Tuesday, 21 February 2017

The vital statistics of transparency

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Behind the scenes – PIMA exec members Jason Brown, Judy Samuels, George Vea and Will ‘Ilolahia meet at the Ponsonby Cruising Club at Westhaven last year.


Comment by PIMA Secretary Jason Brown


I was surprised, in the end, how little they asked me.

Proposing total transparency is a radical step, but fellow delegates at the AGM for PIMA, the Pacific Islands Media Association, seemed perfectly happy to approve a motion promising much more openness to all members.

That perfect happiness didn't last long though.

Dirty laundry

Outside the AGM, a PIMA member cautioned: "Be careful of airing our dirty laundry in public, bro."

Another said they had been involved with other NGOs where controversy had ripped apart elected executives, even whole memberships, to the point where critics set up their own, competing organisation.

They make a good point.

Eating The Money

Across the Pacific, corpses of failed NGOs litter the landscape. Including those from the media.

A primary cause is corruption - as the old Cook Islands joke goes, someone “ate the money.”

This behind-the-scenes look is intended to give members not just comfort but also confidence that radical transparency is the right way to go.


A question to ask, however, is whether there has been controversy even when secrets are not leaked.

Let's look at a recent event from PIMA's own history.

Other PIMA members took deep offence last year when PIMA executives associated the word "personality" with awards for Pasifika women in the media.

Beauty Abuse

Noone explicitly spelled out what the problem was - but 'personality' is of course a word used in beauty pageants, where women are judged not just on 'talent' but also physical aspects, including during bikini or 'swimwear' segments.

After millennia of violence against women, many regard such events as encouraging male attitudes towards women as nothing more than body parts to be used and, all too often, abused.

It is perhaps somewhat ironic that the 'personality' award often goes to contestants who adhere least to cliché stereotypes about beauty queens - feisty young women who don't hold back.


But news media professionals facing frequent sexism at work rejected use of the word and its hint of beauty pageants, exploited by deeply loathsome characters like Donald Trump.

What if, however, PIMA already had a transparency policy in place before the AGM last year?

Instead of board directors and executive members approving plans behind the scenes, and then announcing them to members, why not release draft plans, and invite feedback from all members?


That way, board and executive members could have got early participation in the media women award title, and possibly changed it to something everyone could be proud of, instead of dismayed.

That's one example of how 'radical' transparency can build unity among news media.

There are many other media-specific reasons why news media organisations such as PIMA should pursue and enforce transparency, and accountability.


First and foremost, to provide leadership.

News media spend all day, every day demanding transparency and accountability.

Yet we offer very little of it ourselves.

Public Trust

News media avoid making routine corrections to stories, cut off critical callers, hold letters back from publication, and avoid easily available media accountability systems, such as Facebook reviews.

Not all media, and not all the time. But enough of us do avoid accountability, enough to discredit media as a whole.

Public trust in ‘the press’ is around a quarter of those surveyed in confidence polls.


An aim of journalism should be to rebuild public trust to at least minimum majority, or 51 percent.

Part of that trust building can start within journalism itself, such as with media associations like PIMA.

News and other media should be confident that PIMA is acting in their interests, and that of audiences we serve.

Show Us The Money

An example is the $100 that PIMA handed over to me, in crisp $20 bills, to go towards rebuilding our website.

That was before Christmas, and you’re only finding out about it now.

Using total transparency tools, PIMA members would have seen the withdrawal straight away.

As It Happens

Those tools build on existing reporting requirements, such as those required by the registrar of charitable societies and banks, via annual general meetings.

Why wait a whole year, though?

Members of PIMA will be able to see spending as it happens, online.

Vital Statistics

Benefits? PIMA members, partners and donors will gain added confidence that they have all the hard facts and figures.

Assessing, reviewing and evaluating PIMA progress therefore takes place in real time, using simple, real world, real people skills.

In other words, an organisation with a beautifully transparent personality, offering full vital statistics.

* Comments above do not necessarily reflect the official position of PIMA.



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