World News Day: Fiji Sun Presents Leone Cabenatabua

Hailing from Drawa, Wailevu West in Cakaudrove, he has enjoyed the past 20 years with the Fiji Sun newsroom.
08 Sep 2020 14:14
World News Day: Fiji Sun Presents Leone Cabenatabua
Leone Cabenatabua. Photo: Adi Kelera Sovasiga

In the lead up to World News Day on September 28, we will be featuring some of the key people in the Fiji Sun newsroom.

Most readers only know them by their bylines.

At the age of 50, Leone Cabenatabua is still up for any journalistic challenge.

Hailing from Drawa, Wailevu West in Cakaudrove, he has enjoyed the past 20 years with the Fiji Sun newsroom.

“The Fiji Sun has been my life,” he said.

“The company has gone through many challenges over the years, but has prevailed.”

His positive attitude is contagious.

It has also helped him to adapt to all kinds of situation at work and life in general.

He is now the Managing Editor for Sports after stints in News and the Publications department.

He is a loyal and committed staff member and is always up for a new challenge.

He also continues his studies, more recently as a graduate of the Indian Institute of Mass Communication in New Delhi.

He attributes the success of Fiji Sun’s sports reporting to the hard work of seasoned writer Osea Bola and reporters, Simione Haravanua, Sereana Salalo and Waisea Nasokia.

When you started working in a newsroom:

I joined the FijiSUN newsroom on Wednesday, January 26, 2000.

Why you do what you do?

My interest in journalism first started through my English teacher, Mrs Matilda Gibson, during my early years at Holy Family Secondary School in Labasa.

It was from that humble beginning that I found it hard to part with that passion to write and touch people’s lives and bring positive changes to our community.

Why do you put up with deadline pressures at work and from outside?

Deadline, is an important component for the survival of a daily newspaper company.

Every department (not only in the newsroom) in a daily newspaper company has deadlines to meet.

For that, every employee from a reporter, photographer, driver, accounts clerk, printer, circulation officer, advertising agent and street seller need to be organised and focused on what they are supposed to do.

In your journalism career, what are some of the challenges you’ve faced and how were these addressed?

Over the years, we’ve had many journalism graduates from our universities, but sadly most of them opt for public relations jobs with big corporate companies, NGOs and Government.

Only a few dared to stay with the mainstream media.

This could be attributed to better pay and working conditions.

On the other hand, it’s encouraging to see that media companies like the Fiji Sun have raised the bar and are offering a much similar package as well.

Another issue, is the lack of Sub Editors not only in the Fiji Sun, but throughout all media outlets in the country.

Sub Editors are a special breed of people that staff the Subs Department, which is known as the ‘Engine Room’ of our newsroom. They are the ones that clean-up the reporter’s stories, put down those catchy headlines, layout the pages and proof read them.

Most of Fiji’s top Sub Editors have been hired by newspaper companies in Papua New Guinea, Cook Islands, Vanuatu and even in New Zealand and Australia.

To address this issue, the Fiji Sun has taken onboard retired veteran journalists and Sub Editors to help mentor our younger Subs.

Please highlight at least two pieces of work that you did that brought about change in policy, community/ or in behaviour?

Firstly, here in the Fiji Sun we do things as a team. A reporter’s byline simply means that he or she had written the story.

But the news tip could have come from another reporter and the angle or how to develop the story may involve another one or two senior reporters. That is why, I will be referring to ‘we’ instead of ‘I’.

7s Analysis

When the Fijian 7s team under coach Ben Ryan did not do well in the 2016 Wellington and Sydney 7s tournaments, we published an Analysis column, raising our concerns on the team’s performance and the coach as well, since we were months away from the Rio Olympics.

We had nothing on Ben Ryan personally or even wanted to question how much he was being paid for.

The fact of the matter was that he was paid by the taxpayers of this country and that gives us the right to question him about the team’s performance.

We copped a lot of flak for our analysis and were verbally abused and ridiculed on social media. Overnight, we became the Public Enemy Number One!

Even as media partners, the Fiji Rugby Union, sternly raised their concern with us, but we stood our ground.

We saw that is was appropriate to raise our concerns before the Rio Olympics and not after it.

Fortunately for all of us, that was the turning point in our team’s performance as they went on to win the World Sevens Series and the Olympic gold medal.

Today, we are grateful to Ben Ryan for engineering that turnaround as it became a historical moment for the country in claiming our first Olympic Games gold medal win.

Rule of Law

During the May 19, 2000 political crisis, the Fiji Sun stood by the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) in ensuring law and order was restored in the country.

The editorial content of the newspaper gave prominence to the works of the RFMF and Fiji Police Force.

It also highlighted the plight of the Indo-Fijian communities and how they became victims of terror attacks from rebel supporters.

However, the newspaper minimised its coverage on rebel soldiers and supporters that were in Parliament.

Our only focus in Parliament at that time were the safety of the members of the Mahendra Chaudhry led-government, who were held hostages for 55 days.

Again, rebel soldiers threatened us and they even beat up one of our photographers.

There were nights we had RFMF soldiers guarding our newsroom.

But this did not deter us from doing our work in condemning racial disharmony and to return the country to normalcy.

  • World News Day aims to raise public awareness of the critical role that journalists play in providing credible and reliable news, to help people make sense of — and improve — the rapidly changing world around them.

Screenshot 2020-09-03 at 11.46.40 AM

Feedback: rosi.doviverata@fijisun.com.fj

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