Mana Taurite: How an Indigenous news approach can help shift newsrooms from Eurocentric to equitable

Carmen Parahi, journalist, news media specialist, equity champion
8th May 2024
13:00 - 14:00

The speaker 

Carmen Parahi’s expertise and passion lie in multimedia, Indigenous and equitable storytelling. Parahi is a multi-award-winning journalist, editor and news executive from New Zealand. She has worked in print, television and digital newsrooms since 2001. In 2020, Parahi created and led the Pou Tiaki (guard post) strategy at Stuff Group in New Zealand, focused on achieving fair and equitable representation of Māori and all marginalised communities.

Her extensive work includes the increased use of reo Māori, the Māori language, across the business from lessons to dual masthead names. She recently introduced the world’s first news AI reo Māori translation tool with Straker and Microsoft. Over two years, Parahi led academics, community leaders and a production team to create Te Matarau, an animated online program to help Stuff staff use a multi-lens approach in their everyday work. Parahi also helped lead Stuff’s successful campaign to make Matariki the first Māori public holiday. She was also part of the team behind the historic Tā Mātou Pono apology from Stuff to Māori for how they had been represented since the mid-1800s. It is still the only national media apology to be offered to Indigenous people in the world. She has just started working with Te Amokura, a Māori-focused consultancy business, as a media specialist on Indigenous national and international projects.

The video

Five takeaways from the talk and discussion: 

1. Media worldwide often operates with a Eurocentric lens. “The Eurocentric lens is the worldview dominating global media, including us. Why is that? Well, [the media as an institution] started in Western Europe, hundreds of years ago. And from there it has developed, but what it means is that, even in non-European and non-colonised countries, newsrooms continue to use Western principles to define our news,” Parahi explained. This perpetuates discrimination against marginalised communities. “When you have a Eurocentric lens and that is the only lens that is applied to content, people, and the organisation itself, discrimination is present,” she said. 

2. Journalists should work to improve the representation of Indigenous communities in their outlets. Parahi encouraged Indigenous journalists to apply their own worldview to news: “I'd really love for more of our Indigenous and marginalised communities to develop their news products and their own ways of telling stories that take the best of Eurocentric monocultural news and apply it and put an Indigenous lens over it as well.”

However, Parahi stressed the importance of getting the whole news organisation involved to create a real change. “Everyone needs to understand their history and to work to improve the representation of Indigenous marginalised communities. Every single person from the receptionist to the CEO to the board member and the owner: they all need to do this. Because if you rely on one or two people and if you rely on the people of colour or the Indigenous people in your newsrooms, you will fail to change and you will fail your own people as well as those communities,” Parahi said.

3. The cultural safety of newsrooms should be addressed. “Cultural safety is the critical awareness of the role, organisation, culture, power dynamics, how it impacts others and how your organisation externally addresses discrimination. A culturally unsafe newsroom is Eurocentric, monocultural; it has discrimination, systemic, structural and or individual colonialism, power imbalance, fragility, centres the majority and microaggressions … misinformation, ignorance, lack of context, tokenism,” Parahi said, adding “you can create culturally safe newsrooms, it's using this multi-lens approach.” Cultural safety is important for creating a fair and equitable work environment for all employees and building relationships and community partnerships. “The beauty of a culturally safe newsroom is the innovation that can come,” she said. 

4. Marginalised communities should be listened to. While thinking about media representation and balance, establishing a dialogue with marginalised communities is key. “Indigenous and marginalised communities know what they need. It is up to the organisations to go and talk to them and find out what they need,” Parahi said.

5. The entire organisation should be responsible for creating sustainable change. “Everyone is expected to improve representation, not just the journalists. Too often, we just put it on the individual journalists, when in fact everyone needs to shift their thinking, and they need to be taught to put on different lenses,” Parahi said. Structural changes are necessary to ensure that the organisation won’t regress in time, or if some journalists leave it.

The bottom line

Carmen Parahi made the argument for every news organisation across the world to think deeply about the way they go about their work. A monocultural, Eurocentric newsroom culture is all too common, having become the standard through centuries of colonisation and European influence around the world. This leads to discrimination directed both within and outside of newsrooms, as well as poor relationships between the media and marginalised communities, she said. For real, lasting change to occur, the whole news organisation needs to get involved, listening and learning from marginalised communities, and taking steps to improve its cultural safety and representation.

If you want to know more:

Read an automated transcript.
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