Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty of Creative Arts
Knight, Alan, Reporting the "Orient": Australian foreign correspondents in South-East Asia, Doctor of Philosophy thesis, Faculty of Creative Arts, University of Wollongong, 1997. http://ro.uow.edu.au/theses/4465
Australian foreign correspondents continue to see Asia through colonial eyes. They are the products of and leading exponents of a professional culture which encourages reporters to meet the expectations of their editors, colleagues and competitors. These correspondents are the most recent recruits of an elitist journalism "club" whose founding members identified with the European empires and their intellectual successors. Themes evident in the work of these earlier reporters can be seen to continue from one generation to the next.
• Australian correspondents' reporting of post colonial Asia is still framed in Western perceptions of the Orient.
• As a result of this identification with Western prerogatives and priorities, correspondents neglect interpretations of events which local people (Asians) deem significant.
• Further, correspondents are guilty of the negative stereotyping, frequently portraying the Orient as a place of misgovemment and arbitrary violence and thereby justifying Western political, economic and ultimately military intervention.
Contemporary correspondents point to lack of adequate training, bureaux infrastructure and editorial agendas as reasons contributing to what many of them see as unsatisfactory coverage of the region. Yet analysis of their own work shows that then- stated preferences for Western sources can be reflected in the sources quoted in then- stories. They remain preoccupied with preconceptions of how Asia should be, as seen through Western eyes, rather than how many Asians feel it should be reported. In doing so, one finds that Australian correspondents' reporting of post colonial Asia is still framed in Western perceptions of the Orient.
This thesis examinees the work of contemporary correspondents by considering them in context of Australian journalism culture, reflecting on the work of their predecessors and interviewing and questioning them about their opinions, examining their work in the field and analysing their coverage of the Cambodian elections.
Their narrow selection of sources led not only to misreporting of those elections, but also to the sort of negative stereotyping imposed on Sihanouk, and for that matter the Khmer Rouge. Meanwhile, misreporting of the Cambodian elections did more than misinform Australian readers, listeners and viewers. It could be expected to contribute to a new set of false expectations among Australian journalists about Asia.