ICE blogs

October 14, 2009

Challenging misrepresentation of indigenous people

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines — news_editor @ 5:24 pm

Valerie Alia is one of a number of academics challenging the misrepresentation of indigenous people in a New Yorker article on 21 April 2008. Here is the opening of her article which appears on the website.

Much has been written about the questionable research, writing, and presentation of indigenous people in Papua New Guinea (PNG) in Jared Diamond’s New Yorker article, Vengeance is ours: What can tribal societies tell us about our need to get even? I would like to place the article and discussion of it in a more general context of media ethics and media coverage of indigenous people. Moreover, I would like to consider it in the context of the important work that indigenous people around the world are doing, to tell more accurate stories - in their own voices - and to create their own media outlets and networks.

I wish I could say that Jared Diamond’s article is unique. Sadly, it is not. During thirty years of research on media ethics and identity, and experience working with / learning from indigenous people in several countries and regions, I have seen countless examples of misrepresentation, inaccuracy, sensationalism, cavalier treatment of individuals and communities, and general disregard for the effects of careless journalism on the people who are portrayed. I have learned to expect this from the tabloid press and its broadcast equivalents. I did not expect to find it in the pages of The New Yorker.

Where a situation is volatile and people are vulnerable, inaccuracies can be lethal. Without sufficient context, a media portrayal can invite or encourage stereotyping and misunderstanding, and inflame hate speech and conflict. This is particularly evident with respect to indigenous people.

1 Comment »

  1. Wow, that’s incredible. So far I had taken the BBC for one of the most lrbialee news source.Now I wonder why did they do that? What interest in manipulating this talk? What the President had said in his speech was clear enough and no controversial at all!Not that it’d have been acceptable the other way though but that’s really stupid.

    Comment by Shivaji — April 15, 2012 @ 4:38 am

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