Why isn’t our press more diverse?: Richard Peppiatt

Former reporter, Daily Star

"The Daily Star editorial policy does not hold any negativity towards Islam," was the line trotted out by Northern & Shell execs when I accused them of the opposite almost a year ago.

I agree with them in part; there is no bigoted "editorial policy" locked away in Richard Desmond's safe. Instead, like a factory pumping pollutants into our drinking water, there is just a narcissistic hunt for profit. In the modern media landscape, there is more money to be made entertaining the reader than there is from informing them; and there is no emotional driver more potent than fear and anxiety.

The Daily Star's "BBC PUTS MUSLIMS BEFORE YOU!" front page teetered on incitement to racial violence, but the preference is to scrawl prejudice in less visible ink. Everyone - from reporters through to subs, back bench and editors - is tasked with few enough pen strokes to allow each to deny to himself that he is responsible for the end product.

Meanwhile, the tabloid bombast that accompanied the Stephen Lawrence verdict was in part cover for the uncomfortable truth that his was an extraordinary case precisely because the Daily Mail et al gave it more than a sideways glance. Many hacks will recognise the guilt-tinged feeling at watching a murder plummet down the news-list the moment a brown face emerges from the printer.

It's a decision made by no one and everyone. The parochial machinations of the newsroom are an unspoken sum of parts.

This article first appeared in the 16 January 2012 issue of the New Statesman, The battle for Britain