Opinion

AsiaMediaCentre:TellingNewZealand-Asiastories


Welcome to the Asia Media Centre, a new initiative by the Asia New Zealand Foundation. This site has been set up as a resource for New Zealand media to access expertise on Asia and Asian peoples. All articles on this website are available to republish under International Creative Commons licence.

We hope this site will better showcase New Zealand-based expertise on Asia, as well as Asia-based commentators who can share their views on New Zealand’s place in the region. We’ll also be monitoring what major media outlets from Asia are saying about New Zealand.

Over the past few months, we’ve been encouraged by the positive reception we’ve had from journalists, academics and many others we’ve talked to about our aims – and also grateful to the staff of the Science Media Centre for sharing their experiences.

Supporting New Zealand journalists to report on and travel to Asia has been an important part of the Foundation’s work since 1994, particularly in the absence of New Zealand media organisations having committed foreign correspondents in the region.

“We want to help broaden the breadth and depth of Asia issues being covered in the New Zealand media, and the range of voices talking about these issues.”

The Foundation has sent about 350 New Zealand journalists to Asia – on its media travel grants, newsroom work placements and fellowships – over two decades. It’s not uncommon to meet a senior journalist, a PR person or even a diplomat who received an “Asia 2000” scholarship back in the 1990s. From time to time, we also bring journalists from Asia to New Zealand.

Feedback from journalists tells us this programme has given them a more nuanced understanding of issues in the region, provided them with further story ideas and better contacts for breaking news, and increased their confidence interacting with Asian communities here in New Zealand.

But travel is only one aspect of what’s needed to support the New Zealand media’s coverage of Asia. New Zealand’s ties to Asia are increasing all the time and – as Asia New Zealand Foundation executive director Simon Draper puts it – Asia issues are sharpening. At the same time, newsrooms are more pressurised and journalists struggle to get the time to prepare proposals and applications to travel to Asia. Accessing visas can be a real challenge in several Asian countries.

We believe that providing access to context and expertise on Asia is another important part of the picture. We want to help broaden the breadth and depth of Asia issues being covered in the New Zealand media, and the range of voices talking about these issues. 

For these reasons, the Asia New Zealand Foundation board has committed extra funding to enable the development of the Asia Media Centre.

I’ve been working at the Asia New Zealand Foundation for six years, managing the media programme. But another aspect of my job has been fielding queries from journalists wanting to talk to experts about a range of topics ­– cultural values, developments in the region, or about New Zealand’s growing Asian dimension.

Some of the media inquiries I’ve fielded have been on hefty issues – extradition laws, defence links, trade agreements, Japan’s view of whaling. Some are on less significant issues.  

I’ve also been asked several times if I could “find an Asian” to comment on an issue, an inquiry I’ve always been a bit perplexed by when it comes from a reporter at a metropolitan newsroom.  

Often, and understandably perhaps, journalists are confused about the purpose of the Asia New Zealand Foundation. The Foundation’s mission is to equip New Zealanders to thrive in Asia. It isn’t intended to be a settlement or representation agency for Asian migrants.

The Asia New Zealand Foundation has 22 staff. While there’s a great deal of collective expertise among us, there are also gaps in our knowledge. But the Foundation is very good at facilitating connections between people, and at knowing other people who know stuff.

Over the past few months we’ve been working to identify experts on many facets of Asia and New Zealand’s relationship with the region. This is ongoing work – expect to see new faces crop up under the Authors section of this site on a regular basis.

This website (which was brought to life by digital design agency Salted Herring) is a work in progress. Please contact us if you have any suggestions, or are puzzled by anything. And most of all, get in touch with any queries.

– Asia Media Centre