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Analysis: Meghan’s interview sparked a reckoning on race in UK media. Will anything change?

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Analysis: Meghan's interview sparked a reckoning on race in UK media. Will anything change?

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Many close observers doubt that the dramatic repercussions will lead to significant changes in an industry where some publications are frequently accused of feeding prejudice against minorities and immigrants. Even the most reputable outlets have a poor background in terms of diversity.

Recognizing that racism exists is a “necessary but not sufficient condition to do something to address it,” said Rasmus Nielsen, director of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. “Talking doesn’t always lead to action,” he added. “The UK media will be judged by what they do rather than by what they say they will do.”

In the interview with Oprah, Harry said that racism had played a role in the way the British press covered his wife, Meghan, and that tabloid coverage was a major factor in the couple’s decision to leave. the country.

The tabloids “incited” racism, Meghan said. “Not only was it gossip, but it brought out a part of people who were racist,” he added.

Despite the evidence supporting these claims, including that of 2016 Mail Online title who stated that Meghan was “(almost) direct from Compton” and Daily Star header who asked if Harry “would marry the gangster royalty?” – The couple’s comments provoked a reprimand from the Publishing Society.

Executive director Ian Murray said in a statement on Monday that it was “false” that sections of the British press were fanatical or racist, and scolded Harry and Meghan for making such claims “without providing supporting evidence”.

The Society of Editors has 400 members, mostly working journalists, and runs the Press Awards, the leading annual British Journalism Awards event. Murray’s comments were quickly discussed by black journalists and major editors of the Guardian and Financial Times, who said the media should do more to challenge racism and examine how it treats people of color.

Murray resigned two days later after the Society released what he called a “clarification,” saying it “will reflect the reaction our statement provoked.”

The denial of industrial group racism in the British press was “intrinsically wrong,” said Joseph Harker, deputy editor of The Guardian.

“If the Publishers Society had come out and said we don’t believe the coverage [of Meghan] he has been racist, he would not have agreed, but that is a different opinion, “he told CNN Business.

But denying the existence of racism fails to address the fact that parts of the British press, especially its tabloid newspapers, “spread racism almost daily in subtle and not-so-subtle ways that reinforce racial divisions,” he added. “It’s on display every day, not just on Meghan’s coverage.”

Harker is one of 160 color journalists who signed one letter he posted online asking the Society of Editors to withdraw its “denial of the racism that exists in our industry” and explain what steps it will take to address it.
Journalists added that the press awards “did not constantly recognize the talent and achievements of journalists of color” and that the event would be a good place to start reforms. ITV journalist Charlene White on Wednesday resigned as host of this year’s awards, which were to be held later this month. Some nominated journalists and news organizations have come out of certain categories and the guardian reports that the event will be postponed.
Earlier in the week, many of the same journalists wrote one letter to the organization that urges it to address bigotry and racism, rather than pretending it doesn’t exist. “The general refusal to accept there is intolerance in the British press is laughable, it hurts journalists of color and shows a denied institution and industry,” the journalists wrote.

They cited a wealth of evidence to support their claims, including a 2016 European Commission report against racism and intolerance that found that hate speech among traditional UK media, particularly press newspapers, “remains a serious problem” and fuels prejudice.

The newspaper that gave a megaphone to Black Britain

The Society of Editors, which held a special board meeting on Thursday, has not yet released another statement and has declined to answer questions from CNN Business.

Vic Motune, a news editor for The Voice newspaper and one of two board members of the Society of Publishers who do not identify as white, has expressed “deep disappointment” at Murray’s comments.

The Voice, launched in 1982, is widely regarded as the first publication to cater to black Britons. He has long covered systemic racism in the country.

Motune said he and other board members were not consulted before the original statement was released. “My great fear now is that the initiatives to address the diversity in which the board has been working over the past year and in which I joined the Society of Publishers to support, have had a severe blow.” , said in a statement on Thursday.

“We now urgently need to rebuild trust with this group,” he added.

Too many changes

In 2004, a report of the Society of Publishers noted that “changing the skin of the newsroom is a fundamental challenge that will require commitment and a structured approach, constantly driven from the top.”

The 42-page report examined the diversity of local, regional, and national newspapers and broadcasters. “To say that there is room for improvement would be an understatement,” he concluded, but pointed to evidence that this issue “is now taken more seriously than ever at the highest levels of the major [publishing] groups “.

However, 17 years later, there have been few changes. The British press remains overwhelmingly white compared to the ethnic and racial composition of the UK.

According to Harker, black journalists working in news organizations hold mostly junior positions. Decisions about what stories are published and what angles they adopt are made mostly by richer white men and these discussions do not include people of color, he said. “They talk to us, they don’t really talk to us.”

One of the reasons Meghan suffered racist coverage in the UK: the media is not diverse

A 2016 report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism found that only 6% of journalists in UK newsrooms do not identify as white, compared to around 13% of the general population. The same study found that while black Britons make up 3% of the population, they make up only 0.2% of journalists.

And according to a report last July by the Reuters Institute, none of the top ten British print, digital or broadcast media has any black editor in mind.

There are indications that some of the recommendations of the Society of Editors almost two decades ago have been taken seriously.

For example, the UK’s leading tabloids, including the Daily Mail and The Sun’s editor, News UK, have established scholarships and training programs for journalists who do not identify as targets. News UK and Reach Plc, which publishes The Mirror and the Express, have also created new roles to boost diversity and editorial inclusion efforts, a move that was also made in the Financial Times and the Guardian.

But many of these changes have only occurred in recent years and there is still a long way to go. “Advances will not occur until senior executives and publishers make minority ethnic hiring for the publisher one of their top priorities and keep it there,” the Publishers Society report said. “Publishers should routinely collect data on the ethnic recruitment of minorities in the newsroom and facilitate its dissemination,” he added.

There is no evidence that this practice is widespread. According to Nielsen of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, data collection is “uneven” and there is limited transparency around diversity in newsrooms.

“The shift in the way minorities are covered and displayed in the news and the increase in diversity, especially at higher levels, in what remains the white UK newsrooms would be more tangible indicators than pronouncements said Nielsen.

Marverine Duffy, director of undergraduate journalism at Birmingham City University and a member of the editorial board of the Sir Lenny Henry Center for Media Diversity, believes there will be no fundamental change until there are more blacks in positions of power. of editorial decision.

“There’s an illusion of inclusion,” he told CNN Business this week. The industry wants journalists from various backgrounds to tick a box, but their voices are ignored, he said.

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