A series of tweets by Buzzfeed‘s Mark di Stefano has led to claims that the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has withdrawn an invitation to Canary editor Kerry-Anne Mendoza to deliver the Claudia Jones Lecture for Black History Month:
While di Stefano’s initial tweet is ambiguous and could mean either that the particular venue has been cancelled or that the speech has been cancelled altogether, the final tweet, quoting the NUJ’s general secretary and claiming that ‘the NUJ put its foot down‘ sets the seal on the idea that the NUJ has reached a judgment on the issue and that Ms Mendoza is no longer invited.
This is completely inaccurate. An NUJ insider told the SKWAWKBOX that Ms Stanistreet’s comment about ‘unsubstantiated allegations’ was sent to union members at the Guardian before the cancellation – and that the statement stands in isolation and was not meant to be taken as indicating any conclusion about the guilt or exoneration of Kerry-Anne Mendoza or the Canary.
As some will inevitably try to paint this as unrealistic, the NUJ’s official statement on the matter condemns the deportation – but makes no reference to the Canary:
Not only that, but Ms Mendoza’s invitation has not been withdrawn.
An NUJ spokesperson told the SKWAWKBOX that all that has happened is that the booking of the room at the Guardian’s premises on 11 October has been cancelled because of the furore and the reaction of NUJ members there – which began as soon as Mendoza was named as the speaker last week, well before the deportation row.
The spokesperson also confirmed explicitly that the invitation is still in place until the issue has been democratically discussed and decided later this in accordance with the union’s rules, before concluding:
The whole of October is Black History Month. The Claudia Jones Lecture does not have to take place on a specific date and it can be held at any time this month. The invitation to Ms Mendoza has not been withdrawn.
Ms Stanistreet’s comments are incontestable: unsubstantiated allegations and smear campaigns are ‘wholly unacceptable’. But the union has not decided that Ms Mendoza has done any such thing – and Buzzfeed‘s decision to retract its original claim suggests that neither she nor the report’s author did so.
Comments in the screenshots included in Mark di Stefano’s tweet that claim that the Canary ‘supported’ the US journalist’s deportation and condemn it are by members of the Guardian’s NUJ ‘chapel’ and not by the union itself. Mendoza commented on the deportation that its occurrence had reinforced the original story’s accuracy is not ‘supporting’ deportation – it’s supporting the story.
A story whose facts nobody seems to have yet contested.
In spite of the false conclusions leaped to and the conflation of unconnected comments, various mainstream figures have not only assumed that Mendoza’s invitation has been cancelled, but also welcomed it:
When put against a backdrop of other mainstream journalists eager to pile in without checking facts or context, it’s an unedifying spectacle – but still uglier was so-called ‘moderate’ MP Wes Streeting’s abuse of incorrect information to make a deeply unpleasant attack, which in turn was welcomed by yet another ‘MSM’ figure, the editor of the New European:
But the statement by the NUJ’s Michelle Stanistreet was, as the NUJ has made clear, not agreeing that Mendoza or the Canary were guilty.
Wes Streeting has not responded to a tweeted challenge to retract his comment and apologise. Mark di Stefano was contacted for comment.
The NUJ has handled the matter poorly and should have made clear the parameters and limits of its accusations, to make it harder for journalists and others to either leap to false conclusions or create a false impression.
But the chief shame lies with industry and political figures who have essentially ‘dogpiled’ a senior independent journalist for an article that nobody seems to claim is not factually accurate.
It demonstrates at the least a lack of proper fact-checking and in some cases of a cynical and opportunistic disregard for facts – an in those cases it smells of score-settling by an Establishment that is regularly inconvenienced by the revelations of the ‘new left media’ and an attempt to discredit not just the Canary or Ms Mendoza but the whole independent left media sector.
The SKWAWKBOX needs your support. This blog is provided free of charge but depends on the generosity of its readers to be viable. If you can afford to, please click here to arrange a one-off or modest monthly donation via PayPal. Thanks for your solidarity so this blog can keep bringing you information the Establishment would prefer you not to know about.
If you wish to reblog this post for non-commercial use, you are welcome to do so – see here for more.