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Pacific Islanders and Health in the Print News Media

Pacific Islanders have faced discrimination in New Zealand particularly since the 1960s when members of communities, particularly from the Cook Islands, Samoa, Niue and Tonga began to be transplanted from their home nations to Aotearoa as cheap immigrant labour. Subsequently, the New Zealand vernacular has contained references to Pacific Islanders as 'overstayers', 'coconuts', 'bungas' and 'fresh off the boat' [FOB]. However, the legacy of a domineering relationship between the Palagi1 majority group and Pacific2 minorities that is captured by such derogatory terms is still evident in public forums such as the media. Using a quantitative content and qualitative narrative analysis, this first chapter documents portrayals of Pacific Islanders in New Zealand print media reports (n= 65) published over a three-month period. Findings reveal that Pacific people are predominantly portrayed as unmotivated, unhealthy and criminal others who are overly dependent on Palagi support. Consideration of this offered Pacific identity formation is explored and compared with that implied for Palagi, which is active, independent, competent and caring. Issues in coverage are discussed in relation to how Pacific Islanders are encouraged to see themselves, and the health and social consequences of dominant practices in press coverage. The second part of this thesis will take the findings from the investigation of the characterizations of Pacific Islanders in newspaper coverage and consider audience responses to such coverage. Focus group discussions will be used to explore how different New Zealand audiences view and respond to the portrayals of Pacific Island people and health in news media. The focus on audience responses supports the development of a better understanding of how groups can internalise media portrayals and use these as anchor points for understanding their own situations. Qualitative content from the two groups of Pacific Islanders (P1, P2) and two groups of Palagi (NP1, NP2) enabled a comparative analysis of audience interpretations. Findings propose that health issues are predominantly framed from the perspective of the dominant social group - in the local context Palagi - often at the expense of minority groups such as Māori and Pacific peoples. In appropriating aspects of news coverage, audience members do not engage or regurgitate what they are told or shown through the media. It is a rather complex process with audience members interpreting and using fragments of what they are presented with in making sense of issues of concern in their own lives. All the participants (n= 24) were compensated for their time and travel. We offer some suggestions as to how more equitable representations of Pacific people could be fostered in news media and how changes to a more civilised media will impact Pacific health positively. 1 Palagi (pronounced Palangi) is a term used by Pacific Islanders to refer to people of European decent. 2 We use the terms 'Pacific people' and 'Pacific Islanders' to denote a general social category or minority in Aotearoa used by the media. However, we need to qualify the use of these terms because their use can lead to a glossing over of the diversity in languages and cultures that exists between over 20 different Polynesian, Melanesian and Micronesian communities.
Type of thesis
Loto, R. (2007). Pacific Islanders and Health in the Print News Media (Thesis, Master of Social Sciences (MSocSc)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/2347
The University of Waikato
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