Reflection: What my country needs


Ben Bilua took some giants steps from Honiara to Denmark.

In late 2020 then-journalism students Ben Bilua (The University of the South Pacific) and Jack Meehan (Swinburne University) were announced as the winners of two fellowships to attend the Constructive Institute in Denmark. They were selected from hundreds of students, across 27 institutions, who submitted stories for The Junction‘s Constructive Journalism: Making a Difference 2020 project: A project funded by the Judith Neilson Institute.

Covid-19 intervened, disrupting air travel and so the fellowships were put on hold until late 2022.

Ben Bilua now works for the Island Sun Newspaper based in the Solomon Islands. This is his fellowship reflection.


My time at the Constructive Journalism Institute was more than I bargained for. Traveling hundreds of miles from the Solomon Islands to Denmark speaks volumes about the importance of Constructive Journalism to me as a journalist. My four weeks at the Constructive Journalism Institute have been a blessing with a wealth of knowledge that I will try my best to share with my fellow journalists in the Solomon Islands.

I went to the Constructive Journalism Fellowship with an open mind to learn and improve my carrier as a journalist.

Looking back, time was limited to grasp important knowledge and skills shared by senior fellows, as well as lessons learned from side events such as classes at the Danish School of Journalism, presentations from politicians, and academics, and daily conversations with fellows.

I would say, constructive journalism is a new concept and more time should be given to journalists who pursue learning this concept. For me, it was very difficult to absorb all the concepts and how to practically implement the knowledge and skills obtained from the fellowship program.

Lessons learned

About Constructive Journalism

Constructive Journalism was a foreign concept to me, however, going through the subject for the past three weeks, I came to understand that constructive journalism is the future of journalism and democracy. Thanks to my great mentor, Orla Borg (who heads the fellowship program), for the brilliant presentations that have helped me fully understand where Constructive Journalism comes from and its view on the importance of democracy and the role of the media in society. One of the most important slogans that I got from the session was “providing the readers the best obtainable version of the truth“. This statement sounds academic but from a journalistic point of view, I’m of the view that this is the greatest commandment that journalists should remember when performing their duties.


Haagerup and Bilua talking

CI Director Ulrik Haagerup and Ben Bilua 

Danish School of Journalism

I’m of the view that the Danish School of Journalism is a premium institution for aspiring journalists. Subjects taught at the institution covers all aspects of the real world – meaning students are fully equipped with necessary knowledge from societal settings to issues that threatens peace and unity in societies.

I’ve completed my BA in Journalism and Law at the University of South Pacific but I noticed that I was introduced to new journalism concepts and approaches that I never came across while at USP. I acknowledge the Danish School of Journalism for accepting my request to sit in on some of the sessions. I came across three new journalism concepts: deliberate journalism, dialog journalism, and ethnography journalism. These concepts are part of feature writing processes. From a practical point of view, these concepts are the essence of journalistic approaches when comes to feature writing.

I found the lesson as a refresher but more importantly, I’ve introduced to new knowledge to better understand featuring writing and what it means to journalists.

The session on character development in feature stories was new to me and it broadens my knowledge as a journalist. I realized that we as journalists must understand the role and pressure we put on the characters from interviews, photo shooting, and actual compiling of feature stories. The lesson has taught me a new understanding of the different types of strategies and approaches that a feature story can apply to the character and the important role the character plays in the story that would paint a good or bad picture to the wider society.

The second lesson about Ethnography Journalism caught me off-guard and made me wonder if I need more training to know my job. I never came across this concept in my entire carrier as a journalist. It is a huge privilege to be part of the Ethnography Journalism lesson, now I know what it means and what it takes for me as a journalist to do better.

One on one discussion with fellows

One-on-one discussions with the fellows have been truly an honor and beneficial to me as a short-time fellow. The discussions reinforce the need for the media to change its direction by providing hope while scrutinizing bad events and behaviour.

Furthermore, the sessions show the passion that drives this group of journalists to save the world in many ways.

I’ve learned a wealth of knowledge and will try my best to implement some of the advice to improve my newsroom in the Solomon Islands.

These groups of fellows are the disciples of constructive journalism and having an audience with the fellows helped me to learn simple strategies to implement constructive journalism in my newsroom.

Next steps

My plan going forward is to return to my country and establish a team in my newsroom to implement the knowledge that I’ve obtained. Constructive Journalism in my opinion is what my country needs.

I acknowledge the University of South Pacific Journalism School, the Judith Neilson Institute and Management of Island Sun Newspaper/online where I work as a reporter for this great and worthy opportunity. I also want to extend my acknowledgment to the staff and Fellows at the Constructive Institute and to Dr Alexandra Wake and JERAA for the logistical support that made this fellowship a success.


The Junction’s Constructive Journalism Project

was funded by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.