community — so there are many things that need to be found out about, and made public.

Brother Michael says supplying journalists is a big problem; main media outlets such as the daily Post Courier have employed failed graduates from his previous classes.

“They did not even contact us to check them out,” he says.

The university has established such a respected reputation that employers are hiring anyone whose resume even mentions its name; says Bro Michael.

The students on graduating, though in demand, will be running up against some difficult problems for media workers.

The most important of these is the issue of very low pay in the industry, and almost all the students, though still in their first year, are already worried about how they will ever get by.

There have been some changes; most say the Post Courier has started paying more, and is providing better conditions than the rival newspaper, The National.

Students say the campus has a friendly atmosphere.

Students say the campus has a friendly atmosphere.

There has also been discussion about the probability of getting bribed during a journalistic career — or having trouble resisting it.

The students know that bad pay and conditions make you susceptible to going astray but they remain positive, saying they’ll be campaigners  for both viable pay in the future, and ethical work practices.

The Divine Word University is technologically advanced;  every one of these students feelks they have a chance to become a highly succesful journalist, so look out for them appearing in the news of the world.