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Maori Culture and Data Journalism

By Anna Hjortdal DMJX

My personal Inclusive Journalism Initiative highlight was going on a ”Noho Marae” – an overnight trip to a ceremonial Maori house. We all lined up in our finest clothes to participate in a Powhiri – welcoming ceremony. A woman called us inside the house by singing to us. We all walked up to her, quietly took our shoes off and entered the Marae. We sat down, listened to speeches and sang (the Scandinavian exchange students had practiced beforehand in the car). After that we were greeted by the local Maori iwi by performing a hongi (nose pressing).


We spent the next 24 hours listening to amazing speakers: A Niuean Fiafifine (transgender person), a doctor specializing in Maori health and a government official who had given up her job to be a poet – all talking about how journalists can better report on minority issues.


Minority issues and how to report on them is the one major thing I will take with me from my five months in New Zealand. To talk to people instead of talking about them and to keep asking the fundamental question “why” instead of reporting more or less flattering statistics.


No hard words on statistics though. In the course Data Journalism we learned about the value of data in a complex world, we were provided with very useful excel and visualization skills and we analysed data journalism projects from The New York Times, The Guardian and the New Zealand Herald.


Like the Danish School of Media and Journalism, Auckland University of Technology has a very “hands on” approach to journalism. We did a two-week news workshop and some of the assignments were news stories and photo essays. Among other things I have written a story about the Jediism potentially being categorized as a religion by Statistics New Zealand, done a photo essay with a homeless mayoral candidate and produced a podcast about a young girl leaving the Cooks Islands for New Zealand.


After finishing the course my partner Rasmus and I spent a month exploring the parts of New Zealand we didn’t get to see while living in Auckland. Formed by the movements of the underlying tectonic plates, the country has the most amazing scenery: Snow glazed mountains, remote fiords and heaps of volcanos. But the tectonic movement is also what sometimes devastates everything. While we were in New Zealand a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit the country, killed two people and cut off cities.


The Kiwis were amazing though. After the earthquake I received texts from former flatmates, fellow students and even a professor who all wanted to hear that we were OK.


Rasmus and I lived with a bunch of Kiwis in a flat in Auckland who took us canyoning (running in a river in a wetsuit), to the cinema and out to meet their friends. When we drove down to the South Island, we had an amazing time staying with one of the other students’ parents at their farm. We lived our New Zealand dreams trying to help out with their sheep.


I can definitely recommend New Zealand and the Inclusive Journalism programme. Don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions.


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