Closing the arm’s-length gap: Critical reflexivity in student indigenous affairs journalism

Chris Thomson, Bonita Mason, Dawn Bennett, Michelle Johnston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Arm’s-length journalism’s perpetuation of colonial discourse often prompts calls for positive stories about Indigenous people. But these overtures can beget stories that fail to critically engage with issues and hence to connect with an audience. Such stories do not embody what Bourdieu called the symbolic power of journalism, and thus do little to address negative stereotypes and misrepresentation. With 2016 being the 25th year since the Royal Commission into Deaths in Custody recommended establishing units of study dedicated to Aboriginal affairs reporting, we contemplate one of the very few such units now taught in Australia. In an attempt to close the gap between positive Indigenous affairs stories that often cannot, or will not, be told by arm’s-length journalism, and the many negative stories that can, the unit enlists Bourdieu’s critical reflexivity to guide student collaboration with Aboriginal sources. Despite this context, we identify a tendency of students new to such collaboration to produce draft stories high in promotional content. Rather than dismissing such drafts as counter-journalistic, we embrace them as a step toward critically reflexive journalism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-72
Number of pages14
JournalAustralian Journalism Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2016
Externally publishedYes


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