(Photo: Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

If you want an insight into how the media works, take a look at how they have reported this week on the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby (pictured).

The Archbishop gave an interview with Parliament’s The House magazine, largely about the forthcoming EU referendum but also focusing on the refugee crisis and ongoing conflicts in the Middle East.

Speaking about the refugee situation, he said that Britain should be taking a greater share of Europe’s refugees, he praised the efforts that have been made to help with the crisis at local community level, and he also mentioned that those concerned about the impacts of immigration shouldn’t be dismissed as racist.

All valid points. However, it seems that the entire British media were only interested in the last of the three.

From newspapers on the right using the Archbishop’s words to vindicate their own scaremongering coverage of migration issues to newspapers on the left trying to demonise him for daring to make such a statement, every report on the interview isolated his comments on not labelling people racist – occasionally twisting what he said and often either burying the other points he made deep down in the article or ignoring them completely.

OK, these papers are in the business of shifting units. Head of Church of England wades into debate on racism is probably more attention-grabbing than printing his sympathetic comments towards refugees which he is fairly well-known for anyway. But, reading the press coverage, you can see agendas at work and it’s a pity that not one single publication chose to take a different angle.

I found myself thinking, if it were me who had given that interview, how would I feel about the way it had been represented in the media? The answer: a bit cheated. But then we know the way that journalists work, I guess.

You can read the full original article here. I have printed below the extract from the interview about refugees, to give some context. Quite reasonable and measured sentiments, in my opinion. I’ve put in brackets where the interviewer hasn’t used direct quotes from the Archbishop.

I was in Berlin, and the churches there are doing the most extraordinary things, as are the German people. They took 1.1m last year. And it does make 20,000 over several years sound really very thin.

What the government is doing in the refugee camps and at the origin of the issue is really excellent. We’re taking an extraordinary lead there. It shows what we can do. Can we not show the same capacity and strength here, as we do there?

We have to be careful. I’m aware of the complexity. The Government is rightly concerned about effectively subsidising people smuggling. That is quite proper, that could make everything worse.

But we can’t pretend we’re not part of this issue. We’ve got to find ways of taking our share of the load.

(Concerns about the pressure new arrivals could place on communities and services are entirely legitimate). There is a tendency to say ‘those people are racist’, which is just outrageous, absolutely outrageous. Fear is a valid emotion at a time of such colossal crisis. This is one of the greatest movements of people in human history. Just enormous. And to be anxious about that is very reasonable

In fragile communities particularly – and I’ve worked in many areas with very fragile communities over my time as a clergyman – there is a genuine fear: what happens about housing? What happens about jobs? What happens about access to health services? There is a genuine fear. And it is really important that that fear is listened to and addressed. There have to be resources put in place that address those fears.

(Local communities have) demonstrated an enormous capacity (to deal with the refugee crisis at a “micro” level.) It is simply a question of the scale on which we are prepared to act, in a way that spreads the load so it can be managed.

(Talking about Romney Marsh, one of the poorest parts of his own diocese) In that area they’ve taken significant numbers of unaccompanied children. I was down there recently at one of the schools, the Marsh Academy, and it was hugely moving to see the way that a scattered community in a rural area, with many issues of their own, had been able to welcome people. These kids, their sense of being cared for and loved was extraordinary.

That demonstrates what we’re able to do. Fear is justified, I wouldn’t want to criticise that for a moment, but so is hope wholly justified, because we have the capacity. We’re those kind of people, we always have been. But it needs the organisation, it needs the macro and it needs to happen at a European level.

And below are the newspaper headlines about the interview, together with links through to the actual articles if you wish to read them.

Daily Mail: ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY SAYS PEOPLE ARE ENTITLED TO FEAR THE MIGRANT INFLUX. Refers to the Archbishop’s ‘powerful intervention‘ on the migration debate. Puts the remarks about Britain doing more to help refugees right near the end of the article.

Daily Express: BRITISH CITIZENS HAVE A RIGHT TO ‘FEAR’ MIGRANT CRISIS. Adds that the Archbishop said that people have the right to fear ‘mass immigration and refugees‘. Puts the remarks about Britain doing more to help refugees right near the end of the article.

BBC website: MIGRATION FEARS NOT RACIST – ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY. Does also mention the comments about helping refugees early on in the article.

The Guardian: ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY: IT’S REASONABLE TO FEAR ‘COLOSSAL’ MIGRANT CRISIS. Mentions the comments about helping refugees fairly early on.

Telegraph: PEOPLE ARE ENTITLED TO FEAR ‘ENORMOUS’ NUMBERS OF MIGRANTS, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY SAYS. Puts the remarks about Britain doing more to help refugees right near the end of the article.

Independent: ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY SPARKS BACKLASH ONLINE AFTER SAYING IT IS NOT RACIST TO FEAR IMMIGRATION. Article mostly featuring responses from Twitter condemning the Archbishop for his comments. No mention of his comments about helping refugees.

Daily Mirror: ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY SAYS IT’S NOT RACIST TO FEAR MIGRATION. No mention of his comments about helping refugees.

Huffington Post: ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY SAYS IT’S ‘ABSOLUTELY OUTRAGEOUS’ TO LABEL PEOPLE WHO FEAR MIGRATION AS ‘RACIST’. Puts the remarks about Britain doing more to help refugees right near the end of the article.

The Sun: FEARS ABOUT MASS IMMIGRATION ARE COMPLETELY REASONABLE, SAYS ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY. Claims that the Archbishop’s comments demonstrate a ‘huge shift in tone‘ from his previous statements. Puts the remarks about Britain doing more to help refugees right near the end of the article.

Tabloid Corrections Facebook page: here.



  1. C.Paterson says:

    It is ok being of a Christian spirit, however we as a nation must also consider, are we constructing a Trojan horse within our gates??


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