Locating Ourselves: An analysis and theoretical account of strategic practices of identity and connection in Aotearoa/New Zealand’s Pacific news media
Thesis DisciplineMedia and Communication
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This thesis sets out to explore the under-researched field of New Zealand’s Pacific media to yield insights into Pacific media and audiences, and what makes media ‘ethnic’. It draws on theories about identity, practice and the audience, and a qualitative multi-method approach grounded in Pacific people’s actual voices and practices. It breaks new ground on Pacific media, which have not been studied in such depth or from a broad audience perspective, and reveals that Pacific media are highly diverse and face considerable challenges, including a significant demographic shift among their intended audiences. It adds to the scholarship on ethnic media, first, by revealing tensions within Pacific media practice (including a tension between Pacific and journalistic fields), which helps to problematise scholarly assumptions about ethnic media, and, second, by suggesting a model of Pacific media as a media of identity negotiation. It finds that Pacific media are powerful symbolic referents of Pacific identity and key sites where producers and audiences negotiate community and belonging through various locative practices, often in ways that establish tighter connections than in mainstream media. This is notwithstanding that the range of ‘Pacific’ identities represented in Pacific media can be narrow and risk excluding New Zealand-born Pacific youth.
This study further suggests that societal-wide ideas of journalism and publicness are more central to Pacific audiences’ assessments of Pacific media than may have been accounted for to date. Pacific groups are positioned narrowly in New Zealand publicness, including by funders’ whose focus on Pacific media in terms of ethnicity and culture tends to overlook audiences’ demand for in-depth news, innovation and diverse content. This study concludes that viewing ethnic media within categories of ethnicity or culture (as do funders, scholars and, often, media producers) risks exaggerating the ‘otherness’ of ethnic minority groups. Instead, we need to reorient our efforts to categorise ethnic media away from a fixation on difference and towards people’s actual media practices to better reflect people’s multiple and complex realities.