Academic’s open letter exposes Guardian failure to answer questions about anti-Labour bias


Last month, the SKWAWKBOX published the findings of a landmark academic study that exposed entrenched bias across mainstream media outlets in their handling of the ‘Labour antisemitism’ issue.

The study was, of course, immediately attacked and ridiculed – but it was subsequently praised by nineteen leading academics in their field for its rigour, caution and method.

One of the worst culprits, the study found, was the Guardian – as bad as or even worse than the worst of the right-wing publications.

Now an open letter to the Guardian from one of the study’s author’s has revealed what has been going on behind the scenes – and the failure of the Guardian to engage with the criticisms or to fulfil its obligations.

The Media Reform Coalition’s (MRC) preface to the letter summarises the problem:

Both before and since publishing our research, which raised serious concerns about the Guardian’s coverage of antisemitism within the Labour Party, we have made strident efforts to engage in constructive dialogue with both editorial and public affairs staff. Unfortunately, these efforts do not appear to have born any fruit to date.

There has also been no reporting or commenting on our research, despite the significant public debate and controversy that it sparked. We nevertheless continue to hope and expect that a reflexive and considered response to the evidence will be forthcoming..

The letter, addressed to the Guardian’s “Reader’s editor” elaborates on the paper’s failure to respond to the criticisms or even attempt to refute them, in spite of weeks of effort on the part of the report’s authors to draw them out:

Dear Mr Chadwick

On 1st October I submitted a formal complaint in regards to the evidence of inaccurate and misleading coverage on TheGuardian.com of antisemitism in the Labour Party. This evidence was documented in a research report produced for the Media Reform Coalition which found marked skews in sourcing, false statements or assertions of fact, and a systematic pattern of highly contentious claims by sources that were not duly challenged or qualified in news reports. These problems were predominantly found in coverage of the controversy surrounding Labour’s revised code of conduct during the summer of 2018.

Since the initial submission of my complaint, I responded in a full and timely manner to a succession of detailed email queries that you raised, culminating in a further submission of raw data for our research on 4th October. This bespoke dataset was put together so as to make it as accessible and easily navigable as possible, and to make clear the evidence that we found pertaining specifically to coverage on TheGuardian.com.

Having taken the time to respond to your queries in this way, I requested an indicative timeframe as to when I might expect a response. I note that on 1st October you stated that you had  read the research report and on 5th October, in response to my request for an indicative timeframe, you stated that “When I have had an opportunity to look at the material I will be back in touch.” I have not heard from you since.

I also note that the Reader’s Editor guidelines state that “We aim to give a substantive response to your complaint within 28 days of receiving all the necessary information to allow us to investigate. However, this may take longer in more complex cases where more information is required, or where journalists are away or unreachable.”

Since I have received no requests for further information since 4th October, and have not been made aware of any other issues that may be unusually obstructing your investigation, I wish to raise additional concern about the apparent absence of a timely response to my complaint on this issue.

As you are aware, the research underpinning my complaint has been endorsed by a wide range of experts as well as public figures. It has sparked considerable debate on social media platforms and attracted significant attention from independent media outlets. Neither the Guardian nor Observer newspapers have reported or commented on the research. That is a matter of editorial judgement. But I’m sure you will agree that readers and  members – as well as the wider public – deserve a timely and comprehensive response to the controversial findings. If any of the evidence of editorial failures is rejected, we need to know which aspects specifically and why. If any of the evidence is accepted, we need to know what kind of remedies will be applied to address the problems identified. Under the circumstances, anything less will inevitably give rise to further, and in some ways more fundamental concerns about the Guardian’s commitment to accountability, as well as the efficacy and integrity of the complaints process.

Yours sincerely

Dr Justin Schlosberg
For and on behalf of the Media Reform Coalition

(Republished with permission. Emphases added by the SKWAWKBOX)

Commenting on his reasons for going public with the letter, Schlosberg told the SKWAWKBOX:

We’ve done what we can to try to have a constructive dialogue in private and it’s produced no results, so now we’ve been forced to try this way..

SKWAWKBOX comment:

The MRC’s painstaking and highly credible research provided a clear insight into the bias of the vast majority of the ‘MSM’ against the Labour party and the media’s willingness to twist and misrepresent a serious issue for political purposes.

What has followed since the report was published suggests that at least one supposedly reputable publication feels little duty and even less urgency to account for its editorial decisions and output, even when clear bias has been exposed.

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  1. I like the people who think that theGuardian and Observer are so superior to the right-wing stalwarts, such as the Sun and the Mail! They are an absolute disgrace to journalism, full stop!

    1. Having been a vocal critic of the Guardian – and particularly over the ‘antisemitism’ scam and anti-Corbynism, I have to say that it *is* still superior the the bum-fodder of the Sun and Mail. There is still recognisable journalism amongst the chaff.

      1. “Better than the S*n and the Mail” is so low a bar the Beano could step over it.

      2. It’s worse because the Sun and Mail are upfront while the Guardian pretends to something it isn’t.

  2. I often wonder how many of the Guardian’s so call “supporters” are simply punters who have signed up for the paper’s “lonely hearts club” service . More and more people that I speak to no longer have any faith in its reporting and editorial line.

    1. The Guardian has a lonely hearts club? Jeeezus H. Craponacracker.
      “A straw! A straw! My Kingdom for a straw!

      1. Yeah I think it’s called Soulmates or something. Used to be printed in the weekend A5-sized The Guide. Full of bourgeois scum!

  3. I read a classic comment last night on the Guardian cartoon thread: “If Brexit is not stopped then it must be sabotaged to oblivion”. The comment’s still there in the poster’s history.
    Since the referendum opinion and comments have become less liberal by the day, the strange thing is, most of these people describe themselves as right-on, “centre left” Labour supporters. The paper’s lost its way completely.

    1. I really wouldn’t let one comment bother you.

      .. and, after all, as most Labour Party members feel – Tory-inspired Brexit is a total nonsense!

      1. It’s constant, very illiberal, worse than the moaning Eurosceptic kippers were and supported by the paper which allows comments that condone civil disobedience. That anyone could be supportive of that kind of fanaticism and pretend to be left wing or Socialist is beyond belief. It used to be a place to debate across the spectrum but now it censors and bans people for no discernable reason while letting extremist remainders scream in the echo chamber it’s become.

      2. lundiel, I haven’t seen the comments to which you refer so I’m not defending them – but I do defend civil disobedience.

        Would you deny the anti-fracking campaign’s justification to slow Cuadrilla’s progress?
        Tories won’t stop trying to criminalise such active protests against business interests.
        Israel tries to criminalise the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement by lobbying for it to be declared antisemitic.

        Thatcher sent in soldiers dressed as police to attack striking miners and this generation of her cult uses administrative violence against us, including the poor and disabled.
        They’re a hairsbreadth from succeeding to justify blocking the left’s access to social media on the back of the antisemitism lie – because total control of the MSM isn’t quite fascist enough to guarantee their ongoing hegemony.

        When I consider the creeping oppression we’ve come to accept as normal it shocks me that we haven’t abandoned ‘civility’ altogether.

    2. There’s no guarantee that people who comment under articles in the Guardian are any kind of left supporters – they could be rabid right wing people astroturfing for a right wing Brexit.

  4. The Graun is likely to ignore this in the hope of it fading away. Just another trick they have borrowed from their new role models at the Mail and the Sun.

    There are still one or two decent journalists at the Graun, but the editorial staff seem happy to lie and mislead in favour of their more rightwing political “chums”…

  5. Excellent letter from Schlosberg. Research also needed into Guardian’s biased reporting of Israeli land-theft & apartheid!

  6. Well played, Dr. Schlosberg. You have provided us all with a ringing endorsement of principled, courageous journalism from the graun…Everything you want from a newspaper that’s championing the ordinary Joe.

    *Switches sarcasm font off*

  7. It’s not just the Guardian and it’s not just here. All summer the news was full of alleged anti-antisemitism, the only other talking points were Russia and Trump’s alleged collusion in the face of reality where he entered the Syrian conflict on the side of ISIS and al qaeda, sold weapons to Ukraine, expelled Russian diplomats, killed Russian citizens and conducted massive military exercises on Russia’s border. We are closer to nuclear conflict than ever yet all we talk about is alleged antisemitism and “the alt right”. We are disgusted by the murder of Khashoggi but have nothing to say about British soldiers in Saudi control rooms bombing Yemen to bits. As I write this Ch4 news devotes the first 15 minutes to the American mid-terms, the sacking of the attorney general, his replacement and another mass shooting. Our elections are managed, it doesn’t really matter who wins (except for Brexit which went disastrously wrong), and the news tells us that more women were elected to congress than ever before and a Somali Muslim woman was elected. We love the migrant caravan, it makes us feel good about ourselves and we hate antisemitism and are shocked that old Mr Corbyn, who spent all his political life fighting racism could be so morally bankrupt because of his unyielding support for Palestinian terrorists. Now Ch4 has gone back to discussing the state of mind of the Trump supporter.
    Unfortunately it’s going to take a whole lot more than letters from academics, our news has gone global, it’s not news, it’s preparing us for American foreign policy and their next war.

    1. It’s a hymn Lundiel – slightly confused about your Russian/Trump references – happy to leave it as a hymn though – if you wish.

    2. Good to read the words of someone who sees so clearly; but you’ll never get a job on Channel 4………or the BBC……….or @ the Guardian………or……….

  8. Yeah, conspiracy theorists will be wondering by now what’s behind it all – the nooz keeping it simple, rehashing the stuff that worked last year, all singing from the same hymn sheet all over the world.
    Somebody somewhere’s just realised the only explanation that fits all the facts is a massive asteroid on a collision course with Earth and all this fake news was worked out two years ago when they first spotted it.
    ‘They’ have it all scripted out and it’s all to keep us in the dark and stop us panicking about the end of the world.
    Haven’t seen him all day so I expect he’ll be here soon 🙂

  9. The middle class liberals fail to recognise that they are no longer the font of all knowledge? I occasionally get it in sadly int he absence of a better paper. I skim it nowadays and turn the pages without reading the politcal imbecile comment artiicles apart from the rare Leftie. Business News is useful and sport fine and arts section generally middle class and crap – finding it takes less and less time to skim through though Steve Bells cartoons can still be biting.
    Middle class liberals perhaps dont like being irrelevant as working people in every country will hopefully transform the World themselves! Oh and the Guardian’s coverage of Latin America in my opinion is disgusting, thank heavens for the left social media and New Left Review!

  10. I first read the Guardian as a working class student back in the late ’60s & noticed certain empirical truisms….its editorial stance was always anti – Labour Party & ‘Liberal’. Constant ridiculing of the working class bordering on hatred, always despising ‘the deplorables’, nothing much has changed. Socialism is still a dirty word & Identity Politics dominates; promoting its bourgeois values & reflected in BBC & Channel 4. Social mobility aspirations are now gone for the ‘downtrodden’; now is the time for bourgeois elites.

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