AAJA Pacific Islander Task Force Urges Mindful Reporting in Coverage of Indigenous Pacific Islanders

As coverage of the Tokyo Olympics continues, The Asian American Journalists Association’s (AAJA) Pacific Islander Task Force urges media organizations to be mindful in their reporting not to perpetuate stereotypes about Indigenous Pacific Islanders in headlines and coverage. 

    • Do not use harmful language that conjures and perpetuates stereotypes and the exoticization of Pacific Islanders (i.e., “the naked Tongan”). Exotification contributes to the “othering” of Pacific Islanders, who are Indigenous peoples with a long history within the American diaspora.
    • Do educate yourself on cultural regalia, geography and history when reporting on Indigenous Pacific Islanders and their traditions to add meaningful context and avoid surface-level coverage. Avoid using terms like “costumes” to describe cultural regalia, to avoid further exotification.
    • Do pursue stories that give context to larger historical issues involving the Pacific islands. Ex.: NBC News story on activists pushing for the Kingdom of Hawaii to be represented in the Olympics
    • Do remember to include Indigenous Pacific Islanders in your coverage of all issues, not only at the Olympics (or when you see a “viral” social media opportunity). 
    • Be mindful when using the AAPI acronym, for the phrase “Asian American and Pacific Islander.” Pacific Islanders are an important and often overlooked part of the AAPI community, and reporting on the “AAPI” communities should reflect whether or not the story or issue being discussed includes Pacific Islanders. Consider your intentions when using the AAPI label.
    • “Pacific Islander” is a term used for the Indigenous people of the Pacific islands. Some subgroups include but aren’t limited to: Fijian, Hawaiian, Samoan, Marshallese, Chamorro/CHamoru, Palauan, Chuukese, Tahitian and Tongan. When writing about Pacific Islander communities, it’s preferable to specify which ethnicities you are referring to and if possible, which islands.

AAJA stands ready to be a resource to journalists to ensure comprehensive and thoughtful coverage of all of our communities. The Pacific Islander Task Force was created to increase engagement, understanding, and awareness of Pacific Islander communities. If you have questions or would like to get involved, email pitaskforce.aaja@gmail.com.

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