Feature

World News Day, Fiji Sun Presents Selita Bolanavanua

In the lead up to World News Day on September 28, we will be featuring some of the key people in the Fiji Sun. Today we introduce you to Selita
13 Sep 2020 15:23
World News Day, Fiji Sun Presents Selita Bolanavanua
Fiji Sun deputy managing editor production, Selita Bolanavanua.

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

Today we introduce you to Selita Bolanavanua.

When Ms Bolanavanua first applied for a job at the Fiji Sun, she hoped for a position in the Finance department. She had arrived back from India a well grounded, well qualified Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) graduate majoring in Finance. She attended one of India’s prominent universities, Osmania in Hyderabad.

But when the Fiji Sun Publisher’s Office looked at her application they saw other potential in her letter, her CV and details. Ms Bolanavnua was interviewed extensively. The instincts were right. Ms. Bolanavanua, the interviewers saw, had the right stuff to be a journalist.

She was offered a job as a business news reporter in training. She quickly thrived in journalism, mentored by some of the country’s best journalists. First as a reporter and then as an editor.

Her stories, as we like to say, shone a light on dark places. So much that at one stage she had to be assigned a security guard because of threats made against her. These came from dubious people her fearless in-depth reporting shone a light on.

Today Ms Bolanavanua is doing a stint as deputy managing editor on the subeditors’ desk. This is the key team who toil out of the spotlight to edit and put together all the news pages. She runs the desk on weekends when her Managing Editor Ranoba Baoa is off. It is part of the continuing development Fiji Sun editors undergo in the building of depth in the Editorial team and succession planning in the business.

But one thing is for sure. This 29-year-old with strong links to Udu Point up north on the Macuata/Cakaudrove  border cannot wait till she gets back out reporting. This is doing what she sees as one of the core roles of journalists. Shining more light on those dark places and dubious people and deeds.

Here is her story.

 

When did you start working in a newsroom?

I started in the Fiji Sun Suva newsroom in September 2016. I never thought that I would be a journalist one day. Looking back at my career path, I was enrolled at the Fiji National University, College for Humanities and Education in 2011 to pursue my Bachelor in secondary education (majoring in Biology and Chemistry). During my final year in 2013, I was lucky to be given an opportunity to study in India under the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) scholarship.

I completed my Bachelor in Business Administration at Osmania University in Hyderabad, the capital of southern India’s Telangana state.

After returning home in 2016, I was home for a while before I started my job search.

Searching through the internet, I came across the Fiji Sun website and I remember sending in my application with my interest to becoming a part of its Finance team. However, I was given the job of a business journalist.

On my first day at work, I was shaken inside with fears of not knowing what, where and how to start a story that would interest the readers.

All thanks to all my colleagues and superiors who helped me from the first day on how to do my job and do it right. From September 20, 2016 until today, I have never regretted sending in my job application to the Fiji Sun.

 

Why do you do what you do?

It’s simple, now, I love talking to people, I love putting myself into someone else’s shoe, and I love telling the untold stories to my readers.

 

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

Meeting deadlines can be very stressful, however, Fiji Sun was the first organisation that gave me a job and from day one, I was trained on how to cope with deadlines. Coming from a business and science background this wasn’t an easy task, but as time went by, it was like sipping a cup of tea.

Time is a very important tool in this profession. It is not like the other areas of work where you are given at least three days to one month to file a report. Here, you are given only a few hours to submit at least five stories for the next day’s paper.

 

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

The language barrier is one of the biggest challenges in this profession. There were instances where we just recorded our interviews and had a translator translate it for us.

To earn trust and build contact with a total stranger is always important. Sometimes when trying to get a story and the person does not trust you,   then it would be very difficult to get that piece of information you need.

In 2018, I was appointed the deputy managing editor for News, to lead the newsroom in the absence of my boss was not an easy task. I learnt to believe in myself and to be responsible over a department.

I have been threatened on social media platforms, sworn at; some even made calls at the office to warn me because of the stories I have written. These include political issues. It reached a point where I was assigned a security guard.

I was fortunate to be given an opportunity by my employer to travel overseas as part of my training and exposure. I went to Australia on a week-long leadership programme tour and also to the United States of America under the ‘International Visitor Leadership Programme’ (IVLP) with fellow media colleagues for two-weeks. After these exposures, I learnt so much, one of which was the importance of time management.

Apart from all these job challenges, comes work-life balance. When I entered the interview room on that day, the interviewers questioned if I was comfortable with working long hours and weekends. With all the excitement of having a job, I said “Of course!”

For the first few weeks, this was difficult. Balancing personal life and work was new to me. At that time, my daughter was just one-year-old (she’s now five). I had to sacrifice all my personal and family commitments because of my love for work.

Sometimes, it hurts me to hear my daughter telling me, “Mom you always work, work, work.” But, I made her understand that I had to work to put food on the table and yes, buy her chocolates and toys (she always smiles when I say that).

This year, I am engaged to a Raralevu man from Tailevu and now we have a four-month-old baby. Challenges are when disagreements arise because of my long working hours. Looking after my two kids, especially my new-born baby, and my new role as a deputy managing editor, on the subeditors’ desk, is now very challenging for me.

But, I believe that with the Grace of God, everything will be just fine. All thanks to my superiors and colleagues for the parenting advice and for their understanding and support. I am also grateful to my family for their endless support especially to my mom.

 

Piece of work that you did that brought about change in policy, community/ or in behaviour?

I remember doing a series on the different churches and their beliefs. It was widely read and it became an eye opener for the Christian believers in Fiji. Some of the beliefs I covered were news to many as it was the first time they heard of such rituals taking place. Eg sacrificing frozen chicken from the supermarkets when there was no live chicken to kill. Some even burnt Bibles because they did not believe in it.

I know that I am still young and I have so much to learn and if given the opportunity to learn more, I would not hesitate because I know that it would improve my knowledge and skills as a journalist.

 

  • 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.
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