JVL Introduction

The Guardian encourages its readers to become members, supporting it financially in order to “help us deliver the independent journalism the world needs”.

Here’s a letter to the editor from one member whose sense of betrayal is palpable…

Some Guardian headlines.


LETTER TO KATHARINE VINER, EDITOR GUARDIAN, 28th September 2018

From: Felicity Laurence
Sent: 28 September 2018 09:39
To: ‘Katharine Viner (Guardian Members)’
Subject: The Guardian’s reporting by impartial academic report from Birkbeck on MSM response to antisemitism issue. Verdict: Persistent subversion of conventional news values in most media, including the Guardian
Importance: High

Dear Ms Viner,

New MRC research finds inaccuracies and distortions in media coverage of antisemitism and the Labour Party

You can read the full report here.

You can read the executive summary here.

Nearly one year ago, I answered your request to members to comment upon your statements about your aims for the paper. I noted then your increasingly sensationalist approach, the far more evidently crude bias than had previously been the case, and the merciless and unceasing thumping of Jeremy Corbyn and those who support him, written almost entirely without allusion to or apparent interest in what he was actually saying. And I asked that you put immediately into practice your avowed policy to ‘report fairly’.

Since then, as with thousands of others, I have been instead profoundly dismayed at the way in which you have pursued such an unremittingly aggressive tone in your treatment of Labour and in particular Jeremy Corbyn. As I said in my previous letter (to which you made no response), informed and fair criticism and a sophisticated level of debate with many nuances and views is what I would expect from your paper.  What we got, particularly during spring and summer, was a loutish onslaught, full of tendentious and often downright mendacious comment and reportage. From my own knowledge of some of the matters of which your reporters were writing, I knew well that simple fact-checking must have been entirely abandoned, while you saw fit to publish letters so histrionic and uninformed that it was hard to believe they could appear in what presents itself as a serious paper.  Now, a cautiously-researched report has come out from Birkbeck’s university and the Media Reform Coalition, analysing media behaviour over the issues of antisemitism in the Labour party.  It confirms my own impression that while the right-wing papers failed the basic tenets of journalism as expected, the Guardian and the BBC TV News were shamefully prominent in this too, with high levels of simply inaccurate reporting, and also in misleading reporting.  I am not alone: most of my friends have relied upon the Guardian for at least a nod in the direction of real journalism, and it is the work of such people as Amelia Gentleman, Frances Ryan, Gary Younge, that has kept me reading the paper. But many of my colleagues and friends refuse ever to buy a copy – including those who may not be convinced of the Labour line, but who are cringing now at your betrayal of journalistic values (as concluded among many other things in this academic report).

You have been called out on many aspects of your treatment of the antisemitism story and Jeremy Corbyn’s role in this.

I suggest in the strongest terms possible that it is unacceptable for your journalists to report as fact any claims made, without checking properly whether these are false, and to distort the response of Jewish people – thousands of us felt entirely unrepresented by the group seeking to remove Corbyn through this means of charges of antisemitism – this made very clear eventually with Margaret Hodge’s and others’ direct statements that their issue with antisemitism in Labour would not be solved until the departure of Corybn himself.

I join many now who feel bereft and without representation in the media.  I wrote a letter to your Letters page, not published, explaining my concern that this violent onslaught (for violent it truly was) risked in fact serving to conceal real antisemitism which is indeed on the rise across Europe and here, and which along with all forms of the general racism structurally present throughout our society, needs urgently to be brought into the light.  As a person of Jewish descent, I am deeply concerned about this, and the ‘crying wolf’ that your paper has contributed to.  And equally dangerously, your coverage of this issue, with its ongoing attack on Corbyn as a person and Labour as some sort of hotbed of antisemitism, has put at risk the prospect of Labour’s political project of social justice and a move away from the corrupt inequality we now have and which is destroying lives  -as your brilliant Frances Ryan and Amelia Gentleman for example constantly tell us (in articles which indeed constitute the very best of journalism). I work on the ground with people whose lives are made almost unliveable by current Government policy, and have been increasingly aghast at the unremitting undermining – in your own paper – of our only chance, as increasingly articulately explicated, of changing the inequities currently prevailing in our society.

I would ask that you publish this report from Birkbeck immediately, announce an apology for the failures documented in that report, and gather your journalists together to establish a renewed intent of fair debate; accurate and also contextualised reporting; and a renouncing of the all-too-clear agenda of damage to Labour under Corbyn. Critique -yes. Demonisation -no.

Yours sincerely,

(Dr) Felicity Laurence
Hastings