Pacific Media Centre Pacific Media Watch Pacific Journalism Review Pacific Scoop

Why the where matters: A sense of place imperative for teaching better Indigenous affairs reporting

Volume 21, Issue 2

October, 2015

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Thomson, Chris., Bennett, Dawn., Johnston, Michelle., & Mason, Bonita. (2015). Why the where matters: A sense of place imperative for teaching better Indigenous affairs reporting. Pacific Journalism Review, 21(2): 141-161.
Author(s): Dawn Bennett, Michelle Johnston, Bonita Mason, Chris Thomson
Publication date: 
October, 2015

Much Indigenous affairs journalism in the Western Australian state capital of Perth reproduces colonial discourse and perpetuates racist stereotypes of Aboriginal people. Against this background the traditional custodians of Perth, the Noongar people, have struggled to find a media voice. Meanwhile, observers in several countries have critiqued a shift from journalism about specific places toward journalism concerned with no place in particular. Spurred by globalisation, this shift has de-emphasised the ‘where?’ question in the ‘what, where, who, why, how and when?’ template of journalistic investigation. Reporting from a project in which journalism students collaborated with Noongar community organisations, we argue that an understanding of Indigenous Australians’ profound connection to place can inform journalists about the underlying character of places about which they report. We suggest that working with Indigenous people can transform the way journalists conceptualise their careers, and help secure a sense of place for Indigenous people in the media. Finally, collaborating with Indigenous people can teach journalists to view their professional practices through a sense of place lens, re-emphasising the ‘where?’ question in its application to both geographic place and the realm of a journalist’s imagination.