Saturday, 16 February 2013

Jim Richstad: a Pacific media giant remembered

Remembering a media giant -- Professor Jim Richstad (centre) at his last PINA convention in Vanuatu, 2009
(photocredit: Lisa W-Lahari)
PFF, Rarotonga, COOK ISLANDS--The passing in December 2012 of Professor Jim Richstad, a global leader in journalism training, leaves Pacific media leaders reminded of his personal and professional commitment to regional media unity in the Pacific.While news of his sudden passing in the US, at the age of 79, has only recently trickled to the Pacific, the loss of a life member of the Pacific Islands News Association has brought back memories for the many Pacific journalists whose lives Jim touched.
Richstad is widely remembered and referred to as a 'founding father' of the PINA organisation, which emerged from a series of news training workshops in the 70's. Leading journalists of the time began to discover a common bond in issues around training, media independence, and the complex role of the media in the developing Pacific.
PFF co-chair Monica Miller, a former PINA president and the only woman to ever lead the organisation, expressed deep sadness at the passing of one of the fathers of PINA.
"I met Dr Richstad in 1987 at the first PINA Convention in Tonga and recognized his genuine desire to help develop independent media in the Pacific."
A few years before, Richstad, who was then based at the Journalism school of the University of Hawaii, helped organise a first gathering of Pacific Island journalists -- a meeting where the idea of PINA was first conceived.
Among those pioneers were Faalogo Pito, Savea Sano Malifa, and the late Tavake Fusimalohi.
"I say with all conviction that Jim helped plant, nurture and grow PINA and he truly cared about Pacific journalism and journalists. His large cadre of contacts the world over was of benefit to PINA when we were organizing workshops and the annual conventions." 
For more than 30 years, from where ever he was, and working with partners he brought to the regional table, Richstad continued his efforts to help Pacific journalists and media professionals take on excellence and leadership in their industry.
"He was the type of man you would want to be your journalism teacher," says Miller. "He knew his trade, no question, but was not arrogant about it. He came across as just a very gentle and warm person who made you feel important and that your point of view counted. And he made an effort to understand and appreciate why some western fundamentals of journalism could not be transplanted without adjustments to Pacific society."  
"Farewell Jim, thank you for all you have done and your unshakable belief in Pacific media."
While saddened in recent years by the divisive factioning within media regionalism, Richstad urged journalists to remain unified and inclusive, and was a quiet voice of reason for anyone he met during what was to be his last PINA convention in Vanuatu, in 2009.
He is deeply missed by his Pacific media family.--ENDS


Obituary by Floyd K Takeuchi

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