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Cultural Journalism discussed by AUT media panel

Cultural Journalism discussed by AUT media panel

By Renee Girven

Cultural journalism is a demanding but rewarding business, says a cross-cultural media panel at AUT University.

The panel convened in front of third year AUT University journalism students, who are currently studying cultural affairs reporting, to give them insight on how to report on cultural issues and current problems in mainstream media.

The facilitator of the panel Renata Blair, who is from Ngati Whatua and is AUT’s public relations manager specialising in executive events, says reporting on Maori “is a highly charged political field that is tough to get into”.

“Maori is about face to face communication and it takes a lot of time to build up a trusting relationship,” he says.

Blair says although it can be time consuming for a journalist from a different culture to understand the customs of the Maori people, if journalists are going to report on Maori relations they should “get involved in the community, understand who the people are, where they come from and their future”.

“If you build and foster these relationships then they will be excellent sources for future stories and may come to you with ideas.”

Melissa Lee, the producer of Asia Downunder says while she encourages more Asians to become journalists to increase diversity and because they can often understand customs and issues in the Asian community better, her reporters are not all Asian. Instead her newsroom is like a “mini United Nations”.

Another member of the cross-cultural media panel, Ranjit Singh, is a somewhat controversial broadcaster in Fijian media because of his straight-forward views and strong advocacy for good governance and democracy in Fiji.

Singh – who says “Fiji is far from being a democracy and that media in Fiji is not balanced and is very lopsided” is equally critical of New Zealand media.
Singh says mainstream media in New Zealand mostly focuses on the bad things related to “brown people”.

“You hardly hear anything good about brown people. Mainstream media are only interested if they kill someone, do drugs or assault someone.”

Blair agrees and says the mainstream media’s interpretation of Waitangi is a key example.

“Our interpretation of Waitangi is not about Don Brash getting splattered with manure in his face. Our story is about the collaboration of cultures and the many wakas that have come to Auckland”.

He says this is something mainstream media can miss because they are distracted by the notion of finding controversy, instead of focusing on the actual event and its cultural significance.

A theme of the discussion was the idea that journalists are a conduit for the public and if they do not understand the cultural views of a group then they can misrepresent the subject and misinform their audience.

Lito Vilisoni, the founding news editor of Niu FM says while reporting on cultural issues requires a lot more time and consequently can get neglected in mainstream media it is worthwhile.

“Being a journalist in a specialist area can be very rewarding,” she says.

“While my newsroom may be young, we have still broken some great stories that the mainstream media has missed”.


Renee Girven is a Journalism Student at AUT

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