Close to Home

Entering the third week of the paper, with my nose in the wind for news, we had a guest lecturer come in to speak to us about their experiences as an investigative journalist for the New Zealand Herald. Kirsty Johnson (@kirsty_johnston) gave a rundown as to how she went about covering her stories. This spanned from her trawling of education reports and government statistics to arranging ‘coincidental’ meetings with the subjects of her stories in attempts to capture fresh images.

Beyond Kirsty’s anecdotes, she had a number of lessons to impart on us. For one, both the Electoral Role and the Habitation Index can be of great use in tracking people down and uncovering their past. Pay attention to national affairs, what angle hasn’t been covered in popular news stories. Check out current government statistics, find the stories hidden in the numbers, in particular, the stories the government tries to hide in their releases. At the end of the day though, just as everyone else has been advising us, to find news you just have to go out and talk to people.

Contrary to that advice however, over the last week I’ve had quite a lot going on in my backyard that has in a way almost fell into my lap. The New Zealand Herald ran a story on my street on how theAuckland Unitary Plan is affecting local residents and their fears on how land development in the area would impact them. This got me thinking, as I know there is an area of land further down the road between properties that is an ancient Maori burial ground under special building consent conditions. So I’ve started digging into council resources on the subject. It is still early days though.

Additionally, my next door neighbours have been involved in a series of domestic disputes recently, one of which involved the police getting involved. The woman has an intellectual disability and tends to be the one who starts the disturbances with her partner, resulting in a lot of screaming and physical displays of aggression. I am hesitant to get involved, however it leads me to wonder whether there is a story in the role intellectual disability plays in domestic violence and disputes in New Zealand.

Amongst various events, someone very close to me passed away this week. As I am struggling to comes to terms with the loss I can’t help but think of the way New Zealand media cover suicides in their censorship of such occurrences. As the Coroner’s Act stands those involved with victims are prevented from speaking out about individual cases or the circumstances surrounding them in public media, or even having the deaths referred to as suicides. Despite the act going under review with the New Zealand Law Commission in 2013, no changes were made to amend this censorship. There is a massive issue with suicide in this country, particularly with men. What role does the media have in this? Could the way towards aiding those struggling with depression be through a more open and public discussion of mental health?

In all honesty as much as I’m trying to focus on finding a story, I have been really affected by this passing and am struggling to find relevance in my work. I will find a story to tell nonetheless.

If this post has brought up any issues for you or you need help, call Life line 0800 543 354 or visit the Mental Health Foundation’s website for more information and resources.

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