August 25, 2020
OPINION: Objectivity and balance in journalism a myth
Veteran Journalist Claudette Hauiti says objectivity and balance in Journalism is a myth.
I have a Journalism Degree from Canberra University. It is a Sports’ Journalism degree, admittedly. But because the University is based in the capital the degree comes with a heavy emphasis on politics. We looked at things like the impact on share market should the USSR Basketball team lose to Australia. We investigated sport as the opiate of the working-class masses usurping the modern Olympics post the Russian Revolution 1923 to unite a fractured Europe. The big take away from these lessons; politics and sport should not, does not, must not mix – is a myth.
The other myth completely blown apart by the University is that of objectivity in journalism. No such thing, rubbish. Objectivity is subjective, passing through the multi-filter paradigm before landing in front of the reader or consumer. There is the subject at the centre of the story, the journalist influenced by their own socio-political influences re-delivering the story, the editor reshaping the piece using commercial algorithms to maximise eyes-to-advertising. Finally, the platform owner or publisher seeking to secure its share of a capitalist-conservative, neo-liberal, liberal, socialist or whatever other money-market they are after. The end user, viewer, reader gets what is left after the many hands have messed with the story.
So, the best we can do, as emerging journalists, says my former lecturer, renowned Australian writer Maurice Dunlevy, is to find balance. If memory recalls correctly â€“ he also chuckled, ‘and good luck with that’.
If the original story comes from an indigenous Māori voice â€“ history shows not only are our stories, reframed, repositioned but the multi-filter paradigm causes chaos, attempting to dis-indigenise, deconstruct, gag and silence the indigenous voices. Ultimately, attempting perversion of indigenous realities. Numerous contemporary examples of this in Pākehā media; the bad Māori at Waitangi every year, the mad Māori at road checks during COVID19 lockdown and the sad Māori demanding Royal Commission of Inquiries into baby uplifts, into state and church care abuse. The pātai to be asked of Pākehā media is, why do you dislike us?
Hōhā, we turn our attention to balancing the negative coverage and messaging, establishing Māori media; Iwi Radio, Māori Television, independent Māori Current Affairs’ programmes, Māori print and online publications. We even have bloggers like Tina Ngata, Dr Rawiri Taonui, Karaitiana Taiuru, Dr Leonie Pihama all writing, speaking crafting with an indigenous lens. We expect our Māori media to be our atamira from which to speak and our pou from which to hear our voices our stories. We have come to rely on them, trust them, our Māori Media.
So when Māori Television gives up valuable space to someone like Don Brash from Hobson’s Pledge of course expect hapori push back. A significant number of whanau posted social-media support of Artist Rob Ruha and his disappointment in the broadcaster for giving up space to an individual who vehemently opposes Māori socio-economic and political sovereignty, an individual who is a racist.
Often, Māori media and I include myself, we mistake balance as being two opposing views having equal space, time and energy to deliver their perspective. Journalists therefore apply balance within a single story or across a series. This construct is taught at institutions that adhere to a Western journalistic paradigm.
By all means confront and challenge those Pākehā who hold positions that impact on our sovereignty including Members of Parliament. But give nothing to the racists. We know who they are.
Let the rest of the western non-indigenous world define the tenets of journalism any which way they like.
But we should not comply to a construct that does not serve us as Māori but actively silences our indigenous voice. We must also certainly not adhere to these Western constructs because that’s the way it is done the world over. Let us instead define our media and journalism by the strength of our Māori stories told to us by the strong voices of our iwi, hapū and whanau. Let us hear more of us working the frontlines those that are advocating for us, challenging systemic and structural racism. Let’s give space, and air to passionate voices, diplomatic voices, ardent voices, measured voices, virulent voices, only until we hear all our Māori voices in all their ranges tone and tenor will we achieve balance. Let us define what is balance, objectivity. Let it be Māori who decides and not some western paradigm. Give nothing to racism.
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