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Judges blown away by top diversity entry

Nov 26th, 2009 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

AdrianTV1 journalist Adrian Stevanon may have been called a “slow learner” by the Samoan Prime Minister – but his piece about Samoa has won him a top award.

Mr Stevanon (right) has won first place in the 2009 New Zealand Excellence in Reporting Diversity Awards for young journalists, with judges saying they were “blown away” by his portfolio, especially a story about Samoa changing traffic from right to left.

In the Tagata Pasifika story he told Samoan Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi that he would take a day to adjust to driving on the other side of the road.

The Prime Minister responded with a smile that he was obviously a “slow learner” who he “would not employ”.

Mr Stevanon says he’s “stoked” to win the diversity award.

Whitireia Journalism School head Jim tucker (a judge) said Mr Stevanon displayed impressive journalism skills, as stories about the Pacific can hold cultural traps for any journalist.

“His story was a small masterpiece that combined awareness, investigation, humour and flair,” says Mr Tucker (SEE BELOW to view the story).

team cropped

JUDGING DIVERSITY: Award judges (from left) Gilbert Wong, Caroline McGrath, Jim Tucker, Joris de Bres, Queenie Rikihana and Mike Fletcher.

The awards were created last year following a visit to New Zealand by Arlene Morgan, an associate dean at New York’s Columbia Journalism School in 2006.


Arlene Morgan

She ran a similar awards programme in America for 10 years and encouraged Mr Tucker to develop the awards here to recognise high quality work by journalists covering diversity.

“When I told her we had 20 entries this year she said she was very proud to have been a part of setting it up,” he says.

Earlier this year, the awards sponsors (government agencies like Asia:NZ Foundation and Pacific Cooperation Corporation) said they had no spare funds to commit to the awards.

But when approached, nearly all of the major NZ media outlets fronted up with the prize money, something Mr Tucker says he was deeply grateful for.

One of the judges, NZ Journalists Training Organisation executive director Mike Fletcher, says this is a sign the media is coming to grips with diversity.

Another judge, Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres, says coverage of diversity is increasing across the board and community papers are devoting more space to diversity issues.

“The increase is not just in the big media outlets, but places like the deep south are also taking diversity seriously.”

Human Rights Commission communications manager Gilbert Wong, who also helped judge the awards, says not only is there more diversity reporting “but there is more diversity amongst reporters”.

However, Mr Tucker says there is still a long way to go: “The entries this year were a bit disappointing because of the standard of writing and the lack of in-depth reporting. Though, that did not apply to our prize winners, whose work was impressive.”

He says some entrants who submitted single story entries may not have understood the aim of the awards. It suggested covering diversity was not something they did very often.

islamHe was much more impressed by those who entered dozens of stories, showing day-to-day commitment to diversity reporting.

Rebecca Todd from the Christchurch Press won second prize with a series on Islam that Mr Tucker says was well written and insightful.

Michelle McCullough, Dunedin Star, placed third equal with Ruth Grundy, Southern Rural Life and Courier Country.

Ms McCullough’s stories confronted the issue of same-sex partners going to the school ball, a series that led to two schools switching their policies.


Mrs Grundy says doing her series on migrant workers in Southland’s agricultural industry was humbling: “Especially when I think of the achievements of those who made the decision to leave their home countries and start a whole new life here – I doubt I would show the same courage if the situation were reversed.”


The awards were judged by Mike Fletcher (NZ Journalists Training Organisation), Caroline McGrath (Office of Ethnic Affairs), Joris de Bres (Race Relations Commissioner), Gilbert Wong (Human Rights Commission), Whitireia Journalism School senior journalism tutor Queenie Rikihana, and Jim Tucker.

Prize winners:

First: Adrian Stevanon, TV1 and Tagata Pasifika;
Second: Rebecca Todd, the Press, Christchurch;
Third Equal: Michelle McCullough, Dunedin Star; and Ruth Grundy, Southern Rural Life and Courier Country;
Highly commended: Tasha Black, NewsWire; and Carolyn Thomas, Western Leader.

One of Adrian Stevanon’s winning stories:

Tasha Black’s story on Kiwi converts to Islam is HERE>

Disclaimer: Mr Tucker and Ms Rikihana stepped aside from the judging process when Ms Black’s entry was considered.

What are the ERDA awards?

The NZ Excellence in Reporting Diversity Awards were launched by Whitireia Journalism School in 2008 to recognise top work being done by journalists with less than five years’ experience.

They reward outstanding reporting of diversity in NZ society, whether it’s focused on ethnic communities or minority groups, who traditionally have not been portrayed well by the media.

There are many interesting – and positive – stories to be done about minority communities, rather than highlight them only when they do something wrong, which has usually been the case in the past.

As Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres now observes, there is a shift in media approach as New Zealand has become more demographically diverse.

The media industry is recognising this shift by devoting more space/time and reporting resources to coverage.

The ERDA awards grew from a visit to NZ in 2006 by one of the world’s leading authorities on diversity journalism, Arlene Morgan of New York’s prestigious Columbia School of Journalism.

Arlene ran a programme at Columbia called Let’s Do It Better, which invited journalists from across the US to submit their work for scrutiny at Arlene’s annual week-long workshops.

From that process, in 2006 Arlene and her colleagues produced a book and DVD called The Authentic Voice: The Best reporting on Race and Ethnicity, which is a collection of the top examples they saw.

Arlene visted NZ twice and both times offered tough criticism of what the NZ media was doing (or not doing) about reporting diversity.

Her Columbia programme ended in 2008, but Arlene’s interest continues. She has watched the launch and growth of the NZ awards with pride, she says.

Jim Tucker

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