Saturday 30 January 2021

"At times the way government comms have attempted to publicly shame individual journalists during this crisis for simply doing their jobs has been deeply sinister. I’d hoped we’d seen the last of it"

Here's a story you may have missed yesterday (understandably)...

The government's black, female equalities minister took umbrage at a black, female journalist journalist yesterday and all hell broke loose on Twitter. 

(When is all hell not breaking loose on Twitter?)

Here was minister Kemi Badenoch's Twitter thread denouncing HuffPost journalist Nadine White:

  • A sad insight into how some journalists operate...On Wednesday, I shared our positive, well-received cross-party video to increase vaccine confidence in the midst of so much disinformation. Last night we heard great news about the Novavax Vaccine which I’ve been trialling.
  • Today, an unfortunate reminder of why there is so much confusion and mistrust. Was in meetings all day yesterday and been made aware of 2 emails received from HuffPost journalist, Nadine White.

  • Disinformation is on the rise, yet HuffPost are looking to sow distrust by making up claims I refused to take part in a video campaign…(which I suggested and promoted!) Even when Labour and Tory MPs work together, some in the media will still look for conflict. 
  • And the main reason I didn’t appear in the video? Because I’m taking part in and promoting vaccine trials.  Given the worst disinformation is that the virus is being “tested first” on black people, I thought it better to avoid mixed messages about volunteering to be tested.
  • I’ve been working with the Government Equalities Office on improving govt communications across all communities especially those disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.  The ”important matter” isn’t who is or is not in a video. 
  • It’s that Huffpost publish numerous articles about how Covid impacts black people, yet are quite happy to undermine our efforts to build trust in the vaccine by making absurd claims. Chasing clicks like this is irresponsible.
  • It’s also creepy and bizarre to fixate on who didn’t participate in a video and demand they explain themselves. As a govt minister I have a platform, but it worries me that other people with less of a voice can be smeared in this way.

  • I hope more people will share our cross-party video and help improve vaccine confidence.  It’s about protecting and saving lives not petty politics.

Nadine White's boss at HuffPost, ex-Newnsight Jess Brammar, rode to her journalist's defence:

  • One of my reporters has had to make her Twitter profile private today because a *government minister* tweeted out screenshots of a completely standard request for comment on a story, and accused her of spreading disinformation. Absolutely extraordinary.
  • Young, female, Black journalists receive some of the worst abuse on Twitter, and to behave in this way is extremely disappointing - even before you consider that the person involved is the minister for equalities. We stand by Nadine for doing her job correctly, as she always does.
  • We’re now into the second day of Kemi Badenoch’s feed having an 8-tweet thread alleging that HuffPost and our reporter were “looking to sow distrust” or being ”creepy and bizarre” by asking standard questions of a govt minister. We reject this in the strongest possible terms.
  • Yesterday I wrote to the cabinet office to make a complaint, asking for these allegations to be withdrawn, and for an apology for Nadine, who is an excellent reporter who was doing her job. I had hoped to resolve this quickly to minimise the impact on her.
  • I know Nadine is grateful for the outpouring of support (and common sense!) on here, as am I. Reporters should be able to go about their jobs without fear of something like this happening to them, particularly where a government minister is concerned.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the matter here, what struck me was how certain of the BBC's most activist journalists couldn't resist entering the fray, all guns blazing:
Rianna Croxford: Solidarity with Nadine White, a brilliant journalist who is getting trolled and piled on today simply for doing her job. Her coverage of the impact of covid-19 on ethnic minority communities has been excellent throughout the pandemic. 
Lewis Goodall: Absolute solidarity with you and Nadine. At times the way government comms have attempted to publicly shame individual journalists during this crisis for simply doing their jobs has been deeply sinister. I’d hoped we’d seen the last of it.

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