World News Day: Fiji Sun Presents Fonua Talei

"One of the biggest challenge would be the language barrier. When we are interviewing for a story and if we can’t connect with people through the simplest thing like language then they will not open up to us with information."
09 Sep 2020 16:07
World News Day: Fiji Sun Presents Fonua Talei
Fiji Sun Deputy Managing Editor News Fonua Talei.

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.


She’s had the privilege of studying in two of the world’s biggest economies – India and China, all while working at the Fiji Sun. Such are rare opportunities afforded to employees.

In 2017, Ms Talei graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communication, Psychology, Sociology from Osmania University, Hyderabad, India.

In 2019 she graduated from the Renmin University of China, Beijing, with a Certificate in China Development Studies and Media Exchange.

Along with her work experience, she was easily earmarked to now hold the role of Deputy Managing Editor News. This means forgoing weekends and public holidays – a reality in any seven-days a week daily newspaper.

Something Ms Talei has had to juggle along with parental responsibilities.

Her daughter, Tamarisi Rainabono, is a Class 1 student at Delainamasi Government School.

When did you start working in a newsroom?

I joined the Fiji Sun in 2011 as a cadet reporter, while studying at the University of the South Pacific.

After doing Foundation Studies I had difficulty figuring out which career I wanted to pursue so when the opportunity to join Fiji Sun arose I saw it as a learning experience to help me choose a career path.

I clearly remember the first field assignment I ever went to was at the old Parliament House in Nasese for a workshop. Two years down the line and after some experience covering court and general news, in 2013 I went to India to pursue my Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communication and Psychology.

Why do you do what you do?

I love the thrill of working in the media because it’s never a dull day at the office. One minute you’re in gumboots interviewing farmers on the field and the next you’re in your formal best at State House for a Presidential event or on a maiden flight to some part of the world.

Being a reporter has taught me to always strive for impartiality. Though there are differing views, at the end of the day, my job apart from protecting my integrity as a reporter is to present factually correct and balanced news to our readers.

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

We work according to strict deadlines in the newsroom. Every day there are three editorial meetings to plan the next day’s paper.

The first meeting at 8am is to discuss story ideas, the second meeting at 11am is for page allocation by the various department heads, and the final meeting at 4pm is to discuss and finalise the main News, Business and Sports pages.

It’s important that newsrooms adhere to strict deadlines so that the paper goes to print on time and we do not delay delivery. There is so much that goes on behind the scenes to deliver every edition.

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

One of the biggest challenge would be the language barrier. When we are interviewing for a story and if we can’t connect with people through the simplest thing like language then they will not open up to us with information.

In those instances we communicate through translators or we make an effort to learn the dialect/language. Also, for journalists, establishing and maintaining our contacts is crucial. They are the ones who give us inside tips on stories and in return we protect their identities and build on the relationship (strictly professional). Since we work on daily deadlines it’s not easy getting information from people unless they know and trust us that’s why making that extra effort to build your contacts is important.

Highlight at least two pieces of work that you did that brought about change in policy, community/ or in behaviour:

In 2018 during one of our daily 8am meetings we learnt that the Assistant Minister for Environment and Housing was undertaking a hotel project without following the necessary Environment Impact Assessment checks and procedures and was being investigated for breach of the environmental law.

I remember following up the story every day for weeks until we finally got all the information we needed from nearby residents at the site, the ministry and balanced it with the Assistant Minister’s comments. We ran the story on front page on September 6, 2018. The next day the Assistant Minister resigned from government. That story clearly showed that the law applies equally to everyone no matter how high your position is.

Last year I was privileged to be sent to China by my employer and the Chinese Embassy in Fiji to report on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and its impacts on developing countries.

Travelling and reporting for 10 months in and around China accompanied by 49 seasoned foreign journalists was a once in a lifetime opportunity for me. I got to learn more about the initiative and the various projects that have been completed in Fiji through the BRI.

Fiji became a signatory to the BRI in 2018 with focus on strengthening connectivity in policy coordination, facilities connectivity, enhanced trade and investment, financial coordination and people-to-people bonding.

Local projects completed under the initiative include sporting facilities for a secondary school, the Stinson Parade Bridge – that is the main exit way out of Suva city, and the revamped Suva Civic Centre Auditorium, amongst other projects. Since it was announced in 2013 by Chinese President Xi Jinping, more than 150 countries and companies have signed up for the BRI.

Contrary to claims that the Chinese Government is using the BRI as a form of debt-trap diplomacy, a lot of developing countries and millions of people have benefitted from the economic strategy aimed at funding infrastructure and strengthening cultural ties to better the lives of ordinary citizens.

  • 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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