Media racism: “Sometimes things go unchallenged because they go unspoken”

More than three quarters (77.8%) of black Southampton residents who took part in our media survey said they do not feel fairly and accurately represented in local news coverage.

The survey also revealed that 75% felt there was a negative bias against black people in local news coverage, with the majority stating that the media was more likely to cover stories about black people that were crime, violence or drugs related.

Asked how this made them feel, respondents said they felt “depressed”, “under-represented”, “sad, misunderstood and stereotyped”, “concerned for the younger generation”, and “unwanted, angry and frustrated”. 

The survey revealed a clear link between the type of coverage and people’s wellbeing: on seeing a positive local black story, respondents said it made them feel “fantastic and included”, “uplifted and proud”, and “inspired”. 

Our Version Media’s founder, Veronica Gordon, conducted the research having worked as a broadcast journalist in the city for more than ten years. 

She said: “I love Southampton. I was born and raised here. Being part of the city’s black and diverse communities, I see many wonderful stories but, when I worked in regional news, I rarely saw those stories make it to air, or represented in the local press.

“I set up Our Version Media to share my media and journalism skills with the city’s black and diverse communities to give them the skills to tell and share their own stories. By empowering communities to tell their own stories we help to make sure their lives and achievements no longer go overlooked.”

Following the survey findings, Our Version Media launched a free, weekly online Black Community Coverage Clinic for black community organisation leaders who want help to promote their projects or cause. That way we give them the skills and confidence to tell their own stories, up-skilling them, and counteracting the media’s negative portrayals at the same time. We’re also developing a new home for people to showcase their authentic stories and share the great work they do in our communities, Our Southampton Stories.

Our survey findings also led to the creation of an online media reporting tool to encourage Southampton residents to submit feedback on local news coverage they feel negatively stereotypes black people. 

Veronica said: “Sometimes things go unchallenged because they go unspoken. Less than 40% of respondents said they know how to complain about local media coverage. With our media reporting tool, we’ll help people to complain and work with local media to stamp out racial biases and stereotyping, and make them aware of how their coverage affects people. And we’ll continue to push for authentic stories from under-represented and misrepresented communities. 

“Although the survey highlights the challenges we face, I’m hopeful for 2021. In the survey we asked what black stories people would like to see and there were so many! At Our Version Media we’ve already started to empower our communities to tell those stories, and we’ll build on that work next year so we can have a year filled with more authentic black and diverse stories.”  

Photo of a man's hands editing a video on his mobile phone

Our work is also providing black community groups with more opportunities. Abdoulie Sanneh, chair of Hampshire’s The United Voices of African Associations (TUVAA), is just one of the community project leaders we’ve trained. He said: “I had never even tried videomaking until I began the training. I was taught what type of videos are most likely to make an impact and was practically shown how to create them. 

“After I created and published videos about my projects, people from across the city got in touch to ask how we could work together as they have seen the amazing things we are doing. It feels like I am having new conversations every day with potential collaborators as a result of the videos! It has been incredible.”  

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