13 May 2014

Maori journalism excuse rejected

6:39 am on 13 May 2014

An investigation of whether any political bias was shown by a former Television New Zealand executive has found Maori cultural differences cannot be used as an excuse about a conflict of interest in journalism.

Cultural difference no excuse - journalism students on  Waititi marae in Glen Eden.

Cultural difference no excuse - journalism students on Waititi marae in Glen Eden. Photo: PHOTO NZ

Shane Taurima resigned as general manager of TVNZ's Maori and Pacific Unit in February, after it emerged he'd chaired part of a Labour Party hui in January.

The report didn't find any evidence of bias relating to programmes such as Q+A and the Maori news programme, Te Karere.

Mr Taurima was questioned by the report panel about his Labour party activities encouraged by supporters and whanau and conflict it could cause to the reputation of TVNZ.

The panel members were particularly interested in his response about how he managed conflicts in the Maori world.

He told them that Maori journalism was different.

He said instead of reporters having topics to cover, such as health and business, tangata whenua tended to be assigned to tribal areas from which they come from.

Mr Taurima said Maori journalists were challenged by whanau and friendships everyday.

But an advisor to the board carrying out the investigation, the former correspondent Chris Wikaira, rejected the explanation.

He saids basic journalism such as balance as fairness, was universal and did not change because of a person's ethnicity.

Mr Wikaira indicated the potential damage to the television station's reputation over-rode any cultural nuance, which required Mr Taurima to disclose his political activities.

He noted the issue was less about tikanga Maori and culture, and more about a senior manager operating in a mainstream organisation managing his political aspirations for a mainstream political party.