One of the few non-Covid news stories to gain any traction recently has been the Black Lives Matters protests, sparked by the killing of George Floyd.
While the focus has been on re-examining our past, health checking statues, and addressing present day discrimination, responsibility for putting things right does not just lie with the government.
There is a lot the media can do to create a more just society, by:
- Finding and celebrating positive role models from minority groups. At last December’s Campaign Publishing Conference, Cephas Williams of '56 Black Men' spoke movingly about the damaging effects of the negative portrayal of black men in mainstream media. The media matters, he said, because the pen kills more black people than knife crime.
- Upgrading our recruitment policies to ensure a more diverse workforce: finding those positive role models becomes a lot easier if your journalists have connections with the communities they are writing about. At last year’s PPA Festival, Justine Greening made the business case for inclusivity and encouraged publishers to sign up to her Social Mobility Pledge.
- Avoiding lazy stereotypes across everything we do, from headline writing to picture selection.
- Calling out dog-whistle racism when we see it. Most journalists and editors can spot it a mile off, so, rather than amplifying it, we should hold people who use it to account.
- Campaigning against racism, prejudice and injustice.
- err… not being racist ourselves. We can protest our innocence until we’re blue in the face, but the fact is that some serious people think sections of the UK press are racist. In 2015, for instance, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, condemned the "vicious verbal assault on migrants and asylum seekers in the UK tabloid press".
Putting the above into action would make a considerable difference to race relations in the UK. It shouldn’t be that difficult.
(Finally, did you catch this week’s InPublishing Podcast? It’s an interview with Basingstoke Gazette editor Katie French. It’s well worth listening to.)