Society of Editors’ Director quits over Duke and Duchess of Sussex statement

Stephen Chapman's picture
by Stephen Chapman

Ian Murray, the Executive Director of the Society of Editors has stepped down, following a row over its reaction to comments about racism in the media.

Prince Harry stated in the interview with Oprah Winfrey that some British tabloids were “bigoted” and “racist.”

Initially, the Society of Editors denied this in a strongly worded statement, saying that it was “not acceptable” for the couple to make such claims, “without supporting evidence.” It added that the press in the UK “was not racist.”

“Since the statement was issued the SoE has been heavily criticised,” stated Murray.

“While I do not agree that the Society’s statement was in any way intended to defend racism, I accept it could have been much clearer in its condemnation of bigotry and has clearly caused upset.

“As executive director I lead the Society and as such must take the blame and so I have decided it is best for the board and membership that I step aside so that the organisation can start to rebuild its reputation.”

He added that the original statement was “not intended to gloss over the fact that the media industry in the UK does have work to go on inclusivity and diversity.”

Ahead of Murray’s resignation last night, The Yorkshire Post’s Editor, James Mitchinson, said that he would be withdrawing from the Society of Editors Awards in protest.

"I came into local journalism because I wanted to be of service to local people. As a coal miner’s lad whose accent is greeted with disdain, I cast myself as a chippy champion of underdogs,” he wrote in an editorial.

“I wanted to offer a voice to those who have none. Here is one such moment where I have a choice to make. Here I am, troubled at the prospect of accepting adulation from an organisation that cannot see the prejudice before them, even when it screams in sans serif caps lock, 200pt.

“As a forty-something white man, I feel woefully short of credentials to bring to this fight, but I will be damned if the colour of my skin and my perceived social status is going to prevent me from listening, learning, bettering myself and my workplace.

“It is now up to the Society to decide how it betters itself, for the sake of decent journalism and, critically, the sake of a more decent, tolerant society.”

Alison Gow, President of the SoE said:

“I would like to thank Ian for his tireless work on behalf of the Society; he has led campaigns for journalists’ rights and freedoms and worked hard behind the scenes when it appeared legislation might threaten those.

“The Society is committed to representing all journalists and upholding Journalism; I am clear on what our mission must be, and we will strive as an organisation to listen and hear everyone’s views, and be strong advocates and allies for all those we represent."

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