16 Jul Where are all the Māori journalists in our mainstream media?
New Zealand news needs more Māori perspectives.
As a young journalist I remember looking around the Māori reporter ranks and thinking I was one of many. Almost every media outlet had a reporter for Māori Issues, or a Māori reporter covering general news.
There was also a broad sentiment that things were going to get better and news bosses wanted to see more Māori staff in their newsrooms.
But anecdotal evidence suggests that the opposite has happened in national mainstream media.
The New Zealand Herald previously employed many respected Māori journalists, but now no one covers its Māori issues round full time. Radio New Zealand has experienced a string of resignations from Māori staff, although high-profile journalist Mihingarangi Forbes has recently been hired as its Specialist Correspondent. TVNZ’s One News doesn’t appear to have any Māori reporters at all. And recently 3News has given weather presenter Kanoa Lloyd some lighter stories to cover.
Now I know you can’t judge a Māori book by its cover. I was a prime Pakeha-looking example. So there may be many more out there working behind the scenes. But the point still stands: having reporters who truly understand the Māori world brings a different type of perspective to a newsroom. And if reporters are not from diverse cultural backgrounds, it can detrimentally affect the way news is covered.
Clearly news impacts different people in different ways. A journalist who can think about how a particular news story may affect groups more widely than the mainstream (Māori for example), raises another set of stories which can be generated once the original dust settles. It can also open up an entirely new contact book – a list of people another journalist may not have considered.
Usual complaints are that mainstream media advertise Māori issues jobs and no one applies. But an ad in the paper or online is not going to attract the talent needed. Media organisations need to start looking early for gifted young Māori, and once spotted their ability should be nurtured and allowed to grow.
A very experienced Chief Reporter friend of mine once said, she couldn’t think of a story that shouldn’t have a Māori voice offering their perspective. If this wise view was applied to the coverage decisions made in a New Zealand media newsroom, I believe we would all benefit.