Photo courtesy The Guardian/Fran Chahuan & Steven Nelson via Twitter.
Never in the history of news media has one item dominated news reporting as the death in police custody of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. News reporting, however, was different in the UK than in the USA. I’ve been following the coverage in The Guardian, The Financial Times and The Washington Post on this pivotal moment in US Black history. News reports days after Floyd’s death show the UK based newspaper – the Guardian – underestimated the event’s importance, in marked contrast with the Financial Times (international readership) and the Washington Post. The latter reports recognised the event for what it is – a pivotal moment in US Black history. So why did the Guardian get it wrong?
I would argue the Guardian report while factual lacked analysis. By concentrating on rioting and the resulting property damage, amounted to an inadvertent failure to link Floyd’s death, racism and police brutality as a pivotal moment in US Black history.
When I compared the Guardian report with the Financial Times and the Washington Post reports, there was a marked difference. The latter two reports demonstrate an awareness transcending an economic focus to a political awareness linking Floyd’s death in police custody to the wider political context of police brutality and racism.
I would argue the Guardian report was a missed opportunity to share in this pivotal moment in US Black history. By comparison the Financial Times report linked current racial tensions in Minneapolis with those of 2014 in New York and with police brutality and racism. The report was balanced presenting the views of a wide range of participants: Floyd family attorney, the Mayor of Atlanta, US Attorney General and a tweet from President Trump “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”. Mr. Chauvin’s attorney (white police officer charged) was invited to comment but declined.
Again, the Washington Post report, compared with the Guardian, demonstrated the newspapers ability to recognise this pivotal moment in US Black history, and corroborated using the condemnations of a number of global political leaders including the Canadian Prime Minister, Britain’s Labour Party Claudia Webbe and David Lammy, Turkeys’ President Erdogan, Iran’s supreme leader – Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Norway’s Princess Martha Louise, former President of Chile and now High Commissioner for Human Rights at the UN – Michelle Bachelet, all of whom were united in their condemnation of Floyd’s death linked to police brutality and racism. Britain’s Foreign Office joined in the condemnation over the police arresting CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez and his camera crew as they reported live from the Minneapolis protests stating: “Journalists all around the world must be free to do their job and hold authorities to account without fear of retribution”.
Again, another missed opportunity by the Guardian was its failure to comment on the Foreign Office defence of journalistic freedom.
A year after the death in police custody of George Floyd, the Guardian has become a major front runner in reporting the Floyd murder trial marking this pivotal moment in US Black history.
(NOTE: Coverage reviewed was published on the 29th May and 30th May 2020)