Tora – going where He calls

By KERESI NAUWAKARAWA On March 2, 2012 the Ko e ITA was first published and a former Fiji Sun man in Fiji was at the helm of Tongan’s new newspaper
04 Mar 2012 17:27

Iliesa Tora (fourth from left) with Olive Ramanlal and Joseph Ramanlal - the owners of the new Ko e ITA newspaper.


On March 2, 2012 the Ko e ITA was first published and a former Fiji Sun man in Fiji was at the helm of Tongan’s new newspaper Ko e ITA.
The publication is a 20-page broadsheet-size full colour English weekly, which becomes the first newspaper of that size in the South Pacific region, other than New Zealand and Australia.
Iliesa Tora is the new Executive editor of the publication – the paper’s top editor – just a few weeks on the job and so it will be for the next coming days for the man who is now in charge of news coverage at E ko ITA.

A believer
At 43 years old, Mr Tora hails from Tuatua Village in Koro, Lomaiviti. Speaking to the Sunday Magazine, Tora is at peace to be at the fringes of the job he loves.
“I believe everything works according to His plan. I believe strongly in God’s timing,” Mr Tora said.
“The offer to come and work in Tonga first came my way in October last year. Before that I had an offer to go to Papua New Guinea but then it did not materialise.
“I had always asked God to take me where I am needed the most and that has been the trend that I have seen in my career. I go and work at a place where I am needed the most at that particular time.”

On the new role
“The job here in Tonga is exciting as well as challenging. Exciting because it is the first time that a newspaper is being printed in broadsheet (which is twice the size of the Sun and the Times back home) in the South Pacific region I believe.
“Australia and New Zealand are used to that but for Tonga this is history. And the Ko e ITA, being an English publication, makes that exciting as well.
“It is challenging because I have to start from scratch virtually as far as staffing is concerned. I have recruited three staff members who do not have any media background.
“But they are keen and excited like me to be part of history. So in my first two weeks here in Nuku’alofa I have been working with them on the whole aspects of media work.
“The requirement that we put out for applicants who were interested to join the team here was for them to have good English – both oral and written – and that they are able to translate Tongan into English and vice versa.
“In the past two weeks the team has been going out to cover stories and they have been good so far.
“We are launching on March 1 and the work really has been focused on getting the paper ready for the first issue.
“I had been here previously as managing editor of the Taimi o Tonga and also started my own sports newspaper here back in 1992 to 1995.
“The new publication will be known as Ko e ITA. In English it would be called The ITA.
“At the same time I have been working in putting in place a system that the staff can follow.
“Deadlines for stories, morning meetings where we get to discuss the day’s events and plan coverage plus the most important things, put in place a starting time every day.
“Our staff here now knows that they need to sign in and sign out daily so that the management and I know that they are at work.
“For me the important thing is to present a newspaper that is just that – a real newspaper that contains factual news that is well balanced and stimulates responses from readers.
“The newspaper will cover all different issues like general news, business, tourism, sports, youth, entertainment, politics to some extent, women issues plus world and regional news.
“The challenge also is to ensure that we keep coming out with a quality newspaper every week. There is a growing English readership here with expats coming in to work in Nukualofa.
“I want to make sure that we present a real newspaper in its truest sense.
“The local newspapers at the moment are all in Tongan. So bringing in an English paper is a challenge. But then again we have a set target audience, which is the English speaking community. That includes local youths.
“The paper is owned by the Ramanlal family, who are local millionaires. They have been involved in the local business scene for the last 80 years or so. They also own a radio station and want to go into television also.
“Tongans love their rugby just like us and they play hard and tough when they get into the field. Rugby season here starts later this month.
“The paper here will sell at $1.50 Pa’anga – cheaper than the current weeklies which are selling at $2 Pa’anga.”

Life in Tonga
“Changes here also include the fact that youths nowadays are speaking more English than before.
“That is a direct result of locals going overseas for education and those in Tonga using English more daily.
“Yes, there are still improvements that can be made where I believe the new newspaper can help – by providing proper English written articles for readers.
“They can read and improve their English as well.
“Tonga is slow-paced so it is really no big deal.
“People here are laid back; they take their time and do not worry too much about things.
“The good thing with them is that their relatives overseas help them out all the time. They look after each other well.
“Like in every new place you go to, things will take time.
“There has really been no problem in adjusting.
“The best is the State law that is on Sunday everything closes down here except churches.
“Just like at home….church service to go to, lunch and rest. Yes there is a Fijian community here and they meet once every month on the first Sunday of the month for church service.
“Food is just like at home but the cooking style is different.
“I guess the weather was a bit of a concern when we came into Nukualofa because the day we arrived Cyclone Jasmine was on the verge of hitting the island kingdom.
“Tonga is one hour ahead of Fiji so daylight saving time back home has helped. The days are always busy because we have a small team but a lot of things to cover.
“Yes we do miss Fiji. The message to people in the media back home is just do your part. Make sure that you do your job with all your heart. Let God be the guide for each of you. And learn every day.
“Yes, change for the better is always good.”
Mr Tora grabbed his first byline on the pages of the Fiji Times back in 1988 as a cadet reporter before moving on to be sports editor in 2001/2002.
Then he moved to Tonga as managing editor of the Times of Tonga from mid 1992-1994.
He returned in October 1995 and joined The Daily Post as sports editor and the newspaper’s vernacular edition, Na Volasiga.
Between 1998 and 2001 he became editor of his own sports newspaper The Sports Star.
In 2002, Mr Tora joined the Fiji Sun as sports editor and he was later appointed editor of the Sun in mid 2002 until early 2004 when he joined the Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanu (SDL) Party as its national co-ordinator.
He rejoined The Daily Post in 2005 before he was appointed media officer for the Ministry of Health in 2006-2007.
He re-started The Sports Star at the end of 2007 before rejoining the Ministry of Health from 2009 to 2010. In February 2011, he returned to the Fiji Sun.


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