In the aftermath of the Grenfell attack there has been a significant difference in how the media has covered both the tragedy itself and the protests that have bubbled up in the aftermath. There have been three main strands in the coverage: the portrayal of the protestors as either ‘militant’ (Telegraph) or simply demanding justice (Independent); the events themselves including the ongoing investigation/clean-up; and whether anyone is to blame for the fire, i.e., whether it could have been prevented.
The Sunday Express reported accusations that ‘Corbyn’s Labour stirred up mob unrest’, framing Corbyn and his supporters as revolutionaries and rebels who could be dangerous. In comparison, more centrist or left-wing outlets, such as the Guardian, Evolve Politics, or the Independent, describe the protestors as justice seekers, not militant hijackers.
However, there were a number of papers who chose to ask questions about how such a tragedy could have been allowed to happen. The Mirror offered a suggestion that the country has turned its back on social housing, whilst the ‘I’ chose to turn their attention to the PM’s chief of staff, Gavin Barwell, who allegedly sat on a report surrounding fire safety in buildings like Grenwell for around four years.
Andrew Marr was particularly keen to drill down on this point in his interview with Philip Hammond, repeatedly criticising the chancellor for failing to prevent this tragedy and ignoring reports on fire safety regulations.
So while the BBC failed to cover the anti-Theresa May protests on Saturday on their UK News Front Page, they cannot be criticised for giving the Conservatives an easy ride here — as they often have done, particularly in the past 18 months. They did however, fail to mention Hammond’s responses to the questions surrounding Grenfell fire and his voting on ‘fit for habitation’ legislation in their BBC News article on the interview.
There were also accusations on social media, and from Lily Allen, that the death count was being suppressed by the mainstream media. There were reports of the death count being as high as 150, however these are, as of yet, unsubstantiated because the search of the building is incomplete and there are no concrete numbers on how many people were in the building at the time of the fire.
The vast range of reactions here is the perfect example of why we need to consume media from a variety of sources. If we trust too much in one outlet, we risk missing the bigger picture of any issue.
By Josh Hamilton, Editor-in-Chief at www.thejist.co.uk