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Tricky Territory – Indigenous reporting from the blogosphere

(Picture: TheCreativePenn Source: Flickr)

By Alex Burgess

Rock bottom reporting anyone?

Julia Winterflood’s recent reflection on music festival The Other Side of the Rock is a pretty good example.

The article was first published on her blog and then picked up by Crikey. It demonstrates both the need for insight and sensitivity when reporting on indigenous issues, and the difference between bloggers and journalists.

The Other Side of the Rock music festival was held near the tiny community of Mitijulu on Saturday 6 October, close the Uluru in Central Australia to celebrate 30 years of the song Solid Rock.

Winterflood writes in her review that she’s shocked by the “sea of white faces” she finds. So shocked, in fact, that she feels “strange and sick”.

(Source: screen shot, shanehoward.com.au)

Poor girl! She was hoping for an Authentic Aboriginal Experience -one where she would get to be the lone white person – unusual in her cross-cultural adventurousness, soaking up the ancient wisdom of the land.

“It looked like every other festival I’d been to,” she grieves.

Bummer, dude.

Winterflood “couldn’t see any Aboriginal people anywhere”, and this leads her to assume the local people have been ignored and muscled out by the whitfellas.

She’s since realised the error of her ways. After receiving a number of phone-calls from upset organisers and negative comments, she posted an apology on her blog.

(Source: screen shot of Twitter)

Winterfllood was embarking on tricky territory: indigenous reporting is a sentitive area. But not only was her article lacking in sensitivity, it was lacking basic journalistic enquiry.

She didn’t speak to anyone in depth – no locals, no organisers – she just made assumptions. Winterflood felt bad about all the white people, so she assumed the locals must feel bad about all the white people too – an condescending approach.

And anyway, Mitijulu has a population of 296. Regardless of whether or not they feel like showing up, this is going to be a minority in a crowd of 2000.

Crikey’s use of the article is highlights the difficulties we face in the online world in trying to maintain quality journalism.

Winterflood’s misrepresentations were unintentional and she’s obviously genuinely upset to have caused insult. But should the blog post have made it to Crikey in the first place? Probably not, but the current media climate – all cost cutting and content hungry – means that this kind of ‘reporting’ will find its way to larger audiences more and more often.

Blogging is fine (blogging ins great!), but we should only treat bloggers like journalists when they report like journalists.

Posted under: Uncategorized
Dated: Oct 12 2012

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