Wednesday, 29 April 2009

How the tabloids cover crime

Anyone on the mailing list of the Institute of Race Relations will frequently receive batches of emails in their inbox highlighting news stories about racism. Having looked through some of these recently, one thought struck me - that I hadn't noticed any of these incidents mentioned in our favourite tabloids.

So in an entirely unscientific (and possible entirely useless) experiment, I randomly selected 13 articles from the past few weeks, mainly attacks against members of the black and ethnic minority community. I then searched the websites of the Sun, Express and Mail to see if any of them had reports on the story. The results won't surprise anyone, but here goes...

1. Man accused of five racist attacks in 11 minutes (Coventry Telegraph, 24 April 2009) - Jason Baker was charged with three counts of racially aggravated assault and one count of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm following the two incidents on March 30. He is accused of punching two people in the face, shouting ‘Get back to your own country’ at one of them, and later fracturing the skull of an Asian builder after hitting him with a hammer.

None of these tabloids covered the story.

2. Teachers report 'racist bullying' (, 23 April 2009) - A Teachers TV survey of 802 teachers has found that nearly half say racist bullying is a problem in their schools.

The Express covered in Racism is ‘still rife in schools’ (although the quote marks help put a suggestion of doubt around it)

3. Racist escapes terror charge (Scotsman, 15 April 2009) - Neil MacGregor has admitted threatening to blow up Scotland's biggest mosque and to behead one Muslim a week until every mosque was shut down.

None of these tabloids covered the story.

4. Racists force out Polish family (Newtownabbey Times, 15 April 2009) - Vandals smashed windows and sprayed graffiti at a property in the Forthilll Drive area - the latest in a series of sickening attacks in recent were smashed and the front of the house was painted with racist slogans including 'White Power' and 'Poles Out'.

None of these tabloids covered the story.

5. Alcoholic Tonbridge gunman jailed (thisiskent, 3 April 2009) - Ian Pennells admitted possessing a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence after firing a .22 air rifle after terrorising two men in a drunken racist attack.

None of these tabloids covered the story.

6. Knife attack on Polish man (Paisley Daily Express, 31 March 2009) - A Polish man had his leg slashed after being ambushed by a gang of five men.

None of these tabloids covered the story.

7. Family speak out over racism terror (Newtownabbey Times, 26 March 2009) - An Indian woman has spoken out about the numerous racist attacks she and her family have been subjected to over a year and a half in Newtownabbey, near Belfast.

None of these tabloids covered the story.

8. Chef's jaw broken in racist attack (Asian News, 25 March) - Abdul Motin, who owns Shaheen Takeaway, was left with a badly broken jaw when thugs entered his premises on Friday night and threw a glass bottle at his face. He was hospitalised and needed reconstructive surgery on his jaw after the most recent in a string of attacks going back three years.

None of these tabloids covered the story.

9. £4,000 for Pendle race abuse teacher (Lancashire Telegraph, 25 March 2009) - Ajaz Ditta, a teacher who was racially abused by pupils at a Pendle school, has been awarded £4,000. The school has been ordered to implement changes and to take advice from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

None of the tabloids covered this story. But note how the Sun, Mail (twice) and Express covered the case of Erica Connor who was 'branded a racist at a mainly Muslim school', so they're only interested when the racism is against white people.

10. Off-duty officers 'attacked' man (, 23 March 2009) - Southwark Crown Court has heard how three drunk, off-duty police officers attacked and racially abused Ghanian Ernest Domfeh on a Tube train in London.

The Mail did report on this story in Three drunk off-duty police officers 'attacked Tube passenger and called him a black b******', although have used quote marks to suggest they don't believe it, and have also used a deliberately unflattering pic of the victim, puffing on a cigarette.

11. Muslim inmates in racism claim (, 21 March 2009) - Muslim inmates at the Glen Parvae young offenders institute in Leicestershire have told the BBC that they have been verbally abused by staff. The complaints echo critical reports published by the prison inspectorate, citing similar racial taunts at other prisons.

None of these tabloids covered the story.

12. Police officers in abuse case accused of 60 other assaults (Guardian, 21 March 2009) - Police officers involved in the 'serious, gratuitous and prolonged' attack on Babar Ahmad that led to the Met police paying him £60,000 in damages have been accused of sixty previous assaults against other Black or Asian men.

All the tabloids including 'outraged' stories that Ahmad had been awarded damages. The Mail reported on the allegations here although with great scepticism.

13. Racist stab attack man locked up (Glasgow Evening Times, 4 March 2009) - Grant Murphy, 18, who stabbed a 14-year-old boy eight times in a racist attack in Glasgow city centre has been jailed for four years and three months.

None of these tabloids covered the story.

So there it is. 13 stories and only three articles appeared in the three tabloids (so 3 out of 39). This isn't scientific - articles may have appeared in the paper but not been added to the site (especially with the Express) but I think that's unlikely.

It could also be argued that these stories never appeared in the Independent or Guardian either and that would probably be true. But the point then is that those papers aren't so quick to publish stories where asylum seekers or minortiy ethnic people are the perpetrators, as the tabloids clearly are. It's not hard to imagine the coverage a roles-reversed version of story 3 would look... And the differences in the reporting of the teacher's compensation stories (no. 9) are stark.

When Ian Blair suggested the media is institutionally racist in its coverage of crime there was a predictable outcry from the media. Surely not us, guv. The Mail was happy to emphasis claims he'd 'lost the plot'. The Sun said: 'How dare Sir Ian use them as a platform for his political correctness? Besides, his assertions are absurd'. Clearly my little survey is very limited, but I am absolutely sure more examples would produce the same results. The tabloids have little interest in crime when the victims are from ethnic minorities, but dwell on it excessively when they're the perpetrators.

So, to end, a story from page 371 of Flat Earth News by Nick Davies:

I spoke to a man who had worked for the Daily Mail for some years as a senior news reporter. He said: 'They phoned me early one morning and told me to drive about three hundred miles to cover a murder. It was a woman and her two children who'd been killed. I got an hour into the journey, and the news desk called me on my mobile and said, "Come back." I said, "Why's that?" They said, "They're black."

1 comment:

  1. this reminds me of the silence in the tabloids around violence against women. altho the guardian often has comment pieces on this issue on their website (altho the comments just go to show how far we have to go on this issue) it is very rare we hear about the attacks on women from their partners. as two women a week die from DV related incidents, this is a seriously heavy silence.
    it is just sickening that the news media only tell the stories that suit their agenda. in the examples above - ignoring any racist crime or non-islamic terrorism, in terms of women ignoring or excusing DV and violence against women unless it suits what the paper considers "real violence" or "real rape".
    until this kind of behaviour and reporting stops or is called out, then we will continue to be a society that is plagued with an undercurrent of racist, sexist and homophobic violence.

    ps - sorry i know you wrote this in april but i only discovered this blog last week.


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