Talking About Ourselves: 

New Zealand's changing face and the role of our media 

Over the years some New Zealanders have regularly told us of their concerns with the way some media reports portray them and their communities. We didn’t have to look far to find examples of what their concerns are, for example:

“Sparkly eyed and wily with a cynical …” - Taranaki Daily News editorial describes Te Atiawa tribal leaders charged with negotiating the settlement of their people’s historical grievances with the New Zealand

“Maori dislike Asian immigrants more than any other group of New Zealanders …” - The only “Asian immigrant” the Sunday Star Times interviews in this item is a woman “who gained fame” after having an affair with the Mayor of Auckland

"Jihad will start from here" - The summary of facts had been presented before, but the only new development was a man’s charges had been reduced in court but the headline didn’t reflect this and repeated claims from earlier appearances.

The media plays an influential role in how we understand or misunderstand each other and it’s a role that’s been magnified in recent years with the growth of the internet as well as New Zealand’s rapidly changing demographic.

New Zealand is fast becoming one of the most ethnically diverse nation on earth, how we talk about ourselves is important and worth talking about. Internationally, more countries are monitoring the way their media report on race so we decided to look at the way race is reported on in our media and we invite New Zealanders to have a look and to make their own minds up.

Last year we engaged media monitoring company Mediamine to collate and analyse news reports about race relations based on our existing daily media monitoring criteria. Our aim is not to limit media freedom, we want to start an open conversation about balance, fairness, social responsibility and quality in reporting.

Talking About Ourselves is about encouraging dialogue, to get people talking – about how we talk about ourselves. Neither exhaustive nor pejorative, this is not an academic thesis or a panacea for race relations: it is a starting point for conversations we believe New Zealanders need to have.

As well as the traditional media we also monitor popular blogs with large readership levels. Using a variety of keywords Talking About Ourselves captured hundreds of items across the year.

Overall we are doing a good job - but we can do better. Ensuring communities are included in stories that are about them is one way we think the Human Rights Commission can help. Failing to include the people being written about in articles often dehumanises minorities into faceless problems to be solved.

This year we will launch a page on our website that will contain up to date information on how to contact representatives and spokespeople from various communities. The pressure on journalists in today's 24/7 news cycle is growing and we hope this directory will be of help.

View the 'Talking About Ourselves' media analysis