Bonita Mason

Lelia Green, Panizza Allmark
Edith Cowan University

Bonita Mason is a journalism lecturer at Curtin University, who teaches first-year journalism and feature writing and is completing her PhD. She has published in books and magazines, and is an award-winning freelance journalist. She has also worked as a policy adviser and speechwriter for government and as a media and policy adviser and writer for Aboriginal organisations in the Kimberley and elsewhere.

Thesis Title: 
A death in Custody Story: Critical reflexivity in journalism and writing

Recent discussion in journalism studies has drawn attention to the potential for applying critical reflexivity to practice-led research, as a way of analysing journalism practice from within, but there is little guidance on how to go about it.

This thesis applies critical reflexivity to an analysis of the practices employed to find, research and write the story of an Aboriginal woman who died in a Sydney prison. The analysis seeks to foreground unorthodox approaches to journalism practice for recognition within mainstream journalism practice, and to explore whether such approaches as journalist-source collaboration can contribute to extending both the range of voices that can be heard and the range of stories that can be told. I offer this work as an example of an application of critical reflexivity to practice-led journalism research.

The work is divided into two parts. Part I: Theories of Practice reviews the approaches to reflexivity provided by Pierre Bourdieu, Donald Schön and autoethnography for their relevance to the journalism field, and to identify the concepts and techniques in each that might be applied to the reflective analysis. I find that all are relevant in different and complementary ways; that, together, they provide a rich theoretical framework and a range of conceptual, analytical, narrative and practice-based techniques for reflecting on and transforming the self, the practice and the field. Part II: Practice with Theory applies these reflexive approaches. Through an inter-weaving of context, self, relationships, others, theory, history, facts, values and experiences I seek to render a multi-layered analysis of my journalism practice.

I draw the following conclusions from this work: that critical reflexivity, by adding an inside perspective, is a valid method by which to enrich the picture provided by approaches to journalism studies that examine journalism from the outside; and that unorthodox approaches to journalism practice do have something to offer mainstream, newsroom journalism practice, particularly to the way that journalists work with sources. I also argue that we are all implicated in the worlds we research and report on, and therefore for extending the range of values that underpin journalism practice beyond objectivity to publicity, accountability and solidarity.