I write this with no joy, but the Society of Editors has got its position on the racism debate surrounding the Meghan and Harry interview on Oprah so very wrong.
The press this week has been accused of racism and bigotry in the way it has portrayed the Duke and Duchess of Sussex – and particularly its coverage of Meghan.
Watching that interview on Monday I was shocked by the headlines selected to contrast the way Meghan has been reported upon compared with similar stories about her sister-in-law Kate.
Within the wider context of whether Harry and Meghan have endured racist treatment at the hands of the Institution of the Royal Family the couple levelled serious allegations about the racist and bigoted coverage they had suffered from the media.
I am not going to wade into that debate – and I am pretty sure the leaders of the SoE regret the way they did, too.
A firm and, in my opinion, arrogant rebuttal penned by Executive Director Ian Murray has made our industry as guilty as other sectors in our society of making a blanket denial about the existence of racism in their organisations.
The furore over the manner of his riposte has forced the SoE to backpedal and to say it will now reflect on the reaction it has provoked.
No doubt this was as result of the incendiary style of Mr Murray’s performance on the Victoria Derbyshire show this morning.
Contrast the flat denial of any problem with racism by Mr Murray with the rather more eloquent response penned by 160 journalists in reaction to the SoE statement issued on Tuesday.
His “nothing to see here” denial was an inflammatory response and missed the chance to discuss a very real issue in the wider media industry – representation.
The authors of the letter deplored the comments made by the Sussexes and held out the path the SoE should have set out.
“The SoE should have used the comments by the Sussexes to start an open and constructive discussion about the best way to prevent racial coverage in the future, including through addressing lack of representation in the UK media, particularly at a senior level.”
The sad thing is, the SoE has, in recent times, attempted to throw a focus on the lack of racial mix in our industry. I do not know what progress they have made on this, but I do know Mr Murray had contacted a number of senior editorial leaders to set up a working group to look at the problems we face in increasing representation in our newsrooms.
And so his response, which at times bordered on aggressive, on the Victoria Derbyshire interview, was a missed opportunity to say that we, as an industry, are acutely aware of the issues we face, and need to try a lot harder to face them.
Look at the facts, there is less than 10% representation of non-white journalists in our industry according to the Reuters Research Institute.
And that percentage dwindles even further when you look at the number of non-white people in managerial positions.
The Society of Editors, instead of embracing the issue of racism, portrayal and representation, have merely tarred our profession with the same brush that other institutions have used.
Have we learned nothing from Black Lives Matters and the need for balance, sensitivity, openness and humility?
Many journalists are distraught at the way they have been misrepresented and the way this issue has been mishandled.
Whether or not the press is guilty of racist coverage or not – it should be playing a far more educated and sympathetic role to inform, shed light on and campaign against racism and under-representation in all walks of life.
And that is why journalism has not been well served this week.
If you have a view, write to me at email@example.com
Postscript: Ian Murray has now resigned from his position – however, the written response from him was approved by the SoE and therefore, I believe the issues raised are still relevant and need to be addressed.