Local Talk as a Grounded Method: Elaborating Media and Public Opinion On Indigenous Issues
In May 2000, more than 150,000 people marched across Sydney Harbour Bridge to support the Hawke government's program of Aboriginal reconciliation. Most Australian news media pictured the march as symbolic of community support for reconciliation. Two years later, however, an unfulfilled reconciliation process had all but disappeared from public debate. Drawing on Herbst's (1998, 2001) theorising on public opinion, this paper argues that local discussion of public issues has been ignored in the measurement and modelling of public opinion and that it is important to investigate what Herbst calls 'local talk' as a significant construction of public opinion. To that end, the paper examines how Australians understood reconciliation in their social discussions, and how this local talk intersected with public and media discourses. Findings suggested that Reconciliation was a highly contested concept, understood through competing broad narratives and narrow media frames. Local discussions also illustrated a high level of local reflexivity with regard to the role of Australia's elite and media in framing of Indigenous issues.
Keywords: Indigenous issues (Australia), Public opinion, Media framing, Race issues
Dr Kerry McCallum
Researcher; PhD student, News Research Centre Australia, University of Canberra