I look at how stories are shared, as well as who shares the stories, in my research on the news media. In a former life, I worked as a journalist, and it’s given me good understanding of journalism practice and a fair bit of empathy for the journalists, even as it sharpens my own critiques: tradespeople can see slack and sloppiness where the uneducated eye sees just a pretty good job.
Much of my work up to now has concerned who gets to tell stories in the news – the sources who give the information that journalists shape into news articles. It’s unfortunate, as John E. Richardson wrote back in 2006 , that only a small percentage of Muslims were quoted in British broadsheet newspapers when those papers reported on stories about Muslims. Muslims were not given space to talk about their own stories.
Fast-forward to some quick analysis of US television media discussing President Donald Trump’s proposed ban on travellers from certain Muslim-majority nations: Media Matters found only 14 out of 176 sources discussing the story were Muslim . News organisations are not learning the lessons.
But I am optimistic. I don’t think the picture is necessarily as bleak as that, and I do believe it’s changing. In January, I published an article that characterised the increase of Muslim voices contributing to news coverage about Islam in Scotland’s media (the article is Open Access, so you don’t need a library card or an expensive subscription to read it).
Trust, as I said in the clip, is key. Next month, I’ll be chairing discussions at a workshop for journalists and hopeful news sources from religious communities here in Wales about how to build those relationships. I helped the NUJ Wales put one of these on in November , and we’re at it again 10 May at BBC Wales. Check here for more details, but I’ll aim to report back when the workshop is done.