After the headline-grabbing civil disturbances that took place in cities across England in August 2011, CJET partnered with The-Latest.Com to hold a groundbreaking Media and the Riots conference in November. Young people from areas affected by the summer riots were invited to join news experts at the one-day event in the hope of learning lessons about the nature of media coverage of the public disorders.
Did newspapers report fairly? Was the TV coverage truly balanced? Were journalists guilty of provoking trouble?
One important area for discussion was the claim that reporters on the ground failed to interview enough of the people involved, lazily preferring to follow the official line peddled by police and politicians.
Were the voices of the rioters and looters themselves reported?
There was a widely-held belief among many black people, particularly young ones, that the news coverage was biased and stereotyped them.
Was that the fault of the media or poor police PR? And was that error a key reason for the sparking of the disturbances? Perhaps the most interesting question of all was how the incident that started the rioting – the fatal shooting by police of young black man Mark Duggan in Tottenham, north London – was initially reported so inaccurately.
These were just some of the questions debated at the lively conference attended by more than 150 people.
Among the speakers were Professor Gus John, the educator, activist and government advisor, David Hayward of the BBC College of Journalism, Sky News reporter Tom Parmenter, National Union of Journalists (NUJ) president Donnacha DeLong, community activists Maxi Hayles (Birmingham) and Stafford Scott (Tottenham) and veteran journalist and anti-racist campaigner Marc Wadsworth, editor of The-Latest.Com.
The conference was generously supported by the London College of Communications, the London Freelance Branch of the NUJ, Trust for London and Unite, Unite London and East 524 branch and the Metropolitan Housing Trust..
CJET, in association with The-Latest.Com, produced the following year their Media and the Riots – A call for action conference report authored by leading social scientist Dr Leah Bassel, of the University of Leicester. It contained positive recommendations they hope will have a positive impact on future media coverage of communities.