Image: Harmony Day forum panel (from left) Erwin Cabucos, Manju Jehu, Angela Romano, Ursula Skjonnemand and Cathie Schnitzerling.

Ethnic groups need to learn how to insert themselves into the news.

That was the general consensus at the Harmony Day forum held in the Brisbane Square Library last night.

Speakers from ethnic interest groups, representatives from mainstream and alternative media and interested parties joined in a spirited discussion about the lack of news coverage given to smaller groups within Australia and what those groups can do to resolve this issue.

Angela Romano. Credit: Alban Vinevel.

Angela Romano. Credit: Alban Vinevel.

Chairperson Angela Romano, a senior lecturer at Queensland University of Technology (QUT),  is Australian born with a strong Italian heritage. She recalled the stories of her Italian immigrant parents.

“I remember growing up in the 1970s and 80s at a time when ‘wog’ was the tag given to those not of Anglo-Saxon heritage,” she said.

“But social attitudes change over time and in time the discrimination moved away from the Italian immigrants and toward the newer Asian immigrants.”

Ms Romano spoke of the media’s responsibility to report the changes in social attitudes but recognised that the media was reliant upon news that affected the wider audience.

“Journalists are wedded to their routines of fact finding,” she said.

“We need to relate the facts that will affect the majority of an audience and the facts are that the leaders of our country, the politicians and business leaders are for the most part Caucasian men.”

Cathie Schnitzerling. Credit: Alban Vinevel.

Cathie Schnitzerling. Credit: Alban Vinevel.

Network Ten News Director, Cathie Schnitzerling, agreed with the view that journalists need to relate to a wider audience.

“News has to be a two-way street,” she said.

“There is a misconception in the community about the resources that news teams have to gather news content and what makes news ‘news’.”

“News groups are lean operations, and heavily reliant upon news that is fed to them,” Ms Schnitzerling said.

“Groups who are looking for news coverage need to learn how to present a story to a journalist and understand what news is.”

Former ABC Radio journalist, Ursula Skjonnemand, now Newsrooom Coordinator for the pilot ‘CitizenJ’ citizen journalism program hosted by the State Library of Queensland spoke at length about the possibilities that ethnic and smaller groups have at their fingertips with the advent of citizen journalism and the many journalism and public relations workshops that are readily available to the community.

“I don’t believe that mainstream media omit stories from ethnic groups on purpose,” she said.

“However, often it is the case that stories from smaller communities will not resonate or affect an entire audience and will be overlooked in preference for the stories that will.”

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Erwin Cabucos. Credit: Alban Vinevel.

“The advantage of citizen journalism is that is it not beholden to commercial pressures and groups are given the opportunity to write and have their news published.”

Filipino radio personality, Erwin Cabucos, writes and produces for community radio station 4EB in Brisbane and is disappointed that ethnic groups are under represented in Australian media.

Erwin came to Australia from the Phillipines to study in 1994.   He worked briefly in the media in the Phillipines and related the difference between that country’s media where publications were often printed in two languages and Australian media where he noticed the lack of representation of ethnic communities.

“By not representing ethnic communities who make up a large proportion of the Australian population, the media is missing opportunities for sponsors and advertising,” he said.

Mr Cabucos implored ethnic leaders and groups to pitch their stories to the media and learn what the media looks for in a story.

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Manju Jehu. Credit: Alban Vinevel.

Outgoing and vibrant speaker, Manju Jehu, came to Australia 35 years ago from India with her English husband.  Ms Jehu spoke of putting a bit of spice in any news presentation put to the media.

“The wider Australian community today is like a beautiful floral bouqet,” she said.

“All of the different cultures combine to make up that bouqet.”

“Bring attention to yourself, have vision, thinking, focus but at the same time be honest with yourself.”

Editor’s note: The Harmony Day forum was an initiative of the Ethnic Communities Council of Queensland (ECCQ).

See other stories about Harmony Day 2013.

Harmony Day forum speakers (from left) Erwin Cabucos, Cathie Schnitzerling, Manju Jehu, Ursula Skjonnemand and Angela Romano. Credit: Alban Vinevel.

Harmony Day forum speakers (from left) Erwin Cabucos, Cathie Schnitzerling, Manju Jehu, Ursula Skjonnemand and Angela Romano. Credit: Alban Vinevel.

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported.

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