Ownership change sees Stuff tackle its own racist reporting

An investigation into how New Zealand publisher Stuff portrayed Māori throughout its history has led to a report and public apology.

The report - published last month - has been accompanied by a video in which editorial director Mark Stevens explained the findings and what Stuff - the privately-owned business formerly Fairfax Media NZ - was doing about it.

A team of 20 Stuff journalists investigated coverage over 160 years, and concluded its coverage had contributed to stigmas, marginalisation and stereotypes.

Stevens and Pou Tiaki editor Carmen Parahi led the report, published as Tā Mātou Pono | Our Truth.

Parahi says she found it difficult that the findings reflect on her as well, as a reporter and Māori woman. "One of the reasons for doing this is so my kids don't have to carry the pain we, as Māori, have carried for so long because of the way we've been portrayed in the media over three centuries," she said. "This day of reckoning is a long time coming and the beginning of better representation in our reporting of all people in Aotearoa New Zealand."

An apology - as a long editorial published on all Stuff channels - was accompanied by an acknowledgement in which Stevens said its journalism had not served all cultures fairly, and outlined changes which would be made.

"Our coverage of Māori issues over the last 160 years ranged from racist to blinkered," he said. "Seldom was it fair or balanced in terms of representing Māori.

"We are sorry. But apologies are hollow without a commitment to do better in the future. The distance left to travel on our journey includes ongoing consultation and engagement, ensuring our journalism is for all New Zealanders and trying to repair our relationship with Māori. That will take time and effort, and from time to time we might stumble. We will, though, continue to hold ourselves to account."

In a new charter, chief executive Sinead Boucher - who acquired the company from Nine Entertainment in May for NZ$1 - commits to following the principles and guidelines of the Treaty of Waitangi, created in 1840 to protect Māori culture.

"When the ownership of Stuff changed earlier this year, we had the chance to reset and reposition the business," she said. "Our people advocated for the Treaty principles of partnership, participation, and protection to be embedded into our new strategy.

"I felt strongly they should be widely adopted into the ethics and practice of our business alongside the principles of equity and editorial independence."

She says the Stuff charter sets down a pou tiaki (guard post) to guard against inequity in its reporting and business practices in the future.

"Our wish is to be a trusted partner for tangata whenua (people of the land) for generations to come."

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