where media fear to tread

a screen grab from the top-secret forum for journalists from across the pacific. nah, not really.
Growth, depth and vigour have been hallmarks of one of the region's newest email lists, Pacific Islands Journalists Online.
Set up by former Pacific Women's Bureau communications officer Lisa Lahari Williams, PIJO has set alight industry debate over regional issues, not just media. Since January 2008 this year, a founding congratulatory email from IBI editor-in-chief Laisa Taga has blossomed into just over 2,000 comments from regional media. That's about 400 a month from, roughly, zero.
Trouble is the collective wisdom of the media - silent or spoken - stays hidden behind the safety walls of what started as a public forum. Now private.
Ah, Fiji.
Quite rightly, the forum hid so that reporters from Fiji could alert their colleagues to latest outrages from the army regime.
In safety.
Understandbly, a coup generates a fair amount of hysteria, even among seen-it-all journalists.
Appropriately, news teams and other watchdogs in Fiji post regular updates on abuse and intimidation of media. If an administration seeks to place a chill upon the media, journalists often respond with fire.
Less appropriately, editorials from some media pound out a drum beat of negativity, neglecting ethical promises of balance. It would perhaps add to the credibility of Fiji Times, for example, if there were equally strident updates on behind-the-scenes corruption by business.
Enter PIJO, Pacific Islands Journalism Online.
PIJO was established as an admiring critic of PINA, the region's one, and only, media organisation, the Pacific Islands News Association, based in Suva, Fiji.
PIJO has done voluntarily what a decade or more of aid, academic, and business accumen has failed to do - create an online community of journalists and media workers - including a wide range of hands-on publishers and broadcasters.
... to the 3rd millennium.
Back in the good old 2nd millennium days, regional media were lucky to get half-a-dozen updates a year. Now, some days, the industry gets six or more an hour.
PIJO took off convincingly. It had credibility.
That credibility came from a regional dedication to the transformative power of the media, a long, slow push quietly backed by our old friends at SPC and visions from one of its riskier recruiting decisions - a journalist, fresh from frontline, frontpage combat. Six years later ....
Journalists across the globe are an increasingly endangered species.
Killing fields of Iraq. Thirty years of corporate attrition among reporters, following Watergate and subsequent conglomeration of media interests. In our region, TVNZ, New Zealand's state broadcaster recently "shed" dozens of media jobs. Now a regional media player, Fairfax, is doing the same thing. Dozens more jobs gone.
Not so much a case of conspiracy theories as stating the bleedin' obvious.