Australia supports groundbreaking Pacific Games regional media coverage
Two sports reporters from Vanuatu who helped produce coverage of the Samoa 2019 Pacific Games that has been republished in dozens of countries say it has been a privilege to share the stories of Pacific athletes with wider audiences.
The pair were part of a Games-first project to share media expertise from the event's previous host country, Vanuatu, with a team of Samoan volunteer reporters and photographers producing coverage of the Games for Samoa 2019 digital media platforms and for regional media via the Pacific Games News Service.
Melissa Fare and Christel Homu gained their first experience of covering a Games at the Vanuatu 2017 Pacific Mini Games, hosted in their home country. As participants in the Women in News and Sport (WINS) program, funded by the Australian Government and delivered by ABC International Development, Fare and Homu worked on the Vanuatu 2017 Pacific Games News Service as a WINS mentoring activity.
Since then, the pair have secured further opportunities to broaden their experience of covering Games. Homu was selected for the prestigious International Olympic Committee (IOC) Young Reporters Program at the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games, while Fare volunteered with Games News Service at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games and worked on the event's fast-paced swimming coverage.
In a further professional development opportunity funded by the Australian High Commission in Samoa, Fare and Homu travelled to Samoa last month to join a small team of Samoan and international volunteers reporting on the Games. They covered the action, interviewed athletes from across the region, and wrote content for the Games website and the Pacific Games News Service. The team was also supported by experienced Games journalist Joanna Lester, who works in media and communications for the Australian Government's Pacific Sports Partnerships program, and who has covered Olympic, Commonwealth and Pacific Games around the world.
The Vanuatu pair's experience was invaluable, as none of their Samoan colleagues had covered a Games before. Homu reported on beach volleyball, athletics and football while Fare covered athletics in the second week, after winning a historic bronze medal as a member of Vanuatu's women's cricket team in the first.
"This has been a wonderful experience for me personally and as part of my professional development," Fare said. "Back home in Vanuatu, I do media work in cricket and for other sports every now and then, so it has been a fantastic experience in Samoa, and one that I will continue to learn from."
Fare said volunteering at Samoa 2019 was a chance to put into practice the skills she picked up at Gold Coast 2018, where she worked alongside experienced Games journalists from Australia and around the world. "The Commonwealth Games helped me a lot with my interviewing skills, getting quotes from people, and using the quotes to tell the story. I've really enjoyed speaking to every athlete that I got a chance to interview in Samoa and getting to tell their stories."
On the final day of the Games, Fare conducted an exclusive interview with Vanuatu long distance runner Margaret Kuras, who made history by winning the half marathon wearing socks but no shoes. The story was one of the most popular and widely shared of the Games and went global and viral, being republished in dozens of countries including New Zealand, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Hungary and Estonia.
"You just wait for good quotes and when you get them, you're jumping a little bit inside," smiled Fare. "Interviewing Vanuatu para athlete and silver medalist Elie Enock was a special moment, as was Cook Islands gold medalist Alex Beddoes who told me the secret to running was carrot cake. But the highlight of these Games was interviewing Margaret Kuras, and it's incredible that so many countries have run the story."
Homu used her language skills to conduct interviews with athletes from Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, as well as Vanuatu, in their native tongue, drawing out fuller answers and more detailed stories. Audio clips from her interviews were picked up by the ABC's Wantok program, and her stories were widely published in PNG.
"I got so much out of coming to these Games because I got to cover different sports over a longer period of time, and I have really learned a lot," Homu said.
"It has given me new experiences. I've faced some challenges covering unfamiliar sports, but I've learnt from them, and I think my work back home will improve a lot.
"One thing I got out of this was being able to write longer stories, conduct longer interviews, and getting to experience how athletes feel when they win a medal, or the disappointment of missing out. It was very exciting."
The Australian Government, via the Australian High Commission in Samoa, supported regional media coverage of the Games via a further two initiatives delivered by ABC International Development (ABCID).
Through the Pacific Media Assistance Scheme (PACMAS), personnel, technical and infrastructure support was delivered to the Games Host Broadcaster. Prior to the Games, a PACMAS-funded commentary workshop was led by the Melanesian Media Group, and conducted by Brendon Telfer, with the National Media Association of Samoa (JAWS) providing secretariat services. The workshop built on the capacity of journalists from neighbouring countries to deliver high quality commentary of the Games.
Under the WINS program, seven female journalists from around the region produced a podcast, Pacific WINS, to share the stories of female athletes competing at Samoa 2019.