On White Sunday 2009 I was on holiday with my daughter Rebecca in Safotu, Savaii, Samoa. The country was gradually coming to terms with the impact of the September 2009 Tsunami and I was a tourist, interested but only just getting interested in the future of the country.
Three years later, on White Sunday 2012, the Samoa Observer will commence publishing a weekly column called Palagi Perspectives. I am definitely a Palagi with a “perspective” having engaged fairly deeply with this unique, South Pacific country and culture.
Writing a weekly column is a serious commitment, in many different ways.
Technically it is a little bit the same as blogging, although the format at 500 words or so is tighter than the open ended web post, and there is of course no real opportunity for inserting multitudes of hyperlinks for references, marketing or SEO purposes.
We have a different audience too – mostly Samoans but with several thousand ex-pats sprinkled around Samoa also potentially picking up a Sunday Samoan and catching up on any gossip.
It will take me a little while to really develop my style for print, but so far it has shaped up thus far along similar lines to those that I used for VICTUSINAMBITUS, which became the book Lipstick on a Pig, as well as with this blog. I take a subject (philosophical, spiritual, emotional, practical or whatever) then interweave my life experiences and biblical principles into the script.
I try to write generously, and summarised the proposed column to Sano the “Editor in Chief” thus:
. . . my approach to writing will be to bring a Palagi perspective, touching on Samoan culture, tourism, foreign investment and faith.
I try to write generously but I usually have strong opinions, and always write with a Christian perspective. I enjoy applying Christian values and principles into business and other life matters, thinking creatively and laterally. I have extensive experience in assisting small businesses to think strategically and delight in working at board level to help develop objectives and structure businesses well. A lot of my success with others has been taking problems, turning them upside down and re-engineering them into opportunities.
I was interested that he required no editorial input from himself or his team other than to ensure that the copy is
not likely to get me [or me] sued . . . and . . . “gets people to think”.
They call people with power here “big men”. I’m impressed that he is confident enough to do this, and appreciate the opportunity to do exactly that – “get people to think”. In this sense he certainly is a “big man”.
Speaking for an entire a culture is a big responsibility. When writing about things Samoan seen from a Palagi perspective I have a responsibility to both cultures. No matter how much I couch phrases as only my perspective, or my opinion, people will naturally assume that all Palagi think like me, or that all Samoans are like what I present to the world. Just ask Margaret Mead about how words can have a big affect on cross-cultural understandings. I have an increased responsibility writing for a Samoan print audience as opposed to the web. Online, I am able to slip in a correction, apology and interact quickly. I can’t do that with print.
It’s also done, printed and published just the once and then (unless it is carried on with feedback or editorial rehashing) it dies – the paper used for fish and chip wrapping for the next day! The web is more permanent – once it’s published online, it is there forever, cached and quoted and permanent! At the moment I prefer the immediacy and flexibility of the web. Hopefully I will come to enjoy the unique aspects of the print media too.
Logistically I can provide columns in advance as long as they contain no time-sensitive material. It is however still work. Writing takes time. Not only just the time typing, but the many hours of preparation, mulling over ideas and lessons and concepts, and how best to stich them together to achieve the given objective. Fortunately I have spent years preparing and many years doing just what Sano wants – getting people to think – so a large part of the task is straightforward.
Developing meaningful content will not be a major problem. I’ve done that for years of blogging and writing for print. Many of the ideas and concepts I intend to cover, I’ve touched on before, and with a different audience it will be easy to tweak existing material into meaningful copy.
In fact as one of my blog posts may be anything up to 3,000 words, the hardest part may actually be to reduce so many words to a concise 500.
And so, WIIFM?
It’s primarily an income stream for me, but it’s way more than just money.
I am looking forward to an increased reach and audience. Exposure of my ideas and thoughts in a mainstream news media organisation is a natural progression from private blogging, and I believe will work to the long-term benefit of Samoa, to some degree our own ventures and certainly myself personally.
Such exposure can be a two edged sword though, as I have mentioned previously but there is a possibility that having a column such as this could quell some of the local gossip along the lines that I am just another big BS artist and shouldn’t be listened to. (Yes! It happens here all the time! You would not believe the amount of adversity that has resulted from gossip generated from a few in certain circles!)
There’s also a saying that I think is only really understood properly by writers, authors and bloggers, and it is that, “Writers write!”
It’s that simple really. I write because I am a writer – an author and a blogger. That is who I am.
Over the years I’ve casually tracked responses to my blogging and teaching at around maybe 10%-15% pure hared; 10% total connection/approval and the bulk pretty much indifferent. We’ll see what happens here in the next few months as I address some of the contentious issues but I fully expect that in Samoa the contempt will be more than double or triple, but who knows?
If the Samoan gossip machine really gets going well, Sano’s wish that the column “gets people to think” may come true!
In High School, I received a mid-year report with the simple words “Concision can be taken to ridiculous extremes” from my Social Studies teacher. Both my long-suffering Social Studies and English teachers at Kelston Boys High School would choke on their coffee if they heard that the guy from second-stream “academic”, who miserably failed all tests they gave us all ended up writing about cross-cultural issues for a newspaper in a foreign country!
Such is life . . .
Palagi Perspectives can be read in your Sunday Samoan newspaper or online on this blog after the Sunday of publication.
I hope you enjoy the read and feel free to offer feedback online or to the newspaper.