Telum Talks To... Sela Jane Hopgood, Pacific Communities Editor at The Spinoff

Telum Talks To... Sela Jane Hopgood, Pacific Communities Editor at The Spinoff
Chloe Arentz

Give us a rundown of your day-to-day. What does your role involve?
My role as Pacific Communities Editor involves finding and researching story ideas about the Pasifika community in Aotearoa: what issues they face, things to celebrate and acknowledge, topics that involve this community. 

My day starts with early childhood education drop-off for my 3-year-old son and a coffee, followed by checking into Slack and informing the editorial team about what I'm working on for the day. Then I get straight into it - whether that's a scheduled Zoom interview, meetings, drafting a story or, getting in touch with people I know in the community to commission stories from them. 

I also mentor a young Māori / Pasifika Reporter, Arizona Leger, who contributes to The Spinoff at least twice a month. 

When it comes to lunch, I'm a sushi kind of person with a Coke No Sugar. Most days, I'm transcribing my interviews well into the end of my shift with the help of Otter, but you can't rely on that website entirely (if you know, you know).

How does The Spinoff report on Pasifika communities across Aotearoa differently from other news outlets?
The Spinoff goes beyond the headline and finds unique angles compared to what other mainstream news outlets report on. While other news outlets have reported on the heatwave during the summer, I'm able to write about a Tongan summer drink, 'otai, that's best enjoyed during the summer and can help curb the heat. 

More notably, our stories represent the diverse voices of Aotearoa and in my case, being of Tongan descent, I'm privileged to be able to represent the Pasifika community on the editorial team.

It's no easy task though - we may be grouped under the term "Pasifika" and have similarities, but there are also massive differences between each island. Having been surrounded by a diverse Pasifika community all my life, I'm able to distinguish those differences and use that knowledge to connect with my interviewees on a deeper level, to create stronger angles to my stories and help my colleagues understand the various cultures if they too approach a story that includes Pasifika.

What Indigenous issues do you feel are overlooked or underreported by the New Zealand media industry?
The following two topics below are touched on lightly by news outlets, but this needs to continue if we want to see drastic changes to improve wellbeing outcomes for Pasifika people:
  • The cycle of poverty among Pasifika families.
  • Pay inequity for Pasifika men, but in particular, Pasifika women.

How have you seen the consideration of culture and cultural awareness in New Zealand’s media industry evolve over the course of your career?
The important point to note is that the diversity in New Zealand's media industry has improved since I was studying media at university more than 10 years ago. At the time, I could only count on one hand the amount of Pasifika journalists in mainstream media.

That list has since grown, and now, we have Pasifika people not only reporting but taking up major roles, such as Indira Stewart in the line-up for TVNZ's Breakfast Show, Daniel Faitaua as TVNZ's Europe Correspondent, Madeleine Chapman as The Spinoff's Editor, Moera Tuilaepa-Taylor as RNZ Pacific's team leader, etc.

New Zealand media in general are doing their best to bring cultural awareness to wider audiences in the newsrooms that I've fortunately been a part of. But there still needs to be diversity amongst senior editorial and management teams to enable cultural change.

Who is your journalist hero or inspiration?
Kim Hill and Kathryn Ryan from RNZ. I'm just in awe of their interviewing skills, intelligence and integrity on and off-air.

Answers submitted by Sela Jane Hopgood, Pacific Communities Editor at The Spinoff.

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