The Value of Practical Placements: What Student Journalists Learnt by Working with Aboriginal Communities

January 1, 2010

Background to the Abstract

Non-Aboriginal journalists seldom get to meet and talk with Aboriginal people about their life and beliefs, and this often results in narrow and misinformed reporting. This paper reports on an ongoing initiative between the Combined Universities Centre for Rural Health (CUCRH) and the undergraduate journalism program at Edith Cowan University. Every January and July (since July 2008), eight final-year ECU journalism students spend a month with Aboriginal communities in two Western Australian towns in the Pilbara region. This is a significant departure from the usual ECU journalism placement unit, where students apply for a one-month internship in a Perth based newsroom and seldom leave the confines of the city news environment. The aim of this project is to help students achieve a better understanding of Aboriginal communities and culture, and, consequently, a more informed approach to their reporting of Aboriginal issues. The paper explains how the project began and the difficulties involved in setting up and developing such a placement. It also includes feedback from journalism students.

About the Author

Dr Trevor Cullen is a professor in journalism in the School of Arts and Humanities at Edith Cowan University, Perth, Western Australia. He has received several university and national teaching and research awards. His research areas include journalism education, health reporting and media coverage of infectious diseases, especially HIV. Dr Cullen is on the editorial board of Pacific Journalism Review.

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