Waitangi media review

Mainstream media finally got it sort of right with this year's coverage of Waitangi Day.

For years we have been subjected to sensational, over-the-top and dishonest coverage from the media.

In fact if you watched the news in previous years you could be forgiven for thinking the only thing that happened was the Harawira family and Maori activists were abusing people.

Of course nothing could be further from the truth.

While the Harawira whanau is without doubt a significant feature of Waitangi, it has more often than not been misrepresented by mainstream media.

The latest example is how the media portrayed the governor-general's welcome this year.

You would have thought there had been an assassination attempt on his life after a disagreement broke out with Hinewhare Harawira - so provocative and sensational were the headlines.

But the truth was that the disagreement was minor, which was confirmed by Sir Jerry Mateparae who wondered what all the fuss was about.

Mainstream media was also guilty in 1998 when Titewhai Harawira stopped Helen Clark from speaking at the Te Tii Marae in Waitangi after local kaumatua agreed she could talk - despite the rules being that women were forbidden from speaking.

Titewhai said no and sent Miss Clark into an avalanche of tears but Titewhai was right when she said "why should Maori women not be allowed to speak on their own marae and an exemption be given to a Pakeha woman just because she is the head of the Labour Party?"

That event sent mainstream media into a frenzy.

Titewhai was condemned for disrespecting Labour's leader and of course there was no proper analysis of why she had made her stand.

The media's judgement that Titewhai was out of line fed the Pakeha public's hatred and resentment of the Harawiras and gave weight to the ignorant view that Waitangi Day should not be our national day.

So it was good that this year, despite the media's initial stumble with its interpretation of the governor-general's welcome, the coverage improved.

It really is a magnificent day at Waitangi and everyone who I have told to attend over the years has come away overwhelmed by the experience.

I was glad that the media finally focused on the positivity around the celebrations.

I spent a couple of days there and then went to West Auckland's Hoani Waititi Marae to support an urban Maori celebration that was hosted by the Waipareira Trust.

It was a fantastic day with thousands in attendance and this celebration was duplicated in regions all around the country.

Finally our dopey mainstream media is starting to show this.

Waitangi Day is more than just covering and misinterpreting the latest Harawira episode.

Let's hope the improved media reporting continues.

Manukau Courier