The powerful bridge that is e-Tangata
FuturebuiltNZ Media Report - 4 October
The powerful bridge that is e-Tangata
Personal and writerly insights into how stories can help us make sense of who we are and who we want to be were generously delivered by a panel of e-Tangata’s finest at the National Library in Wellington on Monday night.
Billed as ‘The e-Tangata storytellers’, the panel comprised Tapu Misa, Māmari Stephens, Gary Wilson, Nadine Millar and Morgan Godfery with Godfrey taking on the role of interviewer.
As written about at Newsroom in April (Time to wipe the cultural sleep from our eyes) e-Tangata’s digital magazine venture is much more ‘re-start’ than start-up.
By timing and positioning it can be fairly said to have set itself at the prow of a reinvigorated revival of quality writing specific to the indigenous lived experience of living in and thinking about contemporary Aotearoa.
Tapu Misa: “You can’t be a good writer unless you’re a good thinker”.
Nadine Millar described this current era of journalism as an exciting time, made notable by how easy it has become to “self-curate” really good content from across a bountiful offering of new, homegrown sources - adding that the content was of a kind “I don’t even want to call it journalism”.
She made the observation that what was setting the writing apart is that it was meeting an appetite for a point of view, and contrasted this with her time as a start-out journalist when the enforced rubric of standardised objectivity meant concealing a more genuine voice, bias and all. “Now we get to own and declare the bias”.
Māmari Stephens’ insights on writing included a moment when she was taken aback to be told that the style of what she had been producing could be recognised, without a byline, as her writing.
At a family level she spoke about her regret that her father had not had the space and freedom to write down his life story until he was in his 70s, alongside sharing her gratitude that she had reached a stage herself where she was “brave enough to write what I thought”, and to write about “where (I was) on a spectrum of cultural existence”.
Another insight from the panel was that the journey of journalism in New Zealand is full of the lost promise and strategic failure to achieve more diverse newsrooms.
As Gary Wilson knows only too well the efforts of mainstream media efforts to “brown” the media’s ranks have fallen woefully short decade after decade, and have in his words been “doomed to be extremely limited”.
An equal fault of the main outlets that was touched on has been the degree to which this country’s shared history has been whitewashed.
Or in the polite language chosen by Wilson there has been such a continuously “poor job” done by the media of conveying information about New Zealand’s history that it has imposed a long-lasting and unnecessary "discomfort" with that history for wide swathes of the public.
From the recent mothballing of Mana magazine to this week's launch of the Spinoff Ātea by former Manaeditor Leonie Hayden there is hope that a viable ecosystem will keep growing.
An issue for those who have been keeping the mission of “browning the media” alive is that the critical mass to do so has been elusive and the building of that mass has never had a certain timeframe.
This panel event, hosted and supported by Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa and the Royal Society, was closed out by Bridget Williams as publisher of the BWB Texts edition of The Best of e-Tangata with a strong reference to the importance of the independence and independent voices that are the essence of e-Tangata.
This was a caution really to preserve and support e-Tangata, as it is, and for the powerful bridge it provides to those stories that make sense of who we are and who we want to be.