Timuiaipaepaetele Lealaiauloto Vaimoana Mase
A voice from the 685 has being recognised at New Zealand's top media awards for Best Opinion Writing.
NZ Herald Pacific Editor, Timuiaipaepaetele Lealaiauloto Vaimoana Mase nabbed the award for Best Opinion Writing at the Voyager Media Awards 2023.
The celebratory night was held in Tāmaki Makaurau but Mase was in Sāmoa for family matai ceremonies and her nana’s unveiling.
“It wasn’t until I checked my emails and the first one I saw was that I didn’t get the Le Mana Pacific Award. I honestly didn’t think I had any chance with the Opinion Writing category.
“When I saw my name, I did a massive cheehoo and then I cried.”
Mase dedicates her award to her grandma, Saimealafo Tapāleao, who died in 2018, aged 93.
"Anyone who knows me, my family is always a priority, just the fact that her headstone unveiling was on the same day as the awards, made me think it was grandma's special way of acknowledging my achievement as well."
The 36-year-old is a staunch Tamaitai Sāmoa, with her dad, Puniloa Tapāleao from Toamua and Faleata and her mum, Tauamafili Tapāleao from Lelepa, Savai’i.
Mase is also a proud West Aucklander and says her writing reflects her upbringing, culture, and pride for her people
“Honestly I thought my nomination was a mistake, I looked on the website and thought ‘oh my gosh, dry. That’s my name’.”
The Massey High alumni won against some established opinion writers in the industry, including The Spinoff’s Madeleine Chapman, who is of Sāmoan and Tuvaluan descent, and Dylan Cleaver and NZ Herald’s Kate MacNamara.
Mase says this is a category she barely dabbles in and of the two sections she was a finalist for didn’t expect this to be a win she’d claim.
Judges of the Opinion Writing section, Clive Lind and Shaun Bamber praised Mase’s fresh standpoint.
“While entries were of a generally high standard, some read more like news stories with some comments rather than individual thinking. Vaimoana’s entry was a fresh voice that stood out, bringing a different perspective to the topics at hand.”
Mase was also a finalist and the only one of Pacific heritage up for the Le Mana Pacific Award where RNZ Pacific reporter, Lydia Lewis, took the win.
Mase says the award is a good reminder for young Pacific journalists to write more stories with a lived Pacific lens and to enter awards.
She reflects on her journalism teachings from AUT and says she weaves them into her worldview.
“Think of the audience you’re writing for and the people you want to read. But not just to read but also to understand.
“I think of my Dad whose first language is Sāmoan and I try to write so that my Dad or my uncles understand what I’m writing about.
“It’s not just about using flash words but showing what I have to say in a way that still resonates with readers who might not be from my community.”