ONOC partners with USP on internship program for final year journalism students

The Oceania National Olympic Committees (ONOC) has established a new partnership with the University of South Pacific’s (USP) School of Journalism to provide industry internships for final year journalism students.

Starting this year,  the partnership provides an opportunity for USP final year journalism students to undertake six weeks of internship with the ONOC communications team at ONOC’s office in Suva, Fiji.

The internship is a requirement to satisfy a USP Journalism final year course, JN303 – Journalism Production.

USP Journalism coordinator and former sports editor, Dr Shailendra Singh, welcomed the partnership with ONOC.

He said it was the perfect platform for students who were interested in sports writing, since there is no specific course in sports journalism at USP.

“Students will do well under the mentorship of experienced sports officials and communications staff that are based at ONOC,” Dr Shailendra said.

“We look forward to the growing partnership with ONOC and possibly an expansion of programmes and activities to boost sports journalism in Fiji and Pacific.”

Speaking from Guam, ONOC Secretary General, Ric Blas, said that the collaboration further strengthens ONOC’s relationship with the university.

“It underpins ONOC’s communication’s strategy and objective of being a facilitator of consistent, reliable and credible information on the Olympic movement and its activities in Oceania.

USP is the Oceania regions ‘Centre of Excellence for Olympism’, through the Oceania Sports Information Centre (OSIC) that is housed in the Main Library at USP’s Laucala Campus in Suva, Fiji.  USP has additional engagements with ONOC’s Sports Education Programme (OSEP) and the ONOC International Relations Commission.

“While this is an investment on both our parts, ONOC sees this as a networking and relationship building opportunity with future media leaders in our region,” Blas added.

Ben Bilua, a final year BA in Journalism and Law student from the Solomon Islands was the first to be part of the internship programme, followed by Jared Koli, a final year BA in Journalism and Geography student, also from the Solomon Islands.

Bilua undertook his internship from August 17 to September 25, 2020 and Koli from September 28 to November 6, 2020. The two were working under the supervision of ONOC Communications and Visibility Officer, Inoke Bainimarama.

Their roles include researching, analysing and producing print and digital content that will help broaden ONOC’s visibility in the Oceania region.

One of the achievements for Bilua was setting up a conversation that has now become a networking link between Bainimarama and newly elected President of the Media Association of Solomon Islands (MASI), Georgina Kekea.

In his feedback, Bilua said six weeks spent on the internship was not enough but he has learnt a lot throughout his time at ONOC.

“It was a great opportunity for me to be with ONOC. I was quite new to ONOC and its function at first, but along the way I picked up some very important knowledge about the important role ONOC played, not only in sport development but also promoting other social issues such as gender and health.

“Looking back, I will forever be grateful for my course tutor, Geraldine Panapasa, and my supervisor, Inoke Bainimarama, for the great opportunity.

“It was a great learning experience for me to work in such a respected regional sports organisation, and at the same time grasp the knowledge from my supervisors as well as other colleagues in ONOC.

“On that note, I believe the network and relationship will not end after the six weeks, and I’m looking forward to working closely with ONOC on any future editorials on the Solomon Islands,” he said.

Before taking up studies at the USP in 2018, Bilua was a senior reporter for Island Sun Newspaper, a fast growing newspaper in the Solomon Islands that started in 2006.

He joined the newspaper as a cadet reporter in 2009 and with his passion and ambitious streak he covered regional and international assignments while with the paper.

In 2017, MASI awarded Bilua the ‘Solomon Islands 2017 Best Journalist of the Year Award’ and in the same year, he was recipient of the ‘Prime Minister’s Scholarship Award’ to study at USP.

While at the USP, Bilua was appointed as the Online Editor for the USP Journalism students’ newspaper and online publication, Wansolwara.

Koli was also a practicing journalist in the Solomon Islands prior to taking up studies at USP under the Solomon Islands Government (SIG) scholarship. He was also a former reporter with the Island Sun newspaper, and has also reported on sports for some time in the Solomon Islands.

With four years of experience as a reporter in the print media, Koli said he gained new insights during his internship with ONOC, and this has helped him understand how regional sport events are coordinated and financed in the Oceania region.

“As a news reporter, you work on a strict deadline in which you have to hunt for news or follow up on newsworthy issues to be published each day.

This is different for a communications person in an organisation, where your work must always be in line with the organisation’s communication strategy, and where you need to follow protocols and guidelines on how information is gathered, constructed, presented and shared both internally and externally,” Koli added.

Koli highly appreciates the partnership established between ONOC and USP Journalism and acknowledged them for having him as one of the first interns.

“This internship is incredibly valuable as it provides me with an avenue to gain new knowledge and get firsthand experience on ONOC’s communication work, which besides being a mainstream media journalist, can ultimately help me land any media or communications related job after completing my studies,” Koli adds.

Koli said he also learnt that besides being the umbrella body for the Olympics in Oceania, which looks after the interests of its 17 members and 7 associate members in Oceania, ONOC also champions social and development issues within and outside the realm of sports.