Yesterday I was on Facebook when a status from Annette Sykes caught my eye. It read: “Is there a media blackout on Hikoi? Not much online or am I looking in wrong place?”
Fair question because at that stage there hadn’t been a lot of stories about the hikoi and media coverage had mostly been limited to a few radio reports and websites which pick up and reproduce press releases.
But it seems it wasn’t only Annette who was wondering about the lack of coverage, her Facebook status received a massive response. Below is a selection of a few of the comments.
Marion Peka: “blackout ... just like here in GI the media have been told not report anything about the houses and protesters ...”
Fenella Hodgkinson: “So what's new???”
Ngaire Winitana: “where there is a need, there is an opportunity waiting to be born. Thinking caps on. How can we distribute our news to the people.”
Jo Lincoln: “aye exactly...who owns the media then.”
Kristi Henare: “Just proves that the Govt controls the media.”
And once the hikoi hit Auckland, with numbers reported to be up to 8000, the media was there in force and by Sunday morning stories about it had appeared on television, the country’s major news websites and across the radio stations.
But Annette’s Facebook status highlighted an area that deeply concerns me.
People may not always understand the media but we should always be able to trust that it stands as an independent voice in our communities separate from political forces, ruling classes and other decision-makers. This is a key foundation to being fair and balanced, standards which all media outlets should strive for.
With this said, as a former reporter I can confidently say that the government does not have control over the news decisions of the country's media. In fact if the government did try to tell any media outlet what they could and could not cover, I am pretty sure any editor would tell them to get stuffed.
However what I do know is that there are some decision-makers in our newsrooms who do not understand Maori issues to the point that they believe the majority of New Zealand does not care about these things.
I always thought that journalism attracted those who were liberal, open-minded socialists wanting to save the world and right the injustices but that seems is a romantic ideal. The old boy’s club is alive and well in the management of New Zealand’s media and many of the editors/managers of news outlets are upper-class white males who have a certain view of life.
They see people like Hone Harawira, Annette Sykes, John Minto as extreme activists who do not appeal to the middle New Zealand, hikoi’s as some over-used tool of a small few and believe that news consumers (because of what internet statistics show) are more interested in the quirky rather than the serious.
But to me this hikoi is an important issue for New Zealand that should have been documented from the start, what do you think?