Monday 30 April 2012

"The common curse of mankind, - folly and ignorance."

News Trade Minister Tim Groser is calling for Maori to be compulsory in schools should be trumpeted from the hill tops.
Instead I found replications of press releases on four websites, two stories on the TV3 site and one on MSN - hardly an overwhelming media response.
Speaking on TV3’s The Nation programme Groser said, in his personal view; he believed Maori should be taught to every five year old.

"This is turning the usual Pakeha argument on its head, because what I think should happen is that you introduce very young children from New Zealand to the idea of biculturalism and more than one language, and then they will be able to learn other languages as their personal circumstances fit, ” he said.

Groser said children who become familiar with te reo at an early age could then master Chinese, Mandarin and any language they want in a move that could open doors for travel and work.
He acknowledged that it was not a conventional view of the Maori language issue but said “there's a whole lot of research to back this view up”.

Last year ahead of the election the Maori Party's policy was for te reo to be compulsory available in schools by 2015, however former ACT Party leader Don Brash said making te reo compulsory was pointless.

Yesterday New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said it would never work because parents wouldn't buy into it and there are more important languages for children to learn.

So the question that needs to be asked by the public should be: is te reo Maori worth investing in as a nation?

No one can deny that Te Reo Maori is a beautiful language, unique to New Zealand it sets us apart from the rest of the world. It is one of only two official languages in New Zealand ( the other is sign language) and full of poetry and imagery.

Pioneers such as Dame Katerina Te Heikoko Mataira and Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi fought to bring the language back from extinction. It was a long fight and one that will never end.

At this stage the battle is being won with things like a portrayal of the Shakespearean play Troilus and Cressida in te reo opening the World Shakespeare festival at the Globe in London last week (receiving positive reviews in The Guardian) but is teaching the language to all five-years something that New Zealand taxpayers would be happy to invest in?
I was disappointed that there weren’t more stories about Groser’s comments out there this morning; shouldn’t our media be encouraging the debate? Granted it is Monday and many of the country’s journalists sometimes get weekends off to enjoy their lives but I am hoping that this story will grow legs and develop over the next couple of days because I think that it is a subject that could do with a little more time in the sun.

After all it was Shakespeare himself who said: "The common curse of mankind, - folly and ignorance."


Sunday 29 April 2012


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?

Friday 27 April 2012

Sensitive reporting

Tenei te mihi ki a Lloyd Burr.
The TV3 reporter was the first to release a story that the well-respected Maori kuia, Nanny Hui Kahu has died after a battle with cancer.

Nanny Hui was the poi and vocal soloist of the Patea Maori Club’s song Poi E and so the news of her death was worth the nod and I thought it was an excellent example of how mainstream can present a story about Maori issues in an appropriate manner.

I do not know if Lloyd Burr is Maori but regardless of race the story was sensitive without diving too far into the family’s grief. Burr spoke to a family friend about what the loss meant to him and gave enough personal details about Nanny Hui for to gain a better picture of who the lady was. He also said where the tangi was so that those who wanted to attend and pay their respects could do so.

These sorts of stories are often covered by Maori Television’s Te Kaea and TV1’s Te Karere but seldom do they reach mainstream media and it was refreshing to see it covered in such a way.  The Stuff website picked up the story and had to use the line: “Family friend Steve Rangihuna told 3 News she was humble person ‘who put everyone else first - she was generous and giving’”, a good acknowledgement of the reporter's work.

Keep up the good work Lloyd.

Tenei te mihi ki te whanau o Nanny Hui, e aroha nui atu ana ki a koutou i teenei waa. Moe mai e te rangatira.

Thursday 26 April 2012

Where was the follow-up?

I thought my first true post for the By Microwave blog would be about the race relations debate which screened on Close Up this week. It had obviously struck a nerve with me but as I pottered around home doing a few chores this morning I got to thinking.

Since Close Up screened the story about Wikatana Popoto and the debate that followed there has been a crazy level of response to it. Much of it I agreed with, some I didn’t, but I have come to see that what I personally think about it will not add to the conversation. I simply have my opinion and that is that, I am not sure if there is anything that will change it too much and while I did find some of the information about Ansell’s beliefs interesting I have realised that news consumers are already engaging in the discussion about it and so I have decided to take this post in a different direction.

I want this blog to inform and inspire. Its purpose, and therefore focus, should not be about commenting on the issue itself (although, I imagine, there is no getting away from that part of it) but to discuss whether the treatment by the media was appropriate, enlightening, fair and balanced, fulfilling, needed, expected etc.

This got me thinking about Mihi Puriri. A Northland mother of Maori descent, Puriri was the woman who travelled to Algeria with her husband Mohamed Azzaoui and their three children last August. Their intention was to visit Azzaoui’s father, who was said to be terminally ill, and spend a family holiday in Algeria.

However that turned out not to be the case and last month Puriri and her husband, who is a boxer of some talent that was born in Algeria but has lived in New Zealand for more than a decade, were thrust into the spotlight when a story about a Kiwi diplomat’s attempted rescue hit the headlines.

The story was sensational and that quote, well, you couldn’t ask for more.

But where were the follow up stories? Apart from a story about Welton’s position being made redundant the issue didn’t seem to move forward over the past few weeks as I would normally have expected.

That was until Monday night when Maori Television screened a story on their Native Affair’s programme that finally featured Puriri and gave a bit more of an insight into the situation.

The interview with Puriri was conducted via skype and a little stunted but it was obvious that this was not a clear cut situation.  Reporter Annabelle Lee Harris also interviewed two of the Puriri’s aunties who are based in Australia and co-ordinating support for their niece.

It was clear through the interview with Puriri and her aunties that the family believed Welton’s attempt to support their whanaunga had had a negative effect on the situation.

It was also mentioned that so far the family had spent $100,000 supporting Puriri in her bid to get her children back or at the very least get to see them – they’re only babies after all and she, like most mums, believe they need their mother.

Issues around custody battles are often complex, particularly when it stretches across international borders, and I don’t pretend to be an expert in this field but the question I was left wondering is: does the New Zealand Government have a responsibility to this New Zealand uri and her children?

The fact that Welton had said she was “not leaving this building without my citizens" implied that she was working in her official capacity as a Kiwi diplomat. If this is the case then shouldn’t the question be put to the Government about their expectations of overseas deployments when acting as diplomats and what are they doing to help Puriri especially given one of their employees had made a bad situation worse.

I was therefore left wondering why was the Native Affairs programme the first time we had heard from Puriri and the family, in any depth, since the initial reporting of their situation. I mean, again, where were the follow-up stories?

I couldn’t help but wonder why a newspaper hadn’t backgrounded the story. I am old school and like to read about an issue, I enjoy feature-length articles and thought it surely was worth a backgrounder in some newspaper?  Maybe I missed it, there is a lot of media to consume out there, and would appreciate the heads-up if I have but it has been four days since Native Affairs screened the story and there are still more questions I would like to know the answers to – what about you?

If you want to follow Mihi’s journey or donate to help her out visit her webpage

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Inspiration and introduction

Kia ora,

I have been inspired to write this blog after being a regular follower and contributor of articles on Maori issues in the media.

For four years I worked as a reporter at a medium sized daily newspaper and during that time I covered the Maori Affairs round. As a Maori descendant with iwi affliations that spread across much of the motu it seemed only natural that I would have an interest in this area. It was a natural fit almost and while I acknowledge that some of the stories I wrote were contentious I always believed my role was to provide as much of the information in a fair and balanced way to those who read my stories.

Last month I resigned from my job as a reporter to explore new opportunities. This provides me with an opportunity to share my personal opinion in certain areas but I have missed writing and sharing information. I decided to start this blog after watching Close Up's story on race relations in New Zealand that aired over April 23 and 24. It was a story that left me outraged.

The By Microwave blog, named after a description of a set of experiences I faced as a junior reporter, will endeavour to look at Maori issues as they are portrayed in the media. I am known as a bit of a ranter but I have also been inspired by Morgan Godfrey and his blog Maui Street and I can only hope to somewhat emulate him. Through his blog and in his appearances on television Morgan has portrayed himself as a mostly-neutral observer that makes decisions on the information known. I hope to provide a viewpoint that will explore the media's treatment of Maori stories from an equally neutral (albeit coloured) standpoint.

My goal in this blog is to stimulate discussion around presentation of Maori stories in the media and what our expectations, as new consumers, should be.

If you haven't seen it here is a link to the debate on Close Up about issues that were raised in a story the previous night about Maori activist Wikatana Popata and his brother.

In his latest blog post Morgan said "It achieved nothing other than to provide John Ansell with a platform to parrot his flawed and offensive views on Maori and New Zealand society." I definitely had to agree with Morgan, what was your opinion about it?

Nga mihi nunui