Page last updated at 11:30 GMT, Friday, 27 January 2006

Head-to-head: Racism in the media

Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman
Sir Ian was surprised by coverage of Jessica and Holly's murders
London's Metropolitan Police chief, Sir Ian Blair, has accused the media of "institutional racism" in its reporting of murders.

He highlighted the difference in coverage of the recent murders of white lawyer Tom ap Rhys Pryce and Asian builders' merchant Balbir Matharu, and said "almost nobody" could understand why the Soham murders had become such a big story.

Two people with differing views, National Black Police Association president, Keith Jarrett, and former News Of The World editor Phil Hall debate the issue.


I agree with Sir Ian. I wholly support him. He does make a valid point. I do not believe it is a red herring.

Every time somebody tries to say to anybody in society, 'look perhaps the way we are looking at this is because our views are racist', it makes us uncomfortable.

I am asking for us to examine our values.

The statement is causing us to look at our values. And it does make us feel uncomfortable, as a society, how we view various sections of the society.

The way the media portrays people of colour is most times in a very negative way
National Black Police Association president, Keith Jarrett

The way the media portrays people of colour is in a much, much more negative light than they do other people.

The way some sections of the media, a lot of the tabloid press, report crimes committed by and against black people is wholly inequitable.

The media is needed to help solve these crimes. And a lot of people do get themselves educated by the media because they do not listen to anything else or they do not take time to get to know other sections of society, and the media does provide that information for them.

And the way the media portrays people of colour is most times in a very negative way.

When Victoria Climbie was murdered by her evil aunt and uncle, about the same time there was a white family that jumped on the stomach of their baby. The two incidents, the killing of two children, were reported very differently.


You have to look at the finer detail. The media look for stories that connect with their readership - in particular, human interest stories.

Sir Ian Blair quoted, for instance, the white lawyer who was murdered when he came out of the Underground station a couple of weeks ago had huge coverage - an Asian man who was mugged and died did not.

The difference was the lawyer who was killed had his wedding plans in his top pocket, his bride came out and was photographed and quoted the following day, his parents came out the day after that - the story had an awful lot of different elements to it.

And, unfortunately, newspapers and television are commercial enterprises - they are looking for human interest stories, and it is detail that really makes stories take off.

Former News Of The World editor, Phil Hall
Female victims of crime are more interesting than male victims
Former News Of The World editor Phil Hall

They are, obviously, trying to sell newspapers.

Newspaper editors have a great affinity with their readership.

They are constantly in touch with them - there is a lot of connection there, and newspaper editors will feel gangsters killing each other is not of interest to the general public.

People are interested in children. And, yes, female victims of crime are more interesting than male victims.

When you look at Soham, it got that coverage because it was two little girls going to buy sweets at the local sweet shop.

Every parent in Britain connects with that and understands that.

And of course the fact the killer, Ian Huntley, went on television and talked openly, again gave the story great legs from a newspaper and television point of view.

Blair apology to Soham parents
27 Jan 06 |  London
Profile: Sir Ian Blair
29 Nov 05 |  UK
Soham killer jailed for 40 years
29 Sep 05 |  Cambridgeshire

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