MEDIA: Society of Editors board member quits over Meghan racism statement

Eleanor Mills resigns over society’s failure to rebut its denial of claims about bigotry in media

UK front pages after Harry and Meghan's Oprah interview
Some of the UK front pages after Oprah Winfrey’s interview with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA

Jim Waterson Media editor @jimwaterson

Eleanor Mills, the former editorial director of the Sunday Times, said she could no longer work with the Society of Editors after the organisation issued a statement strongly denying the Earl of Dumbarton, Prince Harry’s claim that there is bigotry in parts of the British press.

In the subsequent backlash hundreds of British journalists signed an open letter insisting racism was prevalent in newsrooms, the ITV presenter Charlene White quit as host of the society’s awards ceremony and the organisation’s former boss resigned.

Mills said she did not quit immediately because she had been assured that a robust rebuttal of the original remarks would be issued. Two weeks later, however, “that apology and clear statement about the society’s current view in regards to whether the lack of diversity in our newsrooms amounts to structural racism in the UK media is still not forthcoming”, she said.

“I have lost confidence in the Society of Editors ever delivering such a statement.

The organisation claims to speak with one voice for the leaders of British news outlets, but the issue has exposed a divide between two factions: one side who feels the industry as a whole has nothing to apologise for, and another that feels failings on racism should be publicly acknowledged.

Mills, who runs the website Noon for women in midlife, said newspapers lagged behind television and radio stations in terms of staff diversity and pointed to work she had done last year with the group Women in Journalism which showed the lack of representation in British newsrooms.

“Often segments of our media do operate a double standard when it comes to race and I believe it is the duty of the Society of Editors to come out and say so,” she said. “If there is no agreement even on the scale of the problem we are dealing with then it is hard to have confidence in the decisions of the board going forward to remedy it.”

 

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