'Political correctness' attacked by editors

Society of Editors executive director Bob Satchwell told the Commons
home affairs select committee this week that editors around the country
were concerned about the “spread of political correctness”.

“The
message I get is that political correctness in itself would be damaging
to community relations.We have got to have common sense if we are going
to have cohesive communities.”

He delivered the warning as
newspapers and broadcasters were accused of damaging community
relations by the way they report the terrorist threat.

The
committee, which has a Labour majority, summoned Satchwell, Robin
Esser, executive managing editor of the Daily Mail, and Mark Easton,
home editor of the BBC, to defend the charge which had been levelled by
witnesses in their inquiry into terrorism and community relations.

But after hearing their opening remarks, committee chairman John Denham rounded on them.

“What
we have heard is remarkably complacent statements from each of you. We
have had evidence that themedia is contributing directly to the
problem.”

Esser replied: “It is easy to blame the messenger for
bad news.” He said the Daily Mail was careful to make a distinction
between followers of Islam and terrorists.

Esser added:
“Extremists deserve their exposure. It is certainly part of any
newspaper’s duty to expose the rantings and ravings of extremists.”

Easton
earlier acknowledged that the tone of BBC news coverage of incidents
may have contributed to the “sense that the problem is greater than it
is”.

Paul Dacre, Daily Mail editor, robustly defended his newspaper in written evidence made available at the hearing.

“The
balance between frightening the public and informing them is constantly
on my mind and in the forefront of thinking among my senior executives,
as is the possibility of copycat action on the part of extremists or
those of unsound mind.

“However I do not believe that it is
necessary to soft-pedal the news. It is the task of a free press to
tell it as it is, not tell it to some politically correct agenda which
would sweep either tacit or violent dissent under the carpet.”

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