Success Stories 13 Jul 2017
PCF media intern Brandon Ulfsby spent two weeks immersed in the Samoan media industry. He tells fellow intern and journalism student SAFIA ARCHER how it went beyond a work placement to a cultural experience, and why kiwi journalists should be the voice of the Pacific people.
In many ways, it was the Pacific herself that helped guide Brandon Ulfsby’s career direction, with the Cook Island Kiwi seeing journalism as a platform for his pacific people.
“As a young brown person from South Auckland it isn't hard to see that often my communities were unheard by the rest of New Zealand and that we need change,” he says.
“So for me, my people, my communities, and their realities, are a huge drive for me in journalism, and that's carried on though to my journey to Samoa as well.”
That journey was the PCF media internship to Samoa, where Ulfsby got behind the lens in the local industry, but it was in his final year of high school that the now 21-year-old decided to study communications on a whim.
“For me journalism is all about the social justice aspect and what journalism serves as a whole in terms of its democratic obligations and abilities - we are the watchdogs of society.”
Ulfsby says Pacific people make a huge percentage of NZ's population, and due to the fact NZ is situated in the Pacific, there should be greater focus on the region.
“Yet on the news, you'll probably hear more about what's happening in Europe as opposed to our own backyards. So my focus on the Pacific is really about doing my part to giving our people a louder voice - letting their stories be heard.”
Now in his final year in AUT, Ulfsby’s interest in the Pacific is only growing, and the opportunity to visit Samoa with PCF gave him a deeper cultural understanding.
“My trip to Samoa was an amazing experience - this trip was a media exchange but for me as a New Zealander going to the Pacific, it was very much more of a cultural experience.
“To understand the culture, the customs, and how that all contributes to understanding their stories.
“The only way to truly understand the Pacific and Pacific stories is to actually go to the Pacific. Going to Samoa in essence gave me perspective.
“And in journalism or any storytelling form, it's important to have that in order to portray people authentically.”
“Every story I came across was unique, it was real and it was beautiful.
“There's really a stronger emotional attachment to every story that comes out of Samoa and it's authentic.
“I told one of the local reporters when they interviewed me that the thing I enjoy the most about Samoa is the people, because Samoa is its people.”
Ulfsby found the media pace slower in Samoa than NZ, but says that's an aspect of any Pacific island.
“In terms of the quality and processing of stories I’d say is very good and authentic.
“I gathered a sense of freedom here with their stories that [is not] the same as New Zealand - journalists choose their stories and follow through and write it how they want to.
“There are no commercial pressures and any other level of competitiveness that you would find elsewhere, particularly in western media.”
The budding journalist believes the PCF media programme is an amazing opportunity to develop journalists both here in NZ and in the Pacific.
“We know journalism is essential to democracy so I believe this opportunity plays a very vital role in that.
“For New Zealanders going to the Pacific, it's a cultural experience that gives a greater perspective to the Pacific that is needed here.
“For Pacific journalists, coming to New Zealand provides a media and technical experience that is needed when they go back to the Pacific.
“This two-way flow opportunity is essential for the building and growth of Pacific media in the Pacific region as a whole. “
As for his next steps, once Ulfsby’s graduated he’ll use the contacts he’s made through his internship experiences to develop future opportunities.
“I've already interned at Tagata Pasifika, Asia-Pacific report and now the various outlets of the Pacific.
“So I feel like I've got my name out there a lot more - especially through the networking made through these opportunities.
“My friends and I are currently working on our own platform that we will be launching some time soon, hopefully before the election, so watch this space...”
Visit PCF for more information on its Media Programme.
(Caption: Brandon meeting Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi in Samoa.)