A Newsworthy Murder - Why

By Ciar Byrne Media Correspondent | The Independent (London, England), January 28, 2006 | Go to article overview
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A Newsworthy Murder - Why

Ciar Byrne Media Correspondent, The Independent (London, England)

It is an accusation that has often been levelled at the police but this week the media has been accused of "institutional racism" in its reporting of murder.

While some in the media agree that there is an element of racism in their decision-making processes, others argue that a whole host of factors play a part in selecting which murders receive more attention.

The age and class of the victim, the amount of detail provided by the police and what else is happening in the news agenda all contribute to whether the media focus on a particular murder case.

The former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan said Sir Ian had "got apoint". Mr Morgan said: "The media collectively for a long time have assessed five black or Asian youths dying in a car crash in a different way to they way would have assessed five white youths. I wouldn't call it institutional racism. I would call it subliminal racism."

Donald Trelford, a former editor of The Observer, said a more commercial equation was taking place. "News editors get excited by the stories they think their readers are likely to be excited by and since the country is preponderantly white, [stories about white victims] are more likely to get extensive coverage."

Jeff Edwards, chair of the Crime Reporters' Association, said the frequency with which certain types of murder happened determined their place on the news agenda. "Once something becomes commonplace, it ceases to be news. Twenty years ago a black man shooting a black man dead in a car in Hackney was a story. When it happens 10 times in three months, it ceases to be a story."

Racially motivated murders such as the killing of 18-year-old Anthony Walker in Liverpool are always big news, according to Mr Edwards.

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