MDA CEO on ‘Things I’ve Heard’ and the value of personalisation

Media Diversity Australia posted the #ThingsIveHeard hashtag to its Twitter account to highlight instances of casual discrimination towards minorities in media. Its CEO Mariam Veiszadeh spoke to Mumbrella's Anna Macdonald on the surprising stories that were shared, the importance of humanising statistics and how, ultimately, Media Diversity Australia's purpose is to put itself out of work.

Media Diversity Australia (MDA) launched a campaign on Twitter using the hashtag #ThingsIveHeard to highlight the microaggressions faced by Culturally And Linguistically Diverse (CALD) and other minority journalists.

The inaugural CEO of MDA Mariam Veiszadeh, who was appointed last November, tells Mumbrella the comments that were posted under the hashtag were shocking.

One of the social assets for the #ThingsIveHeard campaign

“I would have thought I’ve seen everything,” says Veiszadeh. “I would have thought that I’ve come across most things, having just my own personal experiences. But there were some of that quite shocking in terms of the frequency in which people experience it, but also how horrendous some of these remarks are… Even in 2022, these things are still being said….

“It’s a constant reminder as to why we do what we do, and why MDA and organisations like MDA are so vital because this is the landscape in which we are operating in. This is just scratching the surface, no doubt.”

In total, according to MDA, 127 stories were shared using the hashtag, not including the threads and discussions under the original Tweet.

One such Tweet by Antoinette Lattouf, seen below, alleged overhearing Islmaphobic comments, insinuating white people could not be terrorists. Lattouf is a non-executive board director for MDA.

Another by Jarni Blakkarly detailed an allegation of a host complaining about the accent of a caller.

The power of sharing such instances, as opposed to figures and data, is its ability to personalise cases of microaggressions, which are indirect or subtle incidents of discrimination.

“There’s nothing more compelling than reading about the narrative of someone’s experience,” says Vesizadah. “It’s one thing for us to put social assets that say: ‘Did you know according to MDA research: X, Y, Z?’ That’s one thing. But to add a personal narrative and a personal quote, as to what someone has experienced, we know that’s going to be far more compelling and often if you combine the two there’s more compelling.”

“We know when it comes to diversity inclusion,” adds Veiszadeh, “the media is a little bit more behind than corporate Australia. And I know that because my background is working in the management position at Diversity Council Australia. The banks and the corporates, they’re way ahead of media organisations.”

Tweets under the hashtag touched on a range of issues, with journalist Jane Hansen tweeting an allegation of a misogynistic comment.

Another by Marcus Strom, who is standing down as president of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance’s (MEAA) media section, detailed an allegation of classism.

Veiszadeh continues: “By bringing those experiences to the surfaces it’s not just about causing destruction for the sake of it. It’s about then media organisations sitting up and taking notes. And society more broadly sitting up and taking those and saying, you know what? This is not okay. It is not okay that a culturally diverse journalist or journalists of minority groups are experiencing these microaggressions every single day on a regular basis. That’s an unsafe work environment and, given how influential the media is, we need that to change.”

“I am certain that there would be other stories of other experiences of journalists that are currently working in the media that can’t be shared publicly because of fear of consequences,” adds Veiszadeh.

As for the ideal outcome of the campaign, Veiszadeh says: “Not the purpose of this campaign, but the focus of MDA, right? If you take it to the nth degree, it’s to put ourselves out of work. Because we would rather not have to exist. We’d rather not have to talk about media diversity because nobody would bat an eyelid at the idea of a minority being in a media position.”


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