Reporting Diversity
Curriculum Modules

Curriculum Module Four

The Scenario and Study materials

Overview

Open conflict between different groups within a community will always draw the attention of the media because it brings together issues of law and order with issues of social cohesion. When the conflict is between groups formed around religious beliefs or ethnicity, it takes on another, more serious dimension. The “Cronulla Riots” of December 2005 took on a special significance because the fighting was not between “surfies” and “westies”, as has happened for decades, but between “Aussies” and “Lebs”.

In this scenario, violence has erupted between supporters of rival football teams. In this society, passionate support of a sporting team is highly valued as a trait of “sport-mad” Australians. However, because the teams are organised around the ethnic background of the players, the violence becomes representative of something else.

Once the ethnicity of the protagonists in a conflict becomes part of the story, the journalist must choose a careful path between reporting racist behaviour and fuelling the negative stereotyping that supports racism. The journalist must also assess the community’s position on violence as a way of responding to conflict, which is usually frowned upon in the Australian media as “un-Australian”. Letters to the Editor published following the Cronulla Riots often referred to the violence as “un-Australian”.

Scenarios such as this one raise important questions about what it is to “Australian” and “un-Australian” in a multicultural society. These terms are used emotively to describe a range of behaviours, depending on the circumstances and usually relate to value systems. But what makes someone an “Australian” – a passport or a birth certificate or either?

Also underpinning this scenario are important questions about how multiculturalism works in Australia and whether “integration” requires people to disassociate from their ethnic backgrounds. Such a view does not allow for nationalism around an ethnic heritage, and yet the term multiculturalism suggests otherwise.
A journalist might also consider the role played by the media in mediating or inflaming the disputes that arise in ethnic communities from time to time.

Some of the deeper questions a journalist should consider include:

  • How is an “Australian” defined? Is it a nationality, an ethnic group or something else?
  • What does “un-Australian” mean? On what is your view based?
  • Can an angry mob of Anglo-Australians chanting “Waltzing Matilda” be described as “un-Australian”?
  • Is patriotism toward another country a denigration of Australia? Why?
  • Should immigrants be required to “choose” between their homeland and Australia?
  • What is the difference between “assimilation” and “acceptance” of cultural diversity?
  • Can a “tolerant” society also be racist?
  • Should journalists report tensions between ethnic groups in a community? Why?
  • Do media have a role in making audiences more culturally aware? Why?
  • Is there a difference between a person born here of ethnic descent and someone who migrates to Australia? Why?
  • Are the expectations on citizens born in Australia different to immigrants?

The Scenario

Police have been called to a local weekend soccer game after a brawl erupts on the sidelines. On the following Monday, your boss asks you to investigate if the violence is race related. Are these Australians of ethnic descent assimilated in our society or not, he asks. “We don’t want them bringing their old grievances here,” he says. As a starting point, you interview a couple of soccer fans and also speak to local police.

The following questions provide a guide for analysing this scenario from a journalist’s perspective. In considering these questions, you may refer to the resources provided in these materials.

  1. What are this issues you want to cover in this report?
    Are you going to focus on the facts of the recent violence? Or will you take a longer view? Is there additional research you need to do before you can adequately commence interviews on this topic? Have you assumed anything about the background to this story? How will you check what you “know”?
     
  2. Could reporting this story harm anyone? How?
    Irresponsible or inaccurate media reporting can heighten external anxiety. What can a journalist to do ensure that they get the facts right and describe things proportionately? Does the society suffer more broadly when journalists get it wrong? Why?
     
  3. What news values do you attached to this story?
    Is conflict the only news value present in these events? Does conflict always take precedence as a news value? Why? Consider all the other news values and how they might apply to the issues raised by this report.
     
  4. What do you expect to learn from your interviewees?
    Are interviewees the best source of information for a journalist? Why? Does it matter if the interviewees were not at the event that prompted your investigation? How will you sort facts from opinions? Sometimes people have strongly held beliefs, but are these facts? Where else would you need to go to research this story? Why?
     
  5. Is the story newsworthy?
    If you have decided to prepare a feature article, what are the themes your article will explore? List them in order of importance? Do you need more information to do this story properly? What other information do you need, and where will you find it? What angle will you take in introducing this story? What does this suggest about the thrust of your feature article?
     
  6. What other potential stories are prompted by this one?
    Journalists frequently use one reporting exercise as a springboard into another investigation. Sometimes these are directly related, such as a follow-up, but other times the next story is in another direction altogether. Think about all the issues you have considered in preparing this report and make a list of potential stories.

Transcript of Interviews

INTERVIEW 1: Demir Jelcic

REPORTER: Why are you such a passionate supporter of Capital City Croatia?

DJ: It’s the way I was brought up and it was instilled into me that being Croatian is something I should never forget. I am a Croatian born in Australia.

I wasn’t brought up as an Australian with a bit of Croatian in me.

My mum listens to Croatian music, she’s worked in the community and she took us to Croatian soccer matches when we were kids. She’s taken us back there many times.

REPORTER: Is being patriotic to your homeland un-Australian?

DJ: No. Our political beliefs may be different, but we think that’s OK. In Australia they say you’re free to speak and believe what you want, but as soon as you believe something else, you are ostracized in the community. You’re not “one of us”.

We Croatians have always wanted independence.

REPORTER: What do you think about the ethnic violence at last week’s game?

DJ: That wasn’t really ethnic violence. It was two teams, competing against each other at the top of the table, playing against each other when they hadn’t faced each other for a long time. I think that precipitated it and then there was a bunch of drunks who got into a mob mentality and then that got the police involved.

INTERVIEW 2 Ante Svacic

REPORTER: Why are you so passionate about Capital City Serbia?

AS: I am proud of who I am and what I am. I think it is better to be passionate about something rather than just go with the flow. Australia, especially mainstream society, doesn’t accept anyone being proud of their heritage.

REPORTER: Isn’t multiculturalism about people getting along no matter where they have come from and becoming Australian?

AS: Multiculturalism is not about acceptance, it is about ethnic minorities tolerating mainstream society and blending into that. That’s the mainstream version of multiculturalism but not many people accept that. I am one of 100,000 second-generation Serbian-Australians and I am proud of that.

REPORTER: What do you say to claims that sporting violence is ethnic-based?

AS: We have elements within our community that embarrass us. They go there with their bravado, thinking they have something to prove, and they bring up old traditions which they have never been part of. It causes problems for both clubs.

REPORTER: What about the game last week?
AS: Those guys aren’t our fans, they aren’t even members of our club. I’ve only seen them at the two games against Croatia and they’ve used that as a forum for some political statement that has nothing to do with us.

REPORTER: Do you think that sort of behaviour is un-Australian?

AS: Bagging the other team? What about mainstream Australia’s attitude to sporting rivalry? Aren’t Aussies supposed to be the world’s best sledgers? Why are we targeted?

REPORTER: Do you think your group is targeted by media?

AS: Of course it is. But then I think to myself, in light of the negative views the media presents, and I am more determined to show the world how proud I am to have come from where I have come from.

INTERVIEW 3 Sgt. Edward Babir

REPORTER: What can you tell me about ethnic sporting violence in the local area?

EB: The incidents you refer to are the subject of a number of concurrent investigations by NSW Police and Soccer NSW.

REPORTER: What about the most recent matter?

EB: NSW Police is investigating the crowd behaviour on the day, has already charged a number of individuals with criminal offences. We are continuing to pursue other lines of investigation.

REPORTER: Why do you think there is violence at soccer matches?

EB: I think the media shares part of the blame. The reporting almost promotes sport as a venue for ethnic discord.

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