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By Katarina Williams, a senior reporter of Stuff

Stuff has introduced a new company charter with Te Tiriti o Waitangi at its core, after a major internal investigation uncovered evidence of racism and marginalisation against Māori.

The media organisation issued an historic public apology today following the Our Truth, Tā Mātou Pono investigation which saw around 20 Stuff journalists scrutinise the company’s portrayal and representation of Māori from its early editions to now.

The findings unearthed numerous examples of journalism practices denying Māori an equitable voice in Aotearoa.

Stuff chief executive Sinead Boucher said it was imperative the company reckoned with its past, but denied the investigation was an exercise in political correctness or being “woke”.

“I don’t buy into that at all. If you think the job of the news media, in our company and others, is to hold the powerful to account, well, we are the powerful.

“We really have had an enormous impact in shaping public thought in New Zealand and societal norms, not just reflecting them, and I think it is only fitting that a progressive company can pause and have a look at itself,” Boucher said.

She acknowledged the presence of racism and unconscious bias in the digital and print products over the company’s 163-year history, and too often a monocultural approach had been taken that prioritise Pākehā worldviews.

Boucher was adamant Stuff could not hold others to account without facing up to its own past as a first step towards repairing the harm the company’s history has caused its relationship with Māori.

“When the project started, we didn’t know what we were going to find. They didn’t start off with a particular agenda … we just thought it was really critical that if we were going to embed the Treaty principles into our charter, that we need to do that examination and be up for whatever difficult finding might come out of it.

“After doing a deep examination … the finding was that over time, there had been many instances of where you could say that the work that our papers produced could have perpetuated negative stereotypes or misconceptions against Māori.

Sinead Boucher Stuff
Stuff’s owner and chief executive Sinead Boucher   … “If you think the job of the news media, in our company and others, is to hold the powerful to account, well, we are the powerful.” Image: Ross Giblin/Stuff

Boucher said she “struggled to think of a more important piece of work that our newsroom has produced”.

The new charter lays out Stuff’s commitment to “redressing wrongs and to doing better in future ways that will help foster trust in our work, deeper relationships with Māori and better representation of contemporary Aotearoa.”

Boucher also acknowledged Māori were under-represented in Stuff newsrooms, something the company “definitely [had] to address and redress”.

In May, Boucher took control of Stuff from its previous Australian owners, Nine – the shift into New Zealand ownership provides the company with the opportunity to reset and reposition the business, and its value system, she said.

“Our people advocated for the Treaty principles of partnership, participation and protection to be embedded in our new strategy.

“The Stuff Charter sets down a pou tiaki (guard post) to ensure we guard against this kind of inequity in our reporting and business practices in the future.

”Our wish is to be a trusted partner for tangata whenua for generations to come,” Boucher said.

This article was first published by Stuff here. It has been republished with permission.

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