Journalist Spotlight | Interview with Marian Faa - Journalist for ABC News Asia Pacific
Medianet recently had the pleasure of speaking with Marian Faa of the ABC Asia Pacific Newsroom. Based in Cairns, Marian’s dedication to covering stories and developments in the Pacific region has seen her awarded the 2024 Andrew Olle Scholarship from the ABC, and in 2020 was the Queensland Clarion’s New Journalist of the Year.
Congratulations on receiving the Andrew Olle Scholarship! Can you tell us about your initial reaction when you found out you were selected for this honour?
Thank you! I was over the moon and still am. It took a while to sink in, to be honest! Andrew Olle was an amazing journalist who made an enormous contribution to the media and to this country, so to receive the scholarship in his name is an incredible honour.
Can you share with us some of the stories or topics you are most passionate about covering in your role at ABC News Asia Pacific?
The Pacific is an amazing region full of important stories to tell, so I feel very privileged to report on this area. It’s great to see more recognition of the Pacific in the media and more broadly in Australia. I’m passionate about covering issues relating to women’s rights. I also think it’s important to hold powerful individuals and institutions to account in the region, which includes international companies and foreign governments. There is a lot of interest in the Pacific at the moment, so having that independent scrutiny is crucial.
What drew you to journalism and how did you embark on your career in this field?
I studied journalism at university, but it wasn’t until I started reporting at a small daily newspaper in my parents’ hometown that I knew this was the career for me. I loved having an excuse to ask questions and find out everything that was going on! Working for a newspaper in a small community, especially one you’ve lived in for a while, gives you an incredible appreciation for the impact of journalism. When you get something wrong, people will tell you. Your reputation is everything. But they will also tell you when your story made them cry or laugh or brought a smile to their face. Most of all, I love connecting with people and that’s what draws me to this job.
What are some of the advantages or challenges you've encountered while reporting in the Asia Pacific region?
My upbringing has definitely been an advantage in this area. I was born on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, long before it became known for its role in Australia’s offshore detention system. Being able to speak Tok Pisin (PNG’s national language) and having an understanding of Pacific culture has helped me connect with people when I’m reporting on stories. But the Pacific is extremely diverse, and I am still learning more about it every day. Getting access to information can be difficult sometimes and data isn’t always readily available in the Pacific. You have to be patient and understand the context that people in the region are dealing with. Someone may not get back to you immediately because they’re visiting friends or family in a remote place with no mobile reception. But it’s also important to – respectfully – push for answers and information about important issues.
What has been the most memorable experience of your career to date?
Covering the Fijian national election in 2022 was an incredible experience. It was such an important election with a long lead up, lots of anticipation and passion within Fiji. There was a wonderful group of reporters – both local and international – on the ground, working in sometimes quite restrictive and difficult circumstances. For example, very strict laws in the days leading up to the vote prevented the media from reporting just about anything related to the election! Finding ways to get around that was certainly a unique experience. In the end, the election resulted in the first change in Government for Fiji in 16 years. It was a big deal, and it felt important to witness and document such a historic moment.
Where do you see yourself in the future and where would you like your work to take you?
So long as I am telling interesting, impactful stories I’ll be happy! I think the Pacific is always a place that will hold a special place in my heart, so I’d like to continue working in this space.
Is there any upcoming work from you or the team at ABC Asia Pacific we should keep an eye out for?
ABC’s Pacific team is constantly putting out amazing stories across an increasing number of platforms and programs.
Lastly, what do you look for in content pitching or stories for the ABC Asia Pacific newsroom?
In the role I am currently in, our primary audience is people living in the Pacific. So stories or pitches that include the voices and perspectives of Pacific Islanders are very important. I’m interested in stories that affect local people or that shine a new light on key issues like climate change, women’s rights, geo-politics, local politics, the environment, culture and major industries in the region. If you have a story to pitch then feel free to get in touch!