Be. Leadership September 2017: Mass Media has a significant force that reflects and constructs modern culture

By Emma Cooper-Williams

In September we were back into it after a long break to reflect and continue our leadership journeys in our own communities. We were filled with inspiration and newfound perspectives and were ready to take on another two days, which challenged our perspectives as they stood and drove our understanding deeper. Held at the now familiar Sudima Hotel near Auckland Airport, we were challenged on our understanding and relationships with the media, which was our topic for the weekend.

After a wonderful opening and having a well needed catch up we were filled with the energy of Richard Paumatatau, who is a lecturer in Journalism at AUT. He shared an interesting perspective around how we locate ourselves in stories being told.

We learnt about how we can locate ourselves as either the story teller, or the person about whom the story is being told. His inspiring insight threw in the idea that while we have our own representation in situations, there is also what he described as re:presentation. I was captivated by the way he explained that we are reframed and reframed again by the media, and the construction and reconstruction of identity.

After lunch we heard from the lovely Melodie Robinson. She explained some of her experiences as a rugby commentator, in an industry where the vast majority of people working are men. I loved her perspective that women who have been able to break down barriers haven’t sweated the small stuff, they just get on with it! I loved that insight and think that we far too often worry about the small stuff and the logistics of how we are going to achieve what we want to.

One reason, she explained, why women don’t watch sports anymore, is because there are not many pathways for women, for former female athletes who want to remain engaged in the sporting arena in a different context to just competing. How women are portrayed in the sporting media needs to change, and there needs to be more pathways for women to contribute further and have a role in sporting media.

After a short break for afternoon tea, we had a 'My Future' session from four of us, where we shared where we would like to see ourselves in five years’ time. For me, although I felt that the context for where I want to be in five years is a mystery, I can see the kind of impact I would like to make, and I can see parts of society that I would like to contribute to changing.

We then spent a little time with the Be. Accessible Marketing Manager, preparing our visions for the Be. Leadership Graduation in November. This year suddenly seemed to have gone so fast, and it was terrifying to think that our leadership journeys were about to go off on their own paths.

On the second day of the September session, we heard from the lovely Minnie Baragwanath who shared about her experience with the media, which was particularly relevant to my own recent experiences dealing with the media. She shared around how she has managed her own narrative in the media, as well as the challenges and realities of how we are portrayed in the media, particularly when dealing with disabilities. In her experience of dealing with the media over a large span of time she had been able to reflect on how this relationship has changed over time, which reminded us that nothing in leadership remains static, and sometimes we have to change our approach.

I loved how she described that dealing with the media is a relationship, and something that we have control over. We were reminded that we are never going to get the perfect story, and we can choose just how much we share with the media, and what we choose not to share. This was quite a wakeup which reminded me that the media uses specific frames which sometimes distort reality, and it is important that we be critical of this.

We also reviewed the books that we had been reading in our syndicates over the last few months, and we didn’t want the session to end! We are now entering a journey in our final syndicates, which I can’t wait to make the most of!