An industry body for the UK press has said it will “work towards being part of the solution” after the group came under fire for its comments about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s accusations of racism and bigotry.
The Society Of Editors released a strongly-worded statement following Harry and Meghan’s interview with Oprah Winfrey.
The organisation, which has almost 400 members in the UK across national, regional and local press, said it was “not acceptable” for the couple to make claims of racism in the press “without providing any supporting evidence”.
The society previously claimed: “The UK media is not bigoted and will not be swayed from its vital role holding the rich and powerful to account following the attack on the press by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.”
Executive director Ian Murray added the press “has a proud record of calling out racism and also being at the forefront of campaigns to support mental health awareness, another of the issues raised by the couple”.
However, a new statement from the board of the society said: “The Society of Editors has a proud history of campaigning for freedom of speech and the vital work that journalists do in a democracy to hold power to account.
“Our statement on Meghan and Harry was made in that spirit but did not reflect what we all know: that there is a lot of work to be done in the media to improve diversity and inclusion.
“We will reflect on the reaction our statement prompted and work towards being part of the solution.”
The group faced criticism after it denied the UK media is bigoted and the editors of the Guardian and Huff Post UK issued statements saying they did not agree with its position.
Guardian News and Media editor-in-chief Katharine Viner said: “Every institution in the United Kingdom is currently examining its own position on vital issues of race and the treatment of people of colour.
“As I have said before, the media must do the same.
“It must be much more representative and more self-aware.”
HuffPost UK editor-in-chief Jess Brammar also tweeted to say she disagreed with the statement.
She wrote: “I considered not saying anything about this because I’m aware I won’t make myself popular with my peers, but I’m just going to stand up and say it: I don’t agree with statement from my industry body that it is ‘untrue that sections of UK press were bigoted’.”
Neither the Guardian nor HuffPost are represented on the board of the Society Of Editors, but both organisations have individuals who are members of the society.
On Tuesday, BBC presenter Victoria Derbyshire put headlines to Mr Murray including one which she said asked “whether Harry would be marrying into gangster royalty”, and another headline which she said “declared Meghan was almost straight outta Compton”.
Mr Murray said context was important, and that the coverage was about a “rags-to-riches story”.
He said: “It was the same with anyone that comes in from outside, into the royal family who aren’t royal or of nobility, that they’ve raised up in that way.”
Questioned further, he added: “If you keep on looking you will find that needle in the haystack, you will always find something.”
He said it is accepted that newsrooms in the UK are not diverse enough, and that steps are being taken to address that.
Mr Murray said: “Everyone would wish that the media in this country better reflects the diverse country that we are becoming.”
Asked by Winfrey if the couple left the UK because of racism, Harry replied: “It was a large part of it.”
The duke recalled a conversation he had at a charity fundraiser in which he was told that the UK is “very bigoted”, and he said he replied: “The UK is not bigoted, the UK press is bigoted, specifically the tabloids.”
He added: “But unfortunately if the source of information is inherently corrupt or racist or biased, then that filters out to the rest of society.”