The Indigenous Public Sphere is a fascinating and innovative account of the connections between textuality and citizenship. Focusing on the reporting and reception of Aboriginal affairs in the media, it has major implications for rethinking the study of journalism and ethnicity in national politics and public life.
The book is in three sections:
Research: The authors explore the historical and theoretical context to show how nation, media, ethnicity and storytelling intersect, and how politics can no longer be understood by reference to the institutions of government alone. While centred on Australia, the analysis draws on comparable developments in the USA, Canada, Siberia and Scandinavia to provide some pointers towards best practice in the conduct of ethno-national dialogue with established nation-state polities.
Reception: In a major new departure, the authors have evolved a 'parliamentary' method of audience research. Instead of investigating individual opinions or consumer attitudes, they seek to identify the collective or 'national' voice of Indigenous people. This section canvasses the public views of Indigenous leaders, community activists and media producers, gathered in a 'national media forum' designed to set a new agenda for the 'Indigenous public sphere.'
Reporting: The findings of a three-year investigation of media coverage of Aboriginal and Islander affairs in Australia, across newspapers, magazines, radio and TV. The research includes a comprehensive survey of how journalism education, media codes of ethics, regulatory bodies and working journalists themselves deal with the reporting of Indigenous issues.
Aboriginal people are massively over-represented in the media. That coverage is compromised not so much by media racism as by Indigenous people's unresolved national status. The Indigenous Public Sphere is thus a contribution to the growing literature on their claims to sovereignty, in the specific context of news and journalism - public story-telling that not only counts as true, but also speaks on behalf of 'the' nation.