Monday 22 August 2011

Are journalists too middle class to cover the riots?

AA Gill's scathing account in the Sunday Times Magazine of how the well connected middle class use the "patronage loop"of internships and work experience to get their kids jobs in journalism reminded me of the storming speech by The Times' football editor Tony Evans about the coverage of the riots.

As I've already reported, speaking at last week's NUJ debate about reporting the riots, Evans and the Guardian's Paul Lewis claimed journalists had failed to interview the rioters and get to the roots of what had caused the trouble.

Evans, who is from Liverpool, said he had personal experience of riots: "I've fought with policemen. I've kicked in shop windows. I've stole from shops. A lot of people haven't, but I have. And I understand the frustrations that come from being in that underclass, where you're written off, where you're given no opportunities. And you're demonised. You're demonised by the media and you're demonised by the political system. It was 30 years ago, but I felt the same way they did."

He said the riots had been building for four years and the only people who appeared to be surprised by it were journalists and politicians.

Evans claimed the riots were caused not by race but poverty: "Most of people reporting it [the riots] haven't lived through it. They are middle class," he said.

I remember at Press Gazette interviewing Barrie Williams, who edited three regional evening papers, the Kent Evening Post, Nottingham Evening Post and the Western Morning News, and described himself as a "council house kid" who joined a newspaper as a 16-year-old.

Williams claimed the new stress on academic qualifications has "cut out the council-house kids" from entering journalism. At Nottingham, he pioneered a scheme employing kids on council estates to write for the paper and supplied them with laptops.

"I wouldn't get into the profession nowadays," he said. "A lot of regional papers have lost touch with their readers. You have middle-class journalists writing for people who aren't on the same wavelength. They have lost the common touch."

Pic: Tony Evans (Jon Slattery)


Anonymous said...

I did enjoy A A Gill's scathing account of middle class 'advantage'. "I didn't go to university and started my working life in Pizza Express" - it all sounds so 'down wiv da yuf' doesn't it?
Somewhat spoiled for me by the fact that I went to school with A A Gill - if he didn't go to university, it was entirely his choice - we had the third or fourth highest university pass rate in the country if I remember rightly - and Pizza Express was similarly his choice.
What he didn't mention in that piece was that the fees to attend the achingly trendy St Christopher in Letchworth were eye wateringly expensive and only affordable to the well heeled middle classes.
I admire his writing skills immensely, and he is one of Francis King's success stories -but lets have a little honesty on our origins shall we Gill?

That's Not My Age said...

I haven't read the AA Gill piece yet, but am off to do that right now. I grew up on a council estate and I lecture in journalism. Our students are predominantly middle class - and the fee hike next year will only exacerbate this. Yes, it is becoming increasingly difficult for council house kids with talent to break into journalism.

Willowgirl said...

In short YES!
It's not just that tho, they just seem to be in some weird reality bubble.

Suprised to see the Guardian journalists talking about this as I thought the Guardian coverage was especially bad. I wasn't shocked or suprised by the riots themselves but I certainly was by the Guardian coverage. The telegraph coverage was better!

Tops was the "psychology of looting" article. You couldn't make this stuff up! The Guardian writers seemed to have no idea why anyone might be rioting or looting stuff. They just seemed mystified by the whole thing!!

The BBC coverage I saw was also shocking, and racist to boot I felt.
Overall coverage was poor as described but some of it was something else!

Quite frankly the media coverage was an absolute disgrace!

Anonymous said...

Tony Evans is right about the underclass rioting about poverty. However he himself wasn't from the underclass but from the working class and reaped the benefit of a good education.