Submission to Senate inquiry on the ‘Future of Public Interest Journalism’


Submission by Jack Latimore, IndigenousX collaborator.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017
Dear Senator Dastyari and Colleagues,

About IndigenousX

IndigenousX is an independent Indigenous media platform celebrating Indigenous excellence and diversity and striving to amplify Indigenous voices across Australia and beyond.
 
 What we do:

· Our Twitter account has over 30K followers, making it one of the biggest Indigenous-specific Twitter accounts online.

· We invite an Indigenous guest to host this account each week, to share their unique perspective of life as a First Nations person.

· We also run our own independent website — indigenousx.com.au — where we source and publish original, Indigenous-produced, public interest content.

· Our weekly Twitter hosts are also invited to write an article for collaborating news organisation Guardian Australia, which we co-publish on our website.

· We have had weekly Twitter hosts on @IndigenousX for 5 years now.

· In that time, we have also helped raise over $400,000 for Indigenous projects with StartSomeGood.

· We collaborate with a number of Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists, advocates, campaigners, writers, researchers, students, teachers, academics and organisations

IndigenousX history:

· The @IndigenousX Twitter account was launched by Luke Pearson on the 15th of March 2012. Luke left his professional career as a primary school teacher in 2008, but continued to take an interest in education and advocacy both professionally and voluntarily. Luke has been a teacher, mentor, counsellor, public speaker, collaborator, mediator, facilitator, events manager, researcher, evaluator, and most recently a reporter and digital producer with NITV and currently ABC.

· Since 2012, the @IndigenousX Twitter account has risen to more than 30,000 followers. It has had over 300 Indigenous hosts on the account and has shared thousands of stories, facts, reports, pictures, and laughs with an ever increasing audience.

· The idea of the Twitter account was to share and enhance the platform Luke had created by providing an opportunity for 52 other Indigenous people per year to share their knowledge, opinions and experiences.

· In 2013, the IndigenousX website launched. Initially the content posted on the website consisted of short Q&A articles with the weekly Twitter account host.

· By 2015, the IndigenousX website was providing opinion and commentary posts authored by founder and editor-in-chief Luke Pearson, along with Celeste Liddle, Kay Price, Charlie Jia, Sol Bellear, Mathew Heffernan, Carla McGrath, Eugenia Flynn and others.

· IndigenousX prides itself on an ethic of respect for Indigenous knowledge, successfully providing an autonomous, independent, Indigenous-owned and produced news media service.

Main point:

This submission briefly addresses terms of reference 1. (d) concerning the future of public and community broadcasters in delivering public interest journalism, particularly in underserviced markets like regional Australia, and culturally and linguistically diverse communities; specifically, in this submission Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

My name is Jack Latimore. I’m a freelance journalist with work appearing in Koori Mail, Guardian Australia, Guardian US, Guardian UK, Crikey, Overland and elsewhere. I’m a PhD candidate at University of Melbourne, researching First Nations new media news outlets and Indigenous representation and self-determination within Australia’s news organisations, citizen journalism and the public sphere. I am also a 2016 graduate of University of Melbourne’s Master of Journalism degree.

In January 2017, I began to assist IndigenousX founder and chief editor, Luke Pearson in the day to day running of IndigenousX across all its platforms. My roles include producing content; sourcing content; sourcing weekly Twitter hosts; social media audience engagement; sub editing copy content; journalism training and education; some administration; and occasionally, media and public relations. I do this for minimal financial remuneration, partly because it assists my current research, but mainly because I clearly see the benefit that IndigenousX affords First Nations communities and what is, perhaps inaccurately, described as the Indigenous public sphere.

The opportunity for amplification that IndigenousX provides for the voices and perspectives of diverse First Nations individuals and communities cannot be understated. In the short amount of time that I have collaborated with IndigenousX, we have heard from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders all over this continent. Our weekly Twitter hosts have ranged from persons with immediately recognisable public profiles, such as Marcia Langton and Richard Frankland to regional and remote community contributors such as Steve Hodder Watt, Fiona Hamilton and Kristy Crooks. This has been the purview of IndigenousX since well before my time working as a collaborator.

On the IndigenousX website, the diverse scope of contributors reveals a similar picture: prominent Aboriginal figures such as Gary Foley, Rachael Maza and Tony Birch are published alongside new and emerging voices such as Natalie Cromb and Everlyn Araluen Corr.

In addition to providing a platform for these diverse voices to be heard throughout and across First Nations audiences, IndigenousX also provides a “bridge” for Black perspectives to enter the broader public sphere via collaborative publishing partnerships such as the one we share with Guardian Australia. It is my opinion that this is a unique and important development in what is termed the “news ecosystem”, and I believe it would do Australia well for more non-indigenous news organisations to look to that relationship for improving their own approach to, and representation of, the broader Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander public.

However, despite the acknowledgement within Black communities (and their allies) of the important public interest role that IndigenousX has already played and continues to fulfil in regards to empowering diverse First Nations perspectives and voices through improved amplification in public dialogues, IndigenousX — like so many other new media niche news organisations– perpetually struggles to remain viable on account of the difficulty in obtaining sufficient financial support.

To continue to produce the work it is renowned for, IndigenousX primarily relies on subscriber support via the Patreon service (https://www.patreon.com/IndigenousX), which sits at around $1200 per month. Other channels of income for the organisation are so meagre, scant or inconsistent that they are unreliable. Here, I invite the committee to hear privately from IndigenousX founder Luke Pearson on what the organisation requires from him personally for IndigenousX to continue to subsist.

In my discussions with Luke, and other concerned IndigenousX collaborators and allies, we have repeatedly attempted to identify alternative means of financial support. We have repeatedly approached tertiary academies with interests in public interest journalism and news, to no avail. We have discussed a variety of arts grants, community grants, research grants and found that too few offer a submission criterion that might accommodate the public interest role of IndigenousX.

The one means of financial subsidisation that we have identified that could potentially provide IndigenousX with the resources it requires to survive and expand — in order to achieve the sorts of aspirations that include hiring more Indigenous employees and commissioning more Indigenous voices– is through philanthropy that relies on deductible gift recipient status.

We have multiple private and public organisations and individuals suggesting this is our most obvious direction forward, yet currently it is our understanding that the requisite eligibility criteria for IndigenousX involves overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles to gain this status from the Australian Tax Office.

With DGR status, IndigenousX would have the opportunity to continue to develop as a platform for Black voices to participate in public debate on issues and matters that concern us. The societal benefits of facilitating this kind of participation would go a long way towards improving governmental policy and inter-relational outcomes for both Indigenous and non-indigenous Australia.