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Dunedin scoops first Diversity Award

Sep 1st, 2008 | By | Category: Latest News, News

SOUTH Island reporters chose not to attend the last diversity forum in New Zealand, because they felt they had no diversity to report – a year on and the Dunedin Star was top of the bunch.

The inaugural New Zealand Excellence in Reporting Diversity awards were judged today in Wellington and the Star’s Catherine Wellington took top prize for a piece about racism in the city titled Shame on You, Dunedin, and her subsequent work on a special edition about ethnicity.

Work done by the Star team – headed by editor Helen Speirs – covering racial tension, racial disparites and hate crimes was really important, says Associate Dean Arlene Morgan of Columbia Graduate Journalism School, New York, who chaired the judging panel.

“It took guts to do that.

“When I was here last year for the NZ Journalists Training Organisation diversity forum, no one in the south came, and they said there wasn’t any diversity there so why do we need to come?”

Things must have changed rapidly in the deep south, with the Star running an A to Z of immigrants contributing within the city.

“The Star was remarkable,” says Mrs Morgan. “It reminded me of what the San Jose Mercury News did in the early 90s”.

During a dramatic change to the ethnic landscape of San Jose in California, the newspaper did an in-depth weekly profile of each emerging community, and like the Dunedin Star, “they used their paper as a vehicle in which to explain change”.

Other winners were Melissa Davies from TV3 and Justin Latif of the Western Leader in Auckland.

Mrs Morgan directs the annual Let’s Do It Better workshop on Journalism, Race and Ethnicity at Columbia University, the home of the prestigious Pulitzer prize for journalism.

Commenting on the 12 finalists for the NZ awards, Mrs Morgan reckons they were a pretty good starting point. But for a country as ethnically diverse as New Zealand, we still have a way to go.

“What you’re striving for is to have people [of different ethnic backgounds] included in every story, not just niche stories.”

She was pleased with the journalists collecting and telling the stories, but the underlying theme from most of the 12 finalists who presented today was they had to battle to get their stories into the media. Mrs Morgan was well aware of these challenges, as they had come up in America.

“Serious change has to come from the top. I definitely would like to see the editors come [to the awards next year] because they do have the power to say yes or no to the story.”

She talked of reporting diversity as an issue of social obligation, but also as way to increase readership for the future.

“They [editors] have to see it not only as an imperative to do good journalism. They have to see it as a business imperative. Although new immigrants may not read mainstream newspapers today, when their children grow up they will.

“By ignoring certain populations and not telling their stories, you’re just not doing your job, because we are one society no matter where you came from”

David Vaefe of the Pacific Cooperation Foundation said that “in a country less than 1000 years old, we are all immigrants, and we all have similar stories to tell”.

First prize was $5000 to fund an opportunity to travel and report in Asia, put up by  the Asia New Zealand Foundation. In a surprise twist, the two runners-up were given the same opportunity to work and learn in the Pacific, thanks to the Pacific Cooperation Foundation.

PICTURE: From left: Queenie Rikihana, Justin Latif, Arlene Morgan, Helen Speirs, Melissa Davies, Joris de Bres and David Vaeafe.

FILES: Catherine Wellington’s winning articles (10M PDF file).


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  1. Would love to read the original article but can’t find it anywhere. Link please!

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