Around the 14th of July, I lodged a complaint with A Current Affair about a story they did about a New Zealander convicted of crimes who was not able to be deported from Australia. The story featured [in my view as a journalist and as a someone who has studied media representation] bigoted language and a barely veiled call for a return to the “White Australia” policy.
Today, I received a response from Grant Williams, ACA’s executive producer.
Some highlights and my responses:
My original complaint: I made mention of the fact that the report specifically described Joseph Williams’s [the subject of the story] ethnicity.
Williams: “We do not believe a single mention of the word “Maori” was offensive. The term was used when we were talking about being a father-not a convicted criminal. The story did not make an issue of it, only mentioned it in passing, and focused on his criminal past rather than his ethnicity.”
My response: The entire story was supposedly about Wiliams’s criminality, therefore the mentioning of his ethnicity is in that context ultimately. Was it necessary to describe him as a “Maori”father rather as just a father? The choice to do so is, in my view, inflammatory.
My original complaint: An English couple was interviewed as an example of people being “wrongfully deported” while Williams was not being deported.
Williams: “No else who contacted A Current Affair filled this description [of being deported due to the changes in visa] and at no stage during our conversation with visa agencies about our search for immigrants with visa problems, were race and ethnic background mentioned.”
My response: I truly find it hard to believe that no one–especially from Standards & Practices–ever thought that it might appear heavily biased that you are juxtaposing an immigration story of a non-white criminal with one of white English immigrants being deported. It truly reads not as a “fair go,” but in harking back to the White Australia policy days.
Personally, I find that ACA failed miserably, and Williams though apologetic that I was offended, failed to comprehend the reasons why I was offended.