Does British Journalism prefer publishing false information over hiring black writers?

The lack of diversity in British journalism has always been alarming however, recently and more specifically in music journalism, it has been a blatant embarrassment. The NME and the Evening Standard are just two British publications that have had to publish apologetic statements this year, on behalf of writers covering topics they show themselves to know very little about.

“NME would like to make an unreserved apology to Giggs. In our review of his new album, ‘Landlord’, a lyric was misheard which completely altered the context and our understanding of the track ‘The Process’. In the track Giggs says “man rates her”, which was incorrectly interpreted as ‘man rapes her”

The NME’s “serious mistake” was a false rape accusation, caused by a misinterpretation of British rap artist Giggs’ lyrics on the premiere of his fourth studio album ‘Landlord’.

“The Standard apologises for an error in the original version of this review, which has since been edited for clarity. The author acknowledges it should have read ‘reload’ rather than ‘restart’ and shouldn’t have suggested technical malfunction.”

Just last Thursday, Evening Standard writer John Aizlewood published a review of award winning Grime artist Skepta’s ‘homecoming show’ in North London’s, Alexandra Palace. In this review he criticizes how “frustrating” it was to hear so many of the songs during his set “re-started.”

This “re-starting” is in fact called “a reload” and is a staple within the grime music culture. Little did Aizlewood know, the reload is the DJ’s act of bringing a song back to the start in response to their crowd’s excitement, and it stems from Jamaica’s sound system culture.

Considering a journalist’s entire profession depends on accuracy, reliability and subject knowledge; publishing incorrect, offensive and in some cases libelling content is entirely unacceptable. Yet black music seems to be continually misrepresented.

This is more than a lack of subject knowledge issue. The underlying issue here is, why aren’t black writers hired to write about black culture? If a publication needed an article written about what it is like to live life in the day of the 30-year-old woman, it is highly unlikely that a 16-year-old boy would be asked to write it, this is precisely how misinterpretation occurs.

According to the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism’s research, the most under-represented group in British Journalism are Black Britons, who make up approximately 3% of the British population but only 0.2% of journalists.

Why aren’t more black journalists being hired or commissioned to cover topics that they are most privy to, not only for the sake of diversity and equal opportunities, but in order to avoid such mistakes from being made and published internationally. There are certain intricate details that can only be picked up by those “in the know.”

Whilst The Evening Standard’s apology notes that Aizlewood “acknowledges it should have read ‘reload’ rather than ‘restart’ and shouldn’t have suggested technical malfunction.” Is this really good enough? Had it not been for the uproar of many grime fans on social media, would Aizlewood have known any better?

The general term for the Twitter social network’s black community, is “black twitter.” This network continuously holds journalists account for their misrepresentation of black culture. Journalists are supposed to be society’s gatekeepers; they are the in the practice of keeping society informed and critically aware.

This same society we speak of, the British population, is multi-cultural and should be reflected in the people that represent it. Skepta, Giggs, AJ Tracey, Kano, Wretch 32, Krept and Konan are amongst many grime artists who have entered the UK’s Top 10 chart. They are extremely relevant.

No matter the creed or colour, a journalist should be well informed or at least well researched. In this digital age, this task should be easier than ever.

Words by Charisse Chikwiri