Monday, September 29, 2008

Knife Crime debate live radio -Inside story

Currently listening to Inside Story a debate on BBC Radio 4 in which host Steve Hewlett analyses the way knife crime has been reported in the UK.

The panel are from a broad range of media, e.g Guardian, BBC, The Sun, Standard and Telegraph etc. Joseph Harker - Assistant Comments editor from The Guardian, and someone I have known for a long time has crossed swords with Anne McElvoy a columnist at the Evening Standard.

Ms McElvoy used the word "random" referring to the attack on Ben Kinsella - white.

Joseph argued it intimated that the other murders involving black youth wasn't innocent.

Quite prickly!

The Panel discuss the figures from latest reports with Mark Easton, now the BBC's Home Affairs Editor ( He was at Channel 4 News when I worked there) saying actual figures show crime going down.

Joseph Harker agrees that you could not ignore however that 2/3rd of the deaths have been been black.

Undoubtedly an angle we can't ignore, he said. Hewlett asks what he calls a vexed question. Does knife crime reflect racial stereotypes? A montage ffs of news broadcasts.

The arc image of knife crime
Hewlett interviews race czar and former broadcaster Trevor Phillips who talks about the power of the image in reporting knife crime.

There are two types of black characters within the story, mums, suffering; dads, dignified and then the hoods.

Trevor then raises a poignant and powerful, if not controversial depending where your POV point, why knife crime was is where it is.

He says a generation of refugee children from vicious war torn regions are now maturing in a culture which is ill suited to understand their back grounds.

He concludes the media is not working hard enough to find out what's going on here.

Hewlett asks the Sun if they were getting it wrong. Their representative vigorously denies their coverage is loaded. That's an insult he adds claiming their reporter is himself black.

He says race issue has been blurred.

Ben Kinsella and Robert Knox says Harker got massive coverage. Cites figures that the 23 non white murders got less less than 50 reports, whilst Ben Kinsella and Knox got 200 and 300 stories respectively.

The Sun earlier commented that Knox, who was to star in Harry Porter was a celeb story.

Coverage of crime
Does the coverage reflect a lack of understanding of black families, asks Hewlett.

Harker says yes qualifying. Easton adds sometimes the press is reluctant to say really wants going on, putting forward the view that a black on black killing is less in philosophical terms a story compared to a white boy being stabbed out on a drink.

The Sun speaker is uncomfortable with this.

Does the Guardian understand this issue asks Helwett to Harker.

Harker's response is intriguing in so far as he does not defend his colleagues unequivocally: They are white middle class, from the home counties, so they see things another way.

When Ian Blair the Met Chief Police said the Media was institutionally racist that's what he was referring to says Harker.

So what did the debate reveal?

That there are chasms of difference in the way the media see the story and that whilst it's likely there will be further deaths, that the media has not got to the bottom of reporting the substance of these heinous crimes.

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