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The Racial Hatred Act: Case study 5

 case study5turning research findings into copy - a process of selection


  • interpretation of complex research findings, surveys, and polls
    in news stories



Please note that none of the reports in the case studies have been the
subject of complaints or queries under the Racial Hatred Act.


Partly due to their necessarily reductionist
nature, news stories created from reports on complex research findings,
surveys and polls may be inaccurate and misleading. In many cases this
may be the inadvertent result of carelessness or deadline pressures. In
reporting complex research there are clearly instances where, through the
inevitable process of selection, journalists bring their own values to
bear on how the findings are interpreted and presented.

A report by Ernest Healy, 'Welfare Benefits and Residential Concentrations
Amongst Recently-Arrived Migrant Communities', published in People and
, the journal of the Australian Forum for Population Studies at
Monash University examines the relationship between the long-term dole
dependence of recently-arrived migrants and residential concentrations
of disadvantaged migrant groups.

The report reveals that a high proportion of recently-arrived migrants
from some birthplace groups remain dependent on unemployment benefits for
an unusually long period of time after their arrival in Australia and that
residential concentrations of migrants tended to increase rather than decrease
over time, exacerbating an entrenched environment of social and economic

Healy concludes that the contradiction between idealistic ideology (of
government) and empirical research is sufficiently great to require a basic
reconsideration of immigration and settlement policies.

Regardless of whether or not Healy's analysis is considered sound, the
news stories taken from metropolitan, regional and suburban press illustrate
how reports such as his can become more sensational in the hands of the
news media.

The news stories argue that the report's call for a reconsideration
of immigration policy is an argument against immigration. Healy, however,
says the purpose of his research was to inform public policy and address
concerns about disadvantaged groups who are exploited by an informal labour

Healy also says that the use of the word 'ghetto' was deliberately sensational,
particularly as he had used it when describing the US situation and not
when referring to the areas of study in Sydney and Melbourne. He refers
to these areas as 'enclaves'.