Kia hiwa rā! The Influence of Tikanga and the Language Revitalisation Agenda on the Practices and Perspectives of Māori Journalists Working in Reo-Māori News
Many aspects of Māori society, both public and private, are structured and influenced by tikanga, a system of values, beliefs, rituals, obligations and cultural practices developed and reinforced through intergenerational transmission and social validation (Mead, 2003). Tikanga – which we can describe as Māori ways of seeing, being and doing – shapes the outlook of Māori working as news and current affairs journalists in te reo Māori, who, like indigenous journalists in colonised countries elsewhere, have adapted the Anglo-American journalism tradition to reflect indigenous perspectives (Grixti, 2011; Hanusch, 2014). However, there is limited evidence on the ways in which tikanga manifests in journalistic practice and output.
In addition, Māori journalism is funded as a vehicle for language revitalisation under a national strategy to rejuvenate and protect te reo. This strategy views reo-Māori news as an important component of the languagescape, and requires journalists to broadcast stories that are 70-100% in te reo. This presents a challenge for reporters when just 10.6% of the Māori population, or some 50,000 people, speak te reo “very well or “well”, but many more are learning (Statistics New Zealand, 2014, p. 8).
This study, which combines video ethnography with semi-structured qualitative interviews and document analysis, examines the interplay of newswork, tikanga and the language revitalisation agenda to explicate what Māori journalism is. It is novel, ethnographic, qualitative insider research rooted in a Kaupapa Māori paradigm (Cram, 2001; L. T. Smith, 2012; Walker, Eketone, & Gibbs, 2006). Analytical approaches were drawn from thematic and textual analysis, critical discourse studies, conversation analysis and non-verbal analysis.
The findings are that tikanga, newswork and the language revitalisation agenda are indelibly entwined. Tikanga forms an important part of these journalists’ toolkits for life, and they carry cultural practices into their professional lives as much as they are able, particularly in spaces where tikanga governs practical and spiritual activities. Given the necessity to maintain relationships in an interrelated community, manaakitanga, or care and concern for others, and whanaungatanga, or building and maintaining relationships, appear to have the most wide-reaching influence. Language and tikanga go hand-in-hand, and this study details the extent to which journalists weave aspects of Māori oral culture, such as oratory, proverbs and figures of speech, into their newswork.
However, the time-bound, output-oriented nature of news and the human-centred, process-oriented nature of Māori life exist in tension at times; journalists may find themselves making compromises between what they would normally do as Māori and what they have to do as journalists, producing cognitive dissonance (Festinger, 1957). Journalists often feel the need to take personal responsibility for assuaging this dissonance, often through incantations called karakia.
Tension also arises between the need to find a balance between quality information to serve journalism and quality language to help meet revitalisation goals. Journalists are realistic about the quality of language they are able to secure, and often help interviewees to use what reo they have. They prioritise the conveying of information over linguistic perfection, presenting te reo as living language in which to discuss everyday subjects.