Saturday, December 4

Te Rito: a new commitment to promoting diversity in our newsrooms

We have had very few journalists of Maori, Pasifika and Asian origin in our newsrooms for decades, and now there is a new publicly funded push to change that. Four established media outlets support the Te Rito Journalism project. How will this work? And what is the end of the game?

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Photo: supplied

Recently, during news and current affairs programs on select channels, you may have seen announcements featuring broadcasters Stacey Morrison and Mike McRoberts promoting the Te Rito journalism project, billed as the first “multi-voice, comprehensive Maori journalism cadet program.” from the country.

It is a new collaboration between four media companies – NZME, Newshub, Māori Television and Pacific Media Network – actively seeking trainees to drive the diversity of New Zealand newsrooms and ultimately the news itself.

These are paid positions and the public is paying: $ 2.4 million to “identify, train, develop and hire 25 cadet journalists.”

The money comes from Public Interest Journalism Fund (PIJF) introduced this year by the current government to “provide transitional support to media organizations as the sector evolves in a way that ensures the long-term sustainability of New Zealand media.”

“There is a great need. The number of requests we have from the industry shows the need to attract more to the journalism industry and train them with the practical skills they feel they need in the newsroom, “said Raewyn Rasch, chief journalist for NZ On Air. Mediawatch in July when funding was announced.

“Maori journalism is in a crisis stage because what usually happens is that at the moment the only training is the Maori television that identifies some kura stars, brings them in and then they poach them,” Rasch told Mediawatch.

But Maori radio and television stations have been publicly funded for many years, and there is Te Mangai Paho, an independent broadcasting funding agency. There are also several journalism schools and tertiary courses across the country, as well as internship programs at the media companies themselves.

Stuff has already pledged to recruit more Maori reporters as part of his Our truth, our truth initiative – and at the end of last year NZME recruited young Maori journalists as part of Kāhu: “A low-key long-term plan to build trust among our communities, hire Maori staff, and increase content relevant to Maori audiences.”

Why the need for a new publicly funded scheme?

The problem the project is trying to address is an old one in our media: too few Maori journalists and Pasifika for too long.

Auckland Star Journalist Gary Wilson established the first cadets and training courses after realizing there was almost no diversity around him in the 1980s.

Less than two percent of New Zealand journalists had Maori or Pacific heritage. Created introductory journalism courses for Maori and Pacific students and full-time journalism training in Rotorua and Manukau.

But even as Maori news and programming began to surge during the 1990s, the Manukau Polytechnic course closed in 1993.

In 2005, his successor at the Journalism Training Organization, Jim Tucker, found that 12 percent of current students at the 10 journalism schools across the country had Maori backgrounds.

That was a big improvement, but only 1.6 percent had a Pacific Islander background, and fewer than one in 100 students were Asian.

“Little effective effort” was being made to attract them to the media, Jim Tucker said, and they turned to Gary Wilson for advice. He said a Pasifika journalism school would improve the flow of talent.

It did not happen.

When Massey University journalism professor James Hollings analyzed the 2006 census data and conducted his own post-survey of journalists, he found that the trade was still overwhelmingly European / Pakeha.

The following year, Equal Employment Opportunity Commissioner Judy McGregor, a former newspaper editor, condemned the situation as “embarrassing”.

And when Gary Wilson was honored with the NZOM for his services to the media last year, he didn’t beat around the bush either.

“There is still a very white and largely ignorant media outlet that does, for the most part, a lousy job of covering the issues of the Maori and the Pacific Islands,” he said.

“There is a very fragmented, and in many cases relatively amateurish, range of Maori and IP media organizations that are doing their best. . . but they are not sufficiently coordinated or funded to do it particularly well, “he added.

The way they are monitored does not help.

TO Change in the Maori media sector The review initiated in 2018 noted that “there is no coordinated strategy for recruiting or developing talent.”

A review draft last year – Te Ao Pāpāho Māori: a new path – proposed a “Center of Excellence” for training within Maori television.

But leading Maori journalists and experts criticized the ideas, which were supported by former Maori development minister Nanaia Mahuta.

A new review is now underway under the direction of another new minister, Willie Jackson (formerly a broadcaster himself and head of the Maori urban station Radio Waatea).

The changes this will bring are not exactly imminent, but in the meantime, the Te Rito cadet project is leading applicants to begin training next year.

How will it work and who is in charge?

Gesa Luamanu, director of the Te Rito Journalism project.

Gesa Luamanu, director of the Te Rito Journalism project.
Photo: supplied

Few journalists knew Gesa Luamanu prior to her appointment to direct Te Rito last week.

“I had my reservations about running for the position because I didn’t necessarily have a background in journalism, but. . . I have the opportunity to hire the right people to support those elements of the program, ”said Gesa Luamanu. Mediawatch.

Luamanu has more than 10 years in senior content, production and management roles at Sky TV, and 20 years of experience in the media industry.

“I believe in the kaupapa that the Te Rito program represents. I always wanted to be a journalist, but the industry always intimidated me. Being Samoan, it is not one of those usual industries or careers that we enter. So I would love to be part of a program that supports this change, ”he said.

“We welcome all who offer inclusive and diverse voices. Ten cadets who must speak you reo fluently are destined for Maori television and iwi media. The remaining cadets will come from a diverse section of Aotearoa, ”he said.

Former RNZ chief reporter Eileen Cameron has been hired as head coach.

“We also have a team of copywriting leader trainers. All of these cadets will have a mentor and will be supported through a basic 11-week journalism course for placement in our partner newsrooms, ”he said.

“Our goal is to inject diversity quickly, and the PIJF allows it. We have four media outlets that firmly believe in this project and hopefully we can sustain it, ”he said.

PIJF is also funding several other Maori media projects, as well as Te Rito.

Will it be difficult to staff all of this at a time when, according to NZ on Air chief journalist Raewyn Rasch, Maori journalism is at a critical point?

“That is something to be determined. But we have this collaboration with the major broadcasters, so we see sustainability, ”said Ms. Luamanu.

Long-term change is the bigger picture

Bernard Whelan

Bernard Whelan
Photo: supplied

Around the same time that the Te Rito scheme was announced in July, a longtime journalism professor completed a long look at journalism education and his commitment to te Ao Māori.

Bernard Whelan, a tutor at Massey University’s School of Journalism and Communications who has also taught at three other tertiary institutions, published a doctoral thesis called New Zealand Journalist Training: Journalism Education From This Place.

“It is a breakthrough,” he said.

“It will provide a bridgehead for various Maori journalists, and others not represented, in the newsrooms,” he said.

“But it is only part of the solution, and it is only for two years. What happens then? “He asked.

“There are 30 years of research showing that Maori and Pacific people are not being reflected in the media. So why should they go to journalism school? ” he said.

Have Pacific and multimedia media schools and journalism schools failed to deliver enough graduates to newsrooms?

He said journalism schools have been producing Maori graduates each year, “consistently around 10 percent on average.”

“There could be more, but the biggest problem is industry turnover. The industry has to figure out how to keep its talent in that environment, ”he said.

“Mentoring will be critical to this, but it’s more than having good people. It’s about the environment they enter, ”he said.

“I would like to see more Maori journalism educators and we also need to work more closely with the Maori departments in our institutions,” he said.

“Tertiary education clearly focuses on failure rates for Maori. I say convert failure in tertiary systems that are Western in nature. We can see how journalism can be practiced in another way. That’s going to get people to quit shows like Te Rito, ”he said.

“Maori and other cultures have had to be bicultural for 180 years or more. In reality, it is the rest of us who have not had to be bicultural. We need to transform ourselves as media organizations – and journalism schools, ”he said.

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