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Media’s Responsibilities

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Discuss the media’s responsibilities when it comes to reporting on Indigenous citizens or minority ethnic groups. Taking into account both journalism’s “fourth estate” function and its privileged position in the public sphere, consider why the issue of setting guidelines for “race reporting” is an often divisive one. Be sure to refer to the readings set for relevant topics. llustrate your discussion with references to specific cases where relevant.

Reporting on the minority ethnics groups and on the indigenous people has been an ongoing issue since ages. The whole aspect of ‘reporting the indigenous’ has been a much discussed and debatable subject. Along with the race reporting system, comes the power, role and responsibilities of the media. There are also several guidelines like the Media Entertainment Arts and Alliance, Australian Journalist’s Association and The National Union of Journalists code of ethics among others to which journalist have to ethically abide by. The indigenous people are natives that have always been in the country. They are different in culture, race and religion. They represent the minority of the ‘society’ and are fewer in numbers as compared to the major ones. They are distinguished through their way of living, dressing, talking and color. Examples of certain indigenous people are the Aborigines in Australia and the blacks in the American and African countries (Schaefer, Racial and Ethnic Groups, 1993). Journalism`s “fourth estate” function has a privileged position in the public sphere and the setting of guidelines is very often a divisive one. This statement will discuss about the responsibilities of the media when comes to report on indigenous issues and will be explained in the following paragraphs.

Media has an important responsibility when it comes to report on Indigenous issues or minority ethnic groups. This is the case because the world we live in is sensitive to racism and whenever there is a problem or big issue, the minority ethnic groups are stereotyped and at the center of attention. Whatever the media says or portrays has an impact on the people. It acts like a mirror of what is happening around. “The media play a crucial role in the way that people view the world and their place in it” (Anti-Discrimination Board of New South Wales, 2003, p 10). Hence media
should acknowledge about the impacts while reporting on multicultural issues, diversity and about the ethnic groups. Media has that power to make a difference. If the media does not assume their role of reporting accordingly it is creating bad consequences to most of all the ethnic groups. The media does not make difference to only our societal characters, securities and safety but also to the lives of many innocents people mostly female who are victims of prejudice, racial inequalities and hatred (Anti-Discrimination Board of New South Wales, 2003, p 6).

A real life example for the innocent people mostly women being victims can be the aftermath of the 9/11 attack in the United States. Following the attack, the Western Citizens started to develop ultimate towards the Muslim communities. Women were abused and their hijabs were torn away from them. They were victims of harsh violent treatment. A man of Sikh religion was also denied employment because he was assumed to be associated with terrorists (Anti-Discrimination Board of New South Wales, 2003, p 6). The Sikh was being stereotyped and denied from the job because usually the media portrays terrorist, they refer to people wearing turbans and with beards; thus the Sikh was victim of stereotyping. In the non-Western countries, the Muslim women were even raped and tortured again after the 11th September attack; enduring hell-like treatments. The media would only project the images about the riots and show very little of the everyday-routine torture of the women (Coulombe, 2008). So these were examples whereby the media failed their responsibilities of reporting on indigenous issue by being bias. Amongst all the main reasonability of the media is to be unbiased and report rather than create news. In these cases, what would have been fair enough was to think a bit about how the portrayals of the media would have had impacts on those people who were innocent.

Media reporting is also known as the ‘shaping opinion device’. When we talk about aborigines, people have the tendency to link them with petrol-sniffing, unemployment and drunkardness (Johnson, 2009). People living in Australia or anywhere else are unaware or even know little about the lives, cultures and attitudes about the aborigines in Australia. Thus media, as the ultimate power is there to shape the opinions about the people
through their provided images, symbols and messages; in a way to act the voice of the voiceless-aborigines (Johnson, 2009). People will base their opinions on what and how the media is showing and broadcasting the news. Here the news angle is a good example to talk about. The media need to know about proper story selection. They should not like portray aborigines only when they are faulty and relate to it again when another aborigine has committed a crime. This will make the rest of the world think that all aborigines are alike and they have only to do with crimes and if we see to it, people have based their perceptions. Media and its power of shaping opinions in a way socially construct images and the readers swallow those “truths” without knowing if it is the entire truth or part of it.

A further example can be that of Louis St. John case study. Louis was murdered on his 19th birthday while returning home. He was beaten, kicked and finally run over by car by some ‘racist white guys’. When the ambulance came they said he was fine and just drunk. Following his severe injuries Louis died few hours later (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2003). According to Mickler the media was not really interested how he died and who were the culprits. For them what mattered was that a black died and black people are usually lousy, savage and thieves. They stereotyped Louis as being the savage black and being treated as rubbish and whose disappearance was a benefit to the country. “The choice of words may lead us to recognise certain things as symbols which we may then invest with a life and meaning of their own” (Anti-Discrimination Board of New South Wales, 2003, p 6). This quotation is true and applies in this case because soon after the death of Louis, the media people treated him as ‘rubbish’ and the use of words by the radio commenters “I say good riddance to bad rubbish, that’s three less car thieves, I think, they’re dead and I think that’s good.” (Sattler, 1990); shows how they unethical they were. Their statement has definitely portrayed that Louis`s death was good thing to the country. But Mickler raises questions like how the minority people will treat them and how journalists are doing to deal with it because it is the media that shapes the public attitudes towards justice, crime or even injustice. The challenges that journalists face while reporting on indigenous issues are on-going. People`s perception about the aborigines are based on how they are
being reported and this will definitely impact the readers and have bad consequences for the aborigines (Mickler, 1997).

Journalists have an important role in the public sector. Journalism`s “fourth estate” has a privileged position in the public sector and the issue of setting guidelines on race/indigenous reporting very often is a divisive one. It is known as the ‘public press’ whereby there is the collaboration of reporters, the radio people, television broadcaster, photographers amongst all. The term ‘fourth state’ started to get famous when people started to agree and believe on the fact that it had great social and political powers. The term was first used in 1828 by Macalauy to oppose the press of the Lords but now it is used to contradict the press of the Legislatives and Government (Stockwell, 2004). Nonetheless, the central role of journalism is to ensure for accountability and thus its role of watchdog is justified towards the political institutions and social methods/processes created by the institutions (Stockwell 2004, p 3-4). Journalists are benefited through the ‘Fourth State’ theory. They can be included in the political process but at the same time outside the governance institutions; Likewise they way be ensuring that the citizens are informed about their choices rather than misinformed and secondly those given information are referred as the cross-checking functions which is portraying whether the elected candidate has lived up to the expectations of the people. This way it can be said that the journalists have a certain power in this context; not the governance sort of power known as the hard power but instead the ‘soft power’ which means to success in the world of politics (Stockwell 2004, p 3-4). On the other hand, there is one main issue related to the journalism`s ‘fourth state’ theory is that the public no longer find interest in the traditional journalism and they do not find it as important as they used to consider it to be years back; moreover the current affair matters are coming down the rating ladder (Stockwell 2004, p 3-4).

The issue of setting guidelines for ‘race reporting’ is often a divisive one when we take into consideration the prestigious position of journalism in the public sphere. The golden question of why will it be divisive it is because not everyone will commit to the guidelines and at many points there
will be some people for and some people against. The Special Broadcasting Service in Australia had introduced guidelines in regards to journalists reporting on racial issues. But when those guidelines were not just enough, they came with codes of conducts about aboriginal issues that journalists and broadcasters had to follow (Barry, 2008). When a journalist was getting involved in the Aboriginal Community, there were certain conditions like respecting privacy, carrying proofs of their occupations, attending diverse cultural seminars and reporting to the police, associated with those codes of conducts (Barry, 2008). Australian journalist Toohey was against some of the codes and even criticised them. He argued that the seminars would be futile since journalists will still not treat human in the ‘proper way’ when reporting and reporting to the police will undermine them. On the other hand, other critics claim those codes of conducts to be doable and justifiable and that the ‘reporting to police’ issue can be negotiated (Barry, 2008). This is just an example how setting the guidelines is divisive.

Even the Australian Journalist’s Association code of ethics has undergone great scrutiny. Meadows referring of the AJA code that is, “A journalist shall not originate material which encourages discrimination on the grounds of race, color, creed, gender or sexual orientation” (Meadows, 1988, p. 8) tell us that the news should not contain any such message or picture that is directly or indirectly degrading and belittling the minorities. According to Meadows, certain complainants think that the outcome of certain or all cases are more or less in the end and because of those complainants the Council has low rates of success. The National Union of Journalists guidelines, states that journalists at no cost will provide materials that will cause racial discriminations in any way (Meadows, 1988, p.8). The media as a whole shows it understandings towards the word ‘race’ and its impacts but the end they should also be ready to face the aftermaths of the powers they send forth (Meadows, 1998, p.4). These proofs have shown how guidelines are not adequate and enough and are only baby-steps to journalism students in this domain (Meadows, 1988, p.8).

To conclude, we can say that. Media in itself is not the only proper source
to learn about the indigenous people because the ideas have been carefully worked and sorted out (Meadows, 1998 p.4). Thus media has a great responsibility when it comes to report on indigenous and minority people because anything they say will have impact on the public and the concerned people. They should ask themselves golden questions like why are they going to report on them on how. Journalist/Media should have a balance in their news stories.it is their job to find and represent the different indigenous point of view and act like a catalyst meant for positive changes by giving proper explanation of what is happening and why. Failing to acknowledge those responsibilities when it comes to reporting on indigenous issues, will furthermore aggravate the situation of stereotyping, racial discriminations and hatred among people.

Reference list:

Anti-Discrimination Board of New South Wales. (2003), Race for headlines: Racism and Media discourse. Executive summary, pp. 1-6. Retrieved from http://pandora.nla.gov.au/pan/39681/20040106-0000/chapter1.pdf

Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2003. ARCHIE ROACH, Episode 20. Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/dimensions/dimensions_people/Transcripts/s881947.htm

Barry, D. (2008). Toochey returns Walkley in protest at permit system changes. Retrieved from http://nebuchadnezzarwoollyd.blogspot.com/2008/03/toohey-returns-walkley-in-protest-at.html

Coulombe, C. (2008). Representations of Muslim Women and Men in the Media. Retrieved from http://www.media-studies.ca/globalmedia3/coulombe/muslim.htm

Johnson, H. (2009). Which Way is Right? Media Power & Indigenous Australians. Retrieved from http://thecommunicationexperts.blogspot.com/2009/08/which-way-is-right-media-power.html

Meadows, M., 1988, “Getting the right message across,” AJR, Vol. 10, pp. 140-153

Media Watch 2000. Stories in 2000.Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/s108354.htm

Mickler,S. “Talkback Radio and Indegenous Citizens: Towards a practical Ethics of Representation:, The UTS Review, 3.2, 1997, pp.46-66.

Stockwell, S. (2004). Reconsidering the Fourth Estate: The functions of Infotainment. Retrieved from www.adelaide.edu.au/apsa/docs_papers/Others/Stockwell.pdf

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