Black issues still a current affair

Originally published in the National Indigenous Times, March 2007.

By Amy McQuire

THE controversy surrounding mainstream current affairs programs like “Today Tonight” has already wounded the credibility of the genre this past year.


After all, with chequebook journalism rife and lie detector tests being given more weight than reputable sources, it would be easy to condemn all current affairs shows to the television black list.

But there is one show that is hoping to smash the stereotype.

Over at the SBS studio, Australia’s only Indigenous-specific current affairs program Living Black is steaming ahead into its seventh season.

And it doesn’t look like Aboriginal host Karla Grant will be doing a ‘Naomi Robson’ any time soon.

Karla, who is also the executive producer of the program, says that the show is going in a new direction in how it tackles Indigenous affairs.

“We’re looking at tackling the harder issues in Indigenous affairs [this year],” Grant says.

“We have done that in the past but I think over the years the program has matured.

“Every series we have improved and we have tackled hard issues.

“I’m looking at the stories being a lot more analytical and being tackled in a more mature way.”

But the show is not shying away from its original format with an aim being to balance the negative news with positive profiles and stories on Aboriginal success.

With the mainstream media awash with negative stories on Indigenous communities, Grant says that it’s important to acknowledge the steps forward being taken by both high-profile leaders and the Indigenous community.

“The mainstream media tends to focus on the more negative subjects… that then flows on to society in general. There is a trend to sensationalize things.

“We’re about being sensitive to the issues, of course, and speaking to the key people and telling the story.

“There are a lot of positive stories that need to be told… the way communities are working hard to advance and the unsung heroes in these communities.

“…You’ve got to make some light and shade in the program.”

The decision by Living Black to hire three non-Indigenous video journalists for this season resulted in negative feedback for the program itself.

Joining Indigenous journalists Kris Flanders and Angela Bates this year will be Emma Cook, Jacinta Isaacs and Tani Crotty.

But Grant maintains they were the right people for the job.

“There’s has been some interest in the non-Indigenous journalists but that was to be expected.

“They have their own experiences with working with Indigenous communities and doing stories in the past.

“They’re all really committed and passionate to get Aboriginal stories onto the screens and to create more awareness of Indigenous culture and issues.

“We’re being inclusive… by bringing non-Indigenous people into the unit they can learn from the others about Indigenous issues
and how to cover it in a sensitive manner.

“There has been a problem with reporting Indigenous issues and there still is and I think we need to address that.

“I look at [the decision to hire non-Indigenous journalists] and turn it into a positive.

“We can make sure that people in newsrooms and current affairs programs across the industry know about covering Indigenous topics.”

Topics coming up for the program includes a look at the damage done by Cyclone George to Aboriginal communities near Port Hedland and a positive story on how Indigenous languages are being preserved around the Pilbara region.

“We also have profiles coming up on different people. Not necessarily high profile people but quiet achievers who can provide inspiration.”
• Living Black airs on SBS at 6pm on Wednesdays and again on Fridays at 3:30 pm.


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