Former Daily Star journalist Rich Peppiatt gives an insight into the world of the tabloid press
Richard Peppiatt worked at the Daily Star for two years, before leaving the paper with a spectacular letter of resignation. He is now a commentator on media issues for TV, radio and print and campaigns for press reform in Britain. Ahead of his upcoming show "One Rogue Reporter" at the Edinburgh fringe, he spoke to an audience in Newcastle on 13th June.
The Daily Star is responsible for such headlines as:
“Muslim-only Public Loos”
“Muslim Sickos Maddie Kidnap Shock”
“Asylum Seekers Eat Our Donkeys”
“They’ve Stolen ALL our Jobs”
Our Education Workers can testify to how much this hateful rhetoric shapes the attitudes of young people. We spend time in the classroom giving the facts behind these (wildly inaccurate) headlines to break down stereotyped ideas.
Richard summed up the impact of this deluge of negative stories:
"People don't realise that very subtlely, day by day, they're being brainwashed. The drip-feeding of headlines like this shapes the way people think."
During his time at the Daily Star, Rich became increasingly uncomfortable with the Islamophobic and anti-immigration stories that were published so readily by the paper:
"At first I thought, 'if I don't write it, someone else will'. I realised that that was a concentration camp guard's excuse.
"When the Star started writing positive stories about the EDL, I decided I had to quit - and I had the idea of quitting publicly."
Rich penned in excess of 800 stories during his time at the paper. Of those, he claims that only a handful were "hand-on-heart, genuinely, true". Likewise, only a handful were outright lies.
"There is a huge grey area between 'not telling the truth' and 'lying'. The role of a tabloid journalist is to choose the bits of a story that fit with the narrative the paper wants. Journalism decontexualises stories and reconstucts them to fit a particular world view."
He says that the anti-Islam sentiment that is rife in the press at the moment plays on the politics of fear:
"The papers hook their readers by stirring up an emotional response. This doesn't have to be something happy or positive... playing on fear creates that response."
Lizz Bennett, Education Worker for SRtRC told Rich about the work that our charity does to combat the harmful impact of these divisive and racist headlines. She asked Richard for some advice:
"What can we say to the young people who read and believe these messages?"'
"We're not here to tell the truth," replies Rich, frankly. "We're here to sell you an 'entertainment' product. What we find is that stirring up religious hatred sells papers."
Richard certainly did not shy away from condemning the tabloid press for their power to cause divisions in society:
"I think we have a society where, on the whole, people get on well together. Tabloids take a sledgehammer to so much of the good work that is being done across the country to bring communities together. That is morally deplorable."
Morally deplorable, yes. An ongoing problem? Absolutely.
Show Racism the Red Card delivers workshops in schools and at football clubs across the UK, working with footballers to help engage young people with the subject. We aim to develop young people's critical thinking skills so they can reject racism whenever they encounter it. The campaign also runs teacher training events, equipping educators with the knowledge and skills to tackle head-on the prejudicial influences that face their young people.
Huge thanks to Richard Peppiatt for speaking so candidly about his experiences and to Newcastle Skeptics for hosting the event.