National

Indigenous senator slams mainstream media

By AAP Newswire

Labor senator Pat Dodson has taken a swipe at the mainstream media for poor and overly negative coverage of indigenous issues.

Despite a proliferation of indigenous media organisations since the 1960s and their role in changing mainstream attitudes, the senator says he still wonders whether much has changed.

Senator Dodson, an indigenous man from Western Australia, launched the National Aboriginal Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday.

"There has always been, in the mainstream media, a fundamental bias against indigenous stories - there's a maxim in the game that black stories don't rate," he said.

"Mainstream media really need to come to a better understanding of indigenous cultures and their rich histories. They need to appreciate that indigenous voices are valid and alternative."

Senator Dodson points to a study that found mainstream reporting of indigenous Australia was increasingly focused on violence, conflict and corruption and often appeared unwilling to engage with complex issues.

He rejected the assumption that bad news stories perform the best.

"To accept that assertion is to ascribe a basic ghoulishness to us all."

And he urged mainstream media to embrace a full range of sources across indigenous communities instead of continually seeking comment from a small group of elites.

Social media could be used to progress indigenous causes, but it also acts as a force for discord in a way that concerns Senator Dodson.

"I'm deeply troubled by the strife among our peoples that's being wrought by social media warriors who so readily and thoughtlessly punch out abusive messages, or simply retweet baseless allegations often made by white racists," he said.

He also cautioned that indigenous people in remote communities were particularly vulnerable to the fake news phenomenon, saying that "once the genies are swirling round" it could be nearly impossible to correct the record.