Talanoa and Habermas’s Theory of Communicative Action: Journalistic Practices in the Tropical Pacific





journalism, South Pacific, Tropics, talanoa, parachute journalism, Theory of Communicative Action


Western journalism educators can learn from Pacific island communication
practices to improve ways of sharing knowledge across the tropics. Often Western journalists reporting on events in the tropics do so through a lens of parachute journalism. This paper analyses current Western journalism and communication practices in the Pacific and draws on concepts relevant to general communication such as talanoa and Habermas’s ‘Theory of Communicative Action’ (1989). Three key points are argued in this paper: firstly, that traditional communication practices in the South Pacific and Pacific region more generally, are alive, well, and highly relevant to Western journalistic practice; secondly, that parachute journalism has a high potential to damage communication practices in the South Pacific; and finally, that Western journalism education should embrace concepts such as talanoa in order to be better informed in policy and knowledge-based decision making processes in the South Pacific.

As discussed through examples of the communication of issues of social justice and indigenous rights, innovative communicative approaches which take into consideration oceanic knowledge, along with applicable Western theoretical paradigms, have significance and merit for future media and communication professionals and educators.

Author Biographies

Marie M’Balla-Ndi, James Cook University

Dr Marie M'Balla-Ndi is a lecturer in Arts and Multimedia Journalism at James Cook University, Australia. She completed a PhD in International Journalism at the University of Queensland. Her research examines the impact of tradition and modernity on contemporary journalism practice in the South Pacific region and her research interests are in media and communication in post-colonial and developing countries.

Maxine Newlands, James Cook University

Dr Maxine Newlands is a Political scientist and former BBC journalist lecturing in the College of Art, Society and Education at James Cook University, Australia. Her research centres on governance and political communication, and environmental and journalism education.  Maxine is the author of ‘Environmental Activism and the Media: the Politics of Protest’ (2016)


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How to Cite

M’Balla-Ndi, M., & Newlands, M. (2016). Talanoa and Habermas’s Theory of Communicative Action: Journalistic Practices in the Tropical Pacific. ETropic: Electronic Journal of Studies in the Tropics, 15(2). https://doi.org/10.25120/etropic.15.2.2016.3543