Sarah Jones, Croydon Central’s Labour MP, is courting controversy within her party – especially in Liverpool – by backing a work experience programme that offers budding young black, Asian and minority ethnic journalists’ placements with… The S*n.
The Murdoch-owned tabloid was banned at this year’s Labour Party Conference, held in Liverpool, where there has been a city-wide boycott of the rag since 1989 after its appalling coverage of the Hillsborough disaster.
At the 1989 FA Cup semi-final held at Hillsborough in Sheffield, 96 Liverpool supporters were unlawfully killed.
Bereaved families, survivors and supporters have never forgiven The S*n, whose coverage included the infamous front page headline “The Truth”, with reports which included extremely damaging allegations about Liverpool supporters’ behaviour, now established to have been false.
Campaigns to boycott the paper have grown on Merseyside since 2016, after an inquest jury found that the 96 people were unlawfully killed, due to manslaughter by gross negligence of the South Yorkshire police. To this day, some retailers on Merseyside refuse to stock the paper, and Labour-run Liverpool city council support the wider boycott.
Last year, The S*n was banned from covering Liverpool FC matches at Anfield, or from sending reporters to manager’s Jurgen Klopp’s press conferences at their Melwood training ground, a decision taken by the club’s American owners.
The paper, and its sister title, the Screws of the World, were also at the dark heart of much of the phone-hacking scandal, which showed that phones of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, relatives of deceased British soldiers, and victims of the 7/7 London bombings in 2005 had all been hacked by Murdoch reporters, acitivities which disgusted the nation, saw the Sunday paper closed, and eventually prompted the Leveson Inquiry into press standards.
The S*n has long been a staunch supporter of the Conservative Party, and fierce critics of Labour. Even on the day that Jones was elected as an MP, in 2017, The S*n was encouraging its readers to vote Tory by ridiculing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on its front page. Labour supporters around the country were filmed that day burning copies of the newspaper.
Jones’s “Journey to Journalism” programme, announced today, says it will offer up to two weeks’ work experience with The S*n, or another Murdoch title, the Sunday Times, as well as the Telegraph, Daily Mail and Metro. It failed to specify how many such placements might be made available.
The press statement issued by Jones’s Westminster office made no mention of any placements being sought at the Labour-supporting Daily Mirror, nor the socialist daily Morning Star, or the left-leaning Grauniad.
The scheme is being run with the Croydon BME Forum. The former chair of the Forum, Nero Ughwujabo, now works as an adviser to Conservative Prime Minister Theresa Mayhem in Downing Street.
“The initiative will help young people in Croydon develop the experience and networks necessary to secure highly competitive journalism jobs and increase diversity within the 94per cent white profession,” Jones’s press release claims.
“The ‘Journey to Journalism’ programme will offer Croydon teenagers from BAME backgrounds work experience with national newspapers. Applications will be judged by a panel of leading BAME journalists, including Fatima Manji and Stephen Bush.
“The programme will help Croydon young people meet increasing demands for work experience for journalism roles. Jones argued today that this creates a ‘barrier to entry’ for aspiring journalists who do not have personal connections to the industry. Just 12 per cent of journalists come from working class backgrounds.”
And Jones said today, “Earlier this year I challenged newspaper editors over unconscious bias in their papers given the lack of black, Asian and minority ethnic journalists. They all expressed a desire to increase diversity, and I’m glad they have agreed to offer this exciting opportunity to young people in Croydon.
“Requirements for work experience are too often a barrier to entry in jobs like journalism for those who aren’t lucky enough to have family connections. I’m looking forward to working with the Croydon BME Forum and a team of top journalists to uncover the huge potential among Croydon’s young people.”
Jones and the Croydon BME Forum appear unaware that there is an existing journalism and public relations apprenticeship scheme already operating in the borough, providing wide-ranging work experience for young journalists from all backgrounds, run by South Norwood resident Tony Snow.
The long-term training offered by Snow and The Apprenticeship Project includes meaningful placements – far longer than a couple of weeks – with other media organisations and businesses, with apprentices having some of their work published, including by Inside Croydon.
Inside Croydon has asked Jones why she had agreed to include in her scheme a newspaper that is banned in a Labour-run city, hacked into the mobile phones of dead teens, which has been banned by one of the country’s leading football clubs, and which has for decades campaigned fervently against the Labour Party.
“The whole point of the scheme is to try and push for culture change,” a spokesperson from Jones’s office said.
“It’s also come off the back of the home affairs committee where it was these publications’ editors who were giving evidence and Sarah challenged them.” So that’s alright then.
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