"UK national newspapers have adopted a racist attitude in their coverage of recent international events (i.e.; terrorism, asylum seekers, war with Iraq)." Discuss.

Authors Avatar

Ismaeel Mohammed Nakhuda

Journalism Issues JN2031

Assignment 2

4. “UK national newspapers have adopted a racist attitude in their coverage of recent international events (i.e.; terrorism, asylum seekers, war with Iraq).” Discuss.


For the purpose of discussing the above statement it would be suitable to first of all note that the question at hand is rather loose, for the purpose of this approximately 3000 word paper certain aspects shall be prioritised solely with the aim of presenting a rather much more thorough analysis of the issues which need discussing.

To begin with the term ‘UK national newspapers’ could be considered to be a collective term within which many various broadsheets and tabloids would come under. Investigating all the various newspapers published nationally within the UK is a rather cumbersome task, possibly a dissertation would be able to give full justice to such an analysis. Hence it was decided that in order to make this investigation much more thorough The Daily Mail and The Mirror would be selected. Reasons for selecting these two papers are simply because they represent the two extremes of the left and the right in the social paradigm of the UK (McNair: 1998). We find The Daily Mail -bastion of true-blue British attitudes- to be a right wing paper, on the other hand we find The Mirror to be a left wing paper, although it should be noted that it would not be as extremely left as other left wing newspapers such as The Guardian.

Another question which further arises would be why newspapers such as the quality broadsheets or even the hard tabloids such as The Sun and The News of the World were not selected, in order to argue such a point one would be able to say that whilst comparing newspapers collectively we see that on the one extreme we have the broadsheets with their hard serious news and on the other extreme we find the extreme tabloids such as The Sun and The News of the World with their soft news. Looking at this paradigm, which represents the various styles and news values of newspapers, it was found that The Daily Mirror and The Daily Mail would be sitting in the centre. It is hoped that by prioritising these two newspapers an overall picture of racist attitudes in UK newspapers may be presented.

Moving on it would be worth investigating the term ‘racist attitude’ as mentioned in the essay question. Racism could be termed as being one of the sub categories of discrimination, the irrational ideology which breeds on the underlying hatred of others. In the words of Van Dijk he says, ‘Contemporary racism is a complex societal system in which people of European origins dominate people of other origins…’ Van Dijk, T. (1991) Racism and the Press, p24.

Racism is a rather loose term, a term used to specifically refer to people who may be distinguished from others in society through skin colour. How ever there is also another form of discrimination which discriminates against people regarding their cultural or religious background, a form of discrimination otherwise termed as ‘ethnicism’.  The question at hand makes particular reference to discussing ‘racist attitudes’ in newspapers with particular reference of media coverage regarding ‘terrorism, asylum seekers and the war with Iraq’, therefore for the purpose of this work ‘racism’ and ‘ethnicism’ shall treated as one, with the word ‘racism’ used to refer to both types of discrimination.


In order to discuss whether The Daily Mail and The Mirror has adopted a racist attitude in their coverage of recent international events, it would be appropriate to note that a study of each respective newspaper through out the last six months would be a rather lengthy task in itself, hence keeping this in mind it was felt that selective issues of each respective newspaper are analysed. In order for us to analyse the newspapers at hand a database of British newspapers with an excellent search option was used to search for articles in the two newspapers between the dates of 01/January/2003 & 01/March/2003.

The search engine was used to search for articles which contained the words ‘asylum seekers’, ‘terrorism’ and ‘terrorists’. In total 35 articles were found in the two newspapers, 22 in The Daily Mail and 13 in The Mirror, for the purpose of this paper discussion of racist attitudes in the two newspapers have been drawn from these 35 articles.(See appendix for articles)

A question arises as to why articles from this period only were selected for the purpose of this paper, in response it can be said that this was the ‘hype’ period before The Iraq War when asylum seekers were making the news rather abundantly. During this period ricin was found in a North London flat and also during this time a raid was made on Finsbury Park Mosque. So taking these factors in to consideration, it would be assumed news from this period would be rich with racist and discriminatory language.

Join now!

Analysis methods have been primarily drawn from Van Dijks’ ‘Ideological Square’ (Van, Dijk T, (1998), p33 in Approaches to Media Discourse). The manner by which Stuart Allan argues that news works ‘hegemonically’ has been touched upon and a few examples of the manner by which Bell describes that ‘the said’ can be considered to be representing the dominant views and ‘the unsaid’ can be the views of the ‘others’ has also been highlighted.


The Daily Mail regularly dedicates its front pages, centre spreads and opinion columns to stories and incidents negatively portraying refugees. Taking a look at articles from the newspaper inflammatory ...

This is a preview of the whole essay