‘Different Standards’: The Struggle of Indigenous Journalists in Australia


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This week, I wrote about the conversation about race and racism in the Australian media industry that had been set off by the announcement from Stan Grant that he would step back from his television hosting duties. Mr. Grant, one of Australia’s most high-profile journalists, said that he and his family had received “relentless” racial abuse after he spoke about colonial-era violence as part of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s coverage of the coronation of King Charles III.

I spoke to Narelda Jacobs, who hosts Network 10’s midday news program, about her experience as a Noongar woman who has worked in media for two decades, the extra challenges and burdens Indigenous journalists face, and how she hoped Mr. Grant’s departure would be a “watershed moment” for the industry.

What she said stuck with me, so I thought I’d include some of her remarks that didn’t make it into the article. (Quotes have been edited for length and clarity).

On the heavy price Indigenous journalists pay for challenging mainstream perspectives

The king’s coronation is really a perfect example. Craig Foster said similar things as Stan, and yet people didn’t come after him in the same way. There are different standards that apply for First Nations people.

The media in Australia has been unbalanced throughout history. And this goes to anyone who is providing a balanced view in an industry that has never been balanced: people come after you. And that’s exactly what happened to Stan. He was trying to be the balance and then he got attacked for it for.

When you start out, you have to toe the line. You have to do what you’re told. It’s only when you are in Stan’s position that you can say no. But then, you do it, but at what cost? Because you speak your truth to power, but then you sit back and wait to see whether you’re going to be public enemy No. 1.

On why conversations around race and colonialism are so fraught in Australia

The really hard truth is that for a lot of intergenerationally wealthy families, the wealth began because the land was stolen. That’s a really difficult thing for people to confront. It’s much easier to believe in the romanticized view of colonialism in Australia.

Australians kind of have this view of Australia as being a really fair country, like everybody can walk into a hospital and be treated. But for First Nations people, we’ve seen coronial inquiries where people are turned away from emergency with Panadol and they go home to die, or people die in custody that shouldn’t have even been there.

On being an Indigenous journalist and the constant worry that your words won’t be interpreted in good faith

Every conversation does come with a cultural load because you don’t know how it’s going to be perceived. Perception is dictated by the caption that goes with the story, the headline that goes with the story. And they’re often the only things that people will read, they won’t read the body of the story. So that’s the risk, that you’ll be taken out of context, your words will be skewed.

You make these comments for the greater good because you want the country to be better and to try to progress and actually, just to keep in line with the rest of the world — but it takes a huge toll. And you just have to be fit and ready for the fight. But at what cost? I guess the question is always: At what cost?

On the role of the media in fanning the flames

I think that’s what’s at the heart of the problem, what sets the trolls off: It’s the opinions that they’ve read about what’s happened, a lot of the time. They don’t listen to the original thing that Stan, or someone else, has said. They don’t see it in context.

It’s for Australians to stand up and say, I don’t want to read this garbage. And it’s for people like Stan to stand up and say, ‘We’ve got a problem in this country, in the media,’ and recognize that ‘I might have been a part of it, I need to step back.’ We all need to have a good hard look at ourselves.

Now for this week’s stories:

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