In early October, The Spinoff lauched Ātea, a dedicated Māori perspectives section on their site.
In its first few weeks, Ātea has already looked at varied topics ranging from rongoā New Zealand’s oldest medical practice, to an innovative theatre performance, as well as giving opinion on issues from a Māori perspective.
Ātea editor Leonie Hayden, who was editor of Mana Magazine for three years until its closure in July, says the response to the new section has been good.
“We launched on 2 October. Numbers-wise it’s the biggest launch The Spinoff has done, and the support and feedback from readers has been great.”
In her Ātea introduction piece on the site, Hayden writes that they wanted to build an arena of thought and debate where the indigenous perspective is the default.
“…Like our tuākana at e-tangata, Waatea, Māori Television, Te Karere, Marae, and The Hui have, and like so many before them – in the hopes that some of the nearly three million page views The Spinoff attracted last month will find their way to it.”
Duncan Greive, The Spinoff editor and founder, is just as hopeful as he’s always had the idea to start such a section.
Hayden says she started chatting with Grieve about the idea when it became apparent that her immediate future, and that of Mana, was potentially uncertain.
“I’ve known Duncan a very long time, I could be open to him about what I wanted to do and see on the site.”
To help in its mission to have the indigenous perspective the default, all contributors to Ātea will be Māori, or identify strongly with Māori communities.
“In terms of audience and content I’ve been reaching out to people,” Hayden says.
“I’m thirsty for new and interesting and cool people to write for us…since the launch I’ve also been inundated with people [wanting to write for Ātea], the response has been amazing.”
Hayden says this eagerness shows that the idea there is a lack of Māori journalists out there is not true.
“That’s the sneaking suspicion I’ve had all along – there’s the talent but not the platform.”
When asked her thoughts on Māori representation in mainstream media, Hayden says she sees it as a “two steps forward, one steps back” type situation.
She says while mainstream media can have the best of intentions, “announcing they will spell te reo Māori correctly by using macrons”, they then use the freedom of speech, “to defend their right to publish racist cartoons”.
However, Hayden says there is progress being made.
“During Māori Language Week there is amazing content being produced all around the country, and once it’s over you see Māori commentators and different people being used. Each time you do see a tiny improvement, yet we are all responsible for a big improvement.”
She commends Radio New Zealand, in particular Morning Report presenter Guyon Espiner, for using te reo, saying “a non-Māori broadcaster using reo, it’s normalising it for people”.
When asked what she has brought over from her time at Mana to Ātea, Hayden says a confidence in what she is offering.
“Ātea is for Māori but everyone is invited.”
The Spinoff’s casual and modern tone, using different ways to connect with their community, is something Hayden says Ātea is embracing.
While it’s early days yet, Hayden says she hopes – dependent on funding – over the next year or so Ātea will produce more videos and podcasts, and potentially become a broadcasting partner.
Its offering has already been showcased through written essays, photo essays and video series—such as Hayden’s own six-part web series ‘Kaupapa on the couch’.
She says there are lots of ideas in the works, including a year-long story on Northland, with the beginnings of this starting with Hayden covering the final week of Te Paparahi o Te Raki (Northland) Waitangi Tribunal Hearings.
“These are the first steps – and we’re always keen for new contributors.”