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‘People with disabilities need to be in news stories that have nothing to do with disability’

Willliam Sangster

Journo urges media to focus on person, not disability

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

A journalist who uses a wheelchair is challenging the media to include the disabled community “in news stories that have nothing to do with disability”.

Christina Tran, 25, is a 2022 graduate of the award-winning Te Rito journalism programme.

She now works for Newshub as a research intern on the show Paddy Gower Has Issues.

“People with disabilities need to be seen more in news stories that have nothing to do with disability.

“I think too often, we only ever see disabled people in the news or even media in general, where the focus is on their disability,” Tran says.

“But being disabled is only a fraction of who we are. So to me, that’s the key to normalising disability.”

Sarah de Croy, director of News Gathering at Newshub, backs Tran’s challenge to media.

“It’s so important that we’re including a multitude of lenses across the stories that we’re covering ... and that includes a disability lens. It’s our responsibility to work hard to find experts from diverse backgrounds if we’re to fully represent the communities we’re serving with our journalism.”

Tran has a spinal cord injury and is a fulltime wheelchair user. She explains her primary challenge is the lack of physical accessibility in the community.

“Things like travelling or reaching high shelves — sometimes things take longer than it would for able-bodied people. But I have heaps of equipment and modifications that make life easier, like hand controls in my car and stuff.”

De Croy says it is “vital” to have diversity and representation in the media industry.

“It affects the decisions we make about what stories we cover, how those stories are told, the experts and people that we choose go to and how those communities are represented and described.”

One of her goals is to have more disability journalists in newsrooms and de Croy says Christina is a prime example.

“Christina is a massive asset to our team. She’s a brilliant journalist and I’m really excited to see where her career will take her,” de Croy says.

Growing up, Tran had wanted to be a hairdresser but ended up studying media at university. She graduated with a conjoint Bachelor of Arts and Commerce in 2021.

Tran was in the first cohort of the Te Rito journalism project in 2022. Her employer,

Newshub, is a Te Rito media partner, along with NZME, Whakaata Maori and Pacific Media Network (PMN).

Te Rito trains young journalists who better reflect a rich, diverse Aotearoa.

Tran had been excited by the idea of what Te Rito was doing and felt motivated to make a difference.

“Especially with wanting to inject more diversity into the industry. I think a big part of my decision was growing up Asian and disabled; you know, I rarely ever saw that representation in the media.

Tran was offered a job by Newshub after the Te Rito program ended, and that meant a lot to her.

“I really enjoyed the collaborative, team nature of working in TV. I’ve learnt so much just from being in the newsroom through osmosis and just listening to the conversations going on around you.”

Tran advises aspiring disability journalists to communicate their needs in the industry clearly. Tran says her new workplace had constructed a ramp that enabled her to access editing suites with ease.

“Draw that line. It can be really hard feeling like you’re a burden or feeling different from your able-bodied peers, but these are the things that you need for you to do your job and to do it right.”

Te Rito was important to the future development of disabled journalists, de Croy says.

“I think the main thing is to work out what barriers might exist and then do everything we can to remove those. It’s why programmes like Te Rito are so important in supporting people who are passionate about journalism but have felt they don’t have access to the industry.”

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