When I heard there was a new podcast from the team behind The Guilty Feminist, I desperately wanted to like it. Hosts Helena Wadia and Mathilda Mallinson, both exceptionally accomplished multimedia journalists, have launched Media Storm “to tackle the thorny issue of ‘right of reply’ in journalism” by “handing the mic to people with lived experience”. So how does the debut episode stack up?
The first half of each show is dedicated to an investigation – in this case, a trip to interview those failed by the UK’s “broken asylum system”. The second is a studio discussion on media coverage of the issue. There’s a quiz on the definitions of terms such as “refugee” and “migrant”, and an analysis of recent headlines. The presenters and their guest, Syrian refugee Steve Ali, are unequivocally scathing of what they see as the mainstream narrative around migration. And they have a point: harrowing stories of an Afghan woman in Britain trying to save her teenage sister from a forced marriage, or a Kurdish man fleeing the government that tortured him, aren’t given the attention they deserve. “Is the media reporting on or creating the crisis?” we are asked. “Plot twist!”
The show claims to provide the crucial balance that is lacking in the media and should (according to the hosts) be central to the concept of ethical journalism – yet it fails its own test. Everyone interviewed believes we have a moral imperative to welcome more migrants into the UK, and is indiscriminately damning of anyone who thinks otherwise. It makes for a compelling piece of investigative storytelling that does give a voice to people often left out of the conversation. But there’s no attempt to examine alternative perspectives and, as such, it is as one-sided as the biased journalism it seeks to correct. Maybe coming episodes – about sex work, rape survivors, and the transgender community – will be more nuanced. Or maybe the team are so convinced that their point of view is right they don’t see the need to countenance anyone else’s.
Media Storm Acast/Podcasts, from 25 November
[See also: How the culture wars began]
This article appears in the 17 Nov 2021 issue of the New Statesman, Democracy's last stand