What, no racism?

And while we're on the subject, congratulations to the Gusset for managing to cover the arrival of our regular Roma visitors without the overt racism of previous years. Well done all round! Perhaps that visit from the Police helped mellow them out (full story can be found here).

They do however, state that these visits are greeted by 'howls of protest'. Which is true. Such howls coming, almost in their entirety, from the staff of the Gusset itself. Ah, such a wonderful thing the classic 'it is alleged' technique. Who alleges? Well, our editor...

The rest of the community greets the arrival of the Roma with a) bland indifference and b) mild curiosity.

Crusty gusset

While we're on the subject of the local rag, I notice from MediaUK that the website and paper don't get very good reviews. Indeed, out of 1650 odd websites rated by visitors to the service, it comes 1532nd.

Not such a great result then. Might be something to do with completely ignoring everything that happens in the town? Not, perhaps, the best way to run a local newspaper?

Open Letter--the responses part two.

And so, after the great long screed that was the second letter, we get Mr. Vasey's considered response. Let me quote it in full.. Dear Mr... Thank you for your letter outlining your thoughts and opinions. I will bear in mind your comments when it comes to any future coverage on this issue. Yours sincerely.. blah de blah. So there we have it, Mr Vasey is happy to think of himself as a racist, happy that the Ilkley Gazette will pursue a racist agenda, and everyone who thinks different can feck off. Where to next? The CRE maybe...

An Open Letter Pt 4.

In response to Mr Vasey's comments, a more detailed complaint has been sent... Dear Mr Vasey, There are two separate levels to the complaint. The first is about the use of language, the second about the content of the story. The former revolves around the use in the article of the terms ‘invasion’ in the headline and ‘nightmare’ in the body text. Each of these terms is emotive and potentially offensive when applied to a distinct racial group or to members of that group. This is especially so when they are used in headlines or outside of direct quotations from people involved (which has allowed your sister paper some leeway when reporting the comments of BNP members and supporters). In such cases they imply it is the view of the publication itself that is being expressed. As I asked in my original letter, would you directly use such words about Asians, Jews, Black Britons or any other racial group than the Roma? As Sgt Hobbs suggested in her reply to my complaint the use of such terms is somewhat insensitive. Your comment that the Roma were not attacked because you did not use the word is entirely specious—akin to someone claiming Black Britons were not attacked by a story that used a more offensive epithet. What I find more disturbing, as someone who worked as a journalist for many years, including on two nationals, is the way the article was constructed. There is some leeway allowed for inflammatory language in headlines where the language is directly lifted from a quotation within the story. Thus, your article would have been more acceptable journalistically, though still somewhat ethically questionable, if the use of ‘invasion’ in quotation marks was taken from someone quoted within the body text. It was not. Which rather begs the question of why it was placed within quotation marks? It suggests to me that the writer knew the word was inflammatory and desired some means of covering himself. No such cover could be provided for the use of the word ‘nightmare’ within the body text. Again, this is an emotive term and no evidence is provided to back it up. The only person suggesting a nightmare is your writer (and yourselves again in the following week). If Ilkley has been suffering a nightmare, it is odd that you have printed no letters in support of the actions of the Council on this affair, and only ones critical of it—I have to assume this represents the state of your postbag! How many residents of Ilkley actually feel that the presence of a small band of Roma for six weeks each year constitutes a nightmare? Not many; the term simply is not justified. At least, not within the terms of the article You are, of course, quite correct in suggesting that the article did not break the letter of the PCC Code of Conduct as it did not attack specific individuals. It did, however, break the spirit, as enunciated by then Chair Lord Wakeham in 1996, 'Readers won't tolerate newspapers that treat racial minorities in an offensive manner. And nor will I. Contained within the newspaper industry's Code of Practice there is a clause that deals with race... If readers want to ratchet up standards as much as I do, to ensure that all journalists are foot soldiers with us in the battle against intolerance, then complain when something goes wrong. They will find my Commission ready, willing and able to assist.' Unfortunately I and many others feel the clause doesn’t tackle the issue (unlike the NUJ Code which perhaps is not relevant to your employees—I attach the relevant passage ). On the substance of the article, I again would refer to the letters received. This band of Roma have been camping on and around the riverbank for many years (some claim up to 100 years). The previous owner of that ground was happy for them to stay and, as I understand it, purchase by the Anglers was a deliberate attempt to prevent occupation. Thus questions of trespass have now come about purely because of a purchase intended to provoke this situation! Most inhabitants of Ilkley seem at least sanguine about their presence. And, having run past the camp every morning for the weeks they are present, I have noticed considerably more abuse directed AT them than from them. Abuse supported by the language used in your article. The notion that their presence constitutes a nightmare seems to be based on the amount of rubbish left. Yet, your article makes clear that most of the rubbish is cleared away. This seems in stark contrast to the amount of rubbish left EVERY weekend by our regular out-of-town visitors, including in areas not far from the Roma camp—the number of disposable barbeques this year floating on the Wharfe was disgusting. Yet this rubbish doesn’t seem to be a ‘nightmare’ in the same way as ‘bags of rubbish’—at least the Roma bag up THEIR mess. This minor problem is as nothing compared to the regular problems caused by tourists that rarely receive any coverage. It is also as nothing compared to the now permanent eyesore of an earthen bank that will prevent anyone using this space. I don’t particularly want to over-extend this correspondence, and there is little point continuing if we are unable to find some common ground. I hope you will offer an apology for the offence caused by the language used, but fear this is somewhat unlikely, and we shall see a repeat next year. NUJ Guidelines on mentions of travellers (ratified by the NUJ) Only mention the word gypsy or traveller if strictly relevant and accurate. Give balanced reports, seeking travellers' views as well as those of others, consulting the local travellers where possible. Resist the temptation to sensationalise issues involving travellers, especially in their relations with settled communities over issues such as housing and settlement programmes and schooling. Try to give wide coverage to travellers' lives and the problems they face. Strive to promote the realisation that the travellers' community is comprised of full citizens of Great Britain and Ireland whose civil rights are seldom adequately vindicated, who often suffer much hurt and damage through misuse by the media and who have a right to have their special contributions to Irish and British life, especially in music and craft work and other cultural activities, properly acknowledged and reported.

An Open Letter--the responses

Being the continuing sagaof a complaint against the Ilkley Gazette. Believing the original article was racist and offensive, I sent the open letter to the Gazette, to Ann Cryer MP and to the Police. Oh, and to the Ilkley PCC (through Cllr Mann), who have as yet completely failed to reply. Responses came there some... Ms Cryer seemd to get something of the wrong end of the stick in replying... "I was under the impression that there was an area in Ilkley...that a lady had given to the people of Ilkley for everyone, including Romany people, to enjoy. I have spoken to Bradford Council's Gypsy Liason Officer in the past and he has assured me that the people who come to use the site were not trespassing and the owner...was quite happy with it being used as a temporary camp site. I assume that article in the Gazette was about a different site, owned by the Angling Club. It might be that there is still a site somewhere near the river that people can still use, though the situation might have changed in the last few years. "I understood that the 'gypsy' travellers had been using this site, or certainly sites in Ilkley, for a very long time, possibly since the nineteenth century." So I have subsequently informed her that, yes, this is the same piece of land. Sgt Hobbs from Keighley Police, wrote to use the standard, 'it is not in the public interest to take the matter further with the information available'. However, she also added, "I feel the article could have been written more sensitively", which is something of a surprise! And, finally, Mr Vasey himself. Quoted pretty well in full below... "I note that you wish for the letter to be published. However, I need to deal with some of the points you make, and I feel it is not suitable for publication in its present form. "As far as the front page story is concerned, you refer to the 'bland statement' that the gipsies are 'accused of leaving mounds of rubbish and threatening people' and you say that no evidence or interviews have been produced to back this up. This is plainly not so, as the official of the anglers' association refers to the rubbish left and claims that his bailiffs had been threatened. In addition, while there have not been any stories this year about such problems caused, the Gazette has recorded previous incidents. We feel we have reported the genuine concerns of local residents and anglers and it was not, and is absolutely not, our intention to denigrate the Roma community in any way. Furthermore, we don't believe that our coverage represents any kind of racial attack on the Roma and, in fact, the word 'Roma' is not used anywhere in the paper. "We would also take issue with your claim that the phrase 'gipsy' nightmare is a breach of the PCC Code of Practice. Clause 12:1 does not cover a race or group of people--its remit is only to individuals." The latter point is entirely valid--complaints can only be made by individuals who consider themselves to have been attacked--a major hole in the code which has been raised by the CRE. It means really papers could abuse any ethnic group without falling foul of the Code. Otherwise, however, the reply fails to deal with the issue of language used, and the wonderful line that 'we don't believe our coverage represents any racial attack on the Roma because the word Roma is not used' is simply stunning. From now on, Black Britons are not abused by the word 'nigger, Jews are not abused by the use 'kike' and I'm not abused by the use of the word 'blue-blooded redneck'. Reply to follow.

An Open letter to the Ilkley Gazette

Dear Sir, Your recent article ‘Barrier plan to prevent ‘invasion’ by gypsies’ and its accompanying editorial managed to combine the worst sort of smear and innuendo with plainly racist epithets. It is clear from the body of the article that there is no evidence to substantiate any of your claims. Instead of producing evidence through interviews, you rely on the bland statement that “the gypsies are…accused of leaving mounds of rubbish and threatening people.” The latter is a serious allegation, yet you produce no one to back it up (if such threats were made, it would be a matter for the police), and certainly no one from the Roma community is allowed to defend themselves. There has been no other article this year suggesting that this community has caused any damage. Looking through last year’s papers, there was again only one article on them, and it provided no further evidence. Indeed, when a group of travellers later in the year caused trouble with their dogs, councillors were at pains to differentiate them from ‘our regular gypsies’. There are problems in Ilkley. Problems with some disorder on the main streets on weekend nights, problems with youth gangs at the station, problems with dumping of rubbish by our regular visitors at holiday weekends (compared to which the bagged up rubbish left by the Roma is small fry). Yet none of these are attributable to this community. Unless, of course, you have evidence. Whatever the rights and wrongs of this Roma commuity camping in this area (which they have been doing for far longer than many of those complaining have lived in Ilkley), the solution is surely not a campaign of vituperation and hatred against them (never mind the three-foot high reinforced construction that is being suggest, and which will be a year-long eyesore). The Roma are protected as a community by the Race Relations Act. The use, in your article, of terms such as ‘gypsy nightmare’ is a clear breach of the Press Complaints Commission Code of Practice (Clause 12:1) as well as the NUJ Code of Conduct. I would also suggest that it represents a clear ‘incitement to racial hatred’ under the Public Order Act 1986. Just replace the word ‘gypsies’ with the word ‘asians’ and you have a BNP leaflet. I would assume an apology is in order.

I'm, I'm, I'm appalled

(copyright for that article remains with the Ilkley Gazette, lord love them...unauthorized reproduction (like this) is plainly prohibited). Better to go to the link and read it though!

The latest issue of pravda is shocking even to someone like myself who is happy to endorse tabloid journalism.

It makes me feel like that episode of Yes Minister where they all sat round going

'I'm appalled...what do you think Humphrey?'

'It's appalling minister..'

'It is, I'm, I'm appalled...Bernard, anything to help...'

'Not really minister, I'm appalled.'

More later, but letter to PCC and CRE will be following...

Woops

Heart-warming story in pravda...at the end of a 'Pop Idol' type contest, "Naomi Murray won the Wharfedale Festival of Performing Arts Search for a Star for the second year running." And the title to the piece? "Natalie is pop queen in night to remember" Oh dear. Someone shoot that sub.

Journalism 101 (pt. 2)

Glad to see the Gazette up to their old tricks. Banner headline across the front page Postal Switch brings late deliveries--and anger. A story of how the Post Office's swap to mid-morning deliveries has wrecked the lives of citizens across Ickley. Only, when you read it, you find that the 'anger' in question has been expressed by just one person a 'David Bowtell' of King's Road, who claims 'any sane person has got to admit a postal delivery at 12-20pm is quite absurd.' Yup, that's one source justifying a banner header, a quarter page story and a 'strong' leader. I wonder if that source freely gave their opinion, or if they were asked for a comment (or, godz forbid, they were entirely made up)?? Who knows? What I do know, however, is that every Journalism course and Media Studies O Level in the country will tell you that two sources are the minimum required to make a story. Strangely, the story itself doesn't feature on pravda's website. I wonder why? And for the record Dave (and Ms Greaves), like many people I set off for work by 7-30 so I never see the post until the evening.