Nanaia Mahuta, as the Minister of Māori Development, has set in motion a review of the Māori media. The review, called “Māori Media Sector Shift”, is being led by Te Puni Kokiri.
Nanaia’s move brings an opportunity to analyse the achievements and blunders over the last 30 or so years — and to come up with practical plans to see that the Māori voices in the media become much stronger, more comprehensible, more influential, and more accessible.
To help out TPK — an organisation that hasn’t previously shown much grasp of the realities of the Māori radio, television, print, or online worlds — we decided to seek out the views of Māori broadcasters, journalists, and commentators who have a good idea about what’s working and what’s not. We’ll be publishing those views over the next few weeks.
Here’s Wellington writer and commentator Morgan Godfery.
I reckon that, off the top of your head, you could name half a dozen Māori journalists. Tini Molyneux. Scotty Morrison. Dale Husband. Mihi Forbes. Annabelle Lee. Maiki Sherman.
But could you name another six — this time, Māori print journalists?
Karla Akuhata, the ex-Waikato Times reporter, is one, and former Herald reporter Yvonne Tahana is another. Aaron Smale is still breaking news and filing the country’s best features. Donna-Lee Biddle and Te Ahua Maitland are up-and-comers. Leonie Hayden is holding the fort at The Spinoff’s Atea.
That’s six. Phew. I admit, though, that it took a Google search and Leonie’s piece on the same subject to name more than four.
Where are our Māori print journalists?
In the journalism category at the Ngā Kupu Ora Awards: Celebrating Māori Books and Journalism, the six nominees are broadcast journalists. In the “Māori Affairs” category at the Voyager Media Awards, four of the five nominees were broadcast journalists, too.
Our broadcast journalists are some of the country’s best — Maiki Sherman and Yvonne Tahana are standouts on One News — but why are there so few working in print journalism?
In part, definitions. If we count Shannon Haunui-Thompson, Leigh-Marama McLachlan, John Boynton, Meriana Johnsen, Te Aniwa Hurihanganui, and Eden More — journalists producing broadcast content and print content for RNZ’s website — our numbers are beginning to look a little better. Māori TV usually transcribe their broadcast content from Te Kaea and upload it to the website, so maybe we can double count Semi Holland’s team as broadcast journalists and print journalists, too. From here, our numbers are looking good.
But this is creative accounting. The core problem, beyond different definitions of what constitutes a print journalist, is funding. There’s money and infrastructure to support Māori broadcast journalism — from Te Māngai Pāho to Māori TV — but no corresponding fund for Māori print journalism. Our Māori print journalists like Donna-Lee Biddle and Leonie Hayden work for mainstream organisations (Stuff and The Spinoff respectively).
We’re in the danger zone if Māori print journalism relies on mainstream organisations for its survival (and let’s be honest — it does).
The reasons behind this discrepancy are unclear. Activists, thinkers, and journalists fought for the money and infrastructure to support Māori journalism, but why did that money end up almost exclusively supporting broadcast journalism?
Print journalism is just as worthy, and Māori print journalists prove their worth year in and year out. Aaron Smale broke the story of families living in cars in a feature story for the old Mana magazine. Donna-Lee Biddle was a finalist in several categories at the Voyager Media Awards, footing it with this country’s very best.
But the funding should reflect this talent, worth, and their contribution to a better-read and better-informed Māori world. The government’s review into Māori media should take note.
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