Does UK media avoid ‘feel-good’ Muslim news? British lawyer thinks so
Female lawyer received a barrage of negativity when she quipped why mainstream British media were silent on a Ramadan news story
The debate surrounding Muslim representation in the British press has resurfaced once more after observers noticed an uptick in radio-silence of “feel-good” stories amid the magnification of negative ones.
A viral tweet showing the fact that British Muslims donated £100 million in charity during the month of Ramadan was widely ignored by mainstream media including the Huffington Post UK, which admitted it did not follow the news.
“The British media definitely has a negative angle on most stories. It’s a pretty aggressive media industry that favors bad over good news and this has been the situation for a long time,” Chris Doyle, Director of the London-based Council for Arab-British Understanding, told Al Arabiya English.
“This is because our media is so commercial that they want to sensationalize to attract audiences, readers and listeners. [Feel-good] stories don’t do that, in particular the gutter tabloid press,” he added.
‘Painted by a few extremist actions’
The story began when a Twitter user called Anna, an Oxford law graduate and trainee solicitor, tweeted the Muslim donation figures, saying it was the equivalent of £38 for every second.
She told Al Arabiya English that despite the number of negative reactions from other users she had no regrets spotlighting the achievements of British Muslims this Ramadan.
UK Muslims gave £100 million to charity during Ramadan this year. That's £38 a second. The media won't report it so here it is. Thank you.— AJM (@YouMustBeAnna) July 18, 2016
“I think the British media in general only reports negative stories – it’s very rarely good news that makes the press. But unfortunately in the case of UK Muslims that means most news involving Muslims is all about terror attacks, like in Paris and Nice,” Anna, who preferred to go only be her first name, told Al Arabiya English.
“I think people should know the amazing work Muslims have done this year, and all throughout the year rather than get all painted by a few extremists' actions,” she said.
A day later, the Huffington Post UK followed up on the story, lead with the fact that the news was widely missed and only picked up once Anna’s tweet gained traction.
“None of the UK’s major media outlets, including The Huffington Post UK, reported the news,” a Huffington Post article read.
Huffington Post UK Assistant News Editor Louise Ridley, author of said article, told Al Arabiya it was her website’s approach to follow the story as they looked for “what’s working.”
“We have an approach at HuffPost that we call ‘What’s Working’, which leads us to cover positive and inspiring stories showing the good work being done in the world, rather than just the doom and gloom of traditional news. The charity work done during Ramadan fitted in well with this and was something we wanted to celebrate,” Ridley said.
While Ridley told Al Arabiya English that the Huffington Post UK was not in a position to comment on other media outlets, she said that they might have decided not to do the story as Muslims generally donate lots of money for charity during Ramadan every year anyways.
“We can't comment on why other mainstream media haven't covered the story, as that's their decision. Lots of money is always raised for charity during Ramadan, so perhaps this news didn't make an impact as it has happened before,” she said.
“From our point of view, we know our readers care about media stories, so the idea that someone was countering the recent negative media coverage of Muslims with some positive news is an idea we wanted to share to spark conversations,” she added.
‘Sensationalizing the news’
The debate about the amount of negative press British Muslims face had resurfaced recently after a controversial column was published by The Sun by its former editor Kelvin MacKenzie, that hit out at Channel 4 for assigning a Muslim reporter to present coverage of the Nice attack in France.
MacKenzie claimed that the appearance on Fatima Manji, a hijab-wearing Muslim reporter, on Channel 4’s news segment after the Friday night massacre was “massively provocative.”
“Was it done to stick one in the eye of the ordinary viewer who looks at the hijab as a sign of the slavery of Muslim women by a male- dominated and clearly violent religion?” he wrote.
But analysts say that the recent “bad press” for Muslims in the UK is not a new phenomenon brought on by neither the recent attacks in Europe nor the after-effects of the Brexit campaign.