The national media has “skipped” Birmingham and most of the coverage of the area is relentlessly negative, according to people HuffPost spoke to in the UK’s second biggest city.
Local views on topics like Brexit are overlooked by the London-focused media, they said, while the newspapers, internet and broadcast media could not always be trusted to tell “the truth” without “agenda”.
People frequently mentioned the media when asked what they cared about for HuffPost Listens, a project to go out in the city and listen to people.
Andrew Kleanthous said that despite the city’s population of 1.1 million people, making it second only to London in terms of size, he feels the media doesn’t invest in it enough.
Emily Kitan and Kerry Smith, who work in publishing, said the London and Manchester narratives tend to dominate national news, which has “skipped” Birmingham.
“It’s not all about London”, Smith said, adding that despite London “worrying” about Brexit, many people in Birmingham seem happy about it, especially local businesses, in her experience.
The city voted Leave in the Brexit referendum by a small margin: 50.5% to 49.5%.
David Sturgeon felt that national news doesn’t keep up with the city and can give the perception that “nothing is happening”.
Juice Aleen said the only time he had seen international media in the city was after a serious shooting over a decade ago. Focusing on such negative stories could “put people off” visiting, he explained.
Paul Sutherland said that “what the general public are pissed off about” didn’t appear to make it into the media, while people such as Sophie Fisher and Ben Whitelaw felt some of the city’s key topics, like hospitals and faith schools, were fading from the national narrative.
Idriss Assoumanu agreed that aside from crime news and the 2014 Trojan Horse story, about alleged attempts to introduce an Islamist agenda into Birmingham schools, little was reported from the city - but he said that this was also because “there’s not really a lot going on here”.
But by contrast, Humaira Shakoor feels she is seeing more about Birmingham in the news, reflecting the city getting “bigger and better”.
Many people said Birmingham was affected by the UK-wide closure of local papers and reduction in the resources of local media, saying this was a serious problem for democracy.
Many people HuffPost spoke to in Birmingham also reported low trust in the media. Clare Jordan said she had little trust in it to report the truth.
Anthony Lynch added that the media was very right-wing in his view, and that he saw news reflecting his own view on Facebook but was aware of an “echo chamber” effect.
Others touched on what they saw as frequently negative media coverage in the UK more generally, saying this had put them off reading news altogether.
Rory McGhie said that within Birmingham, coverage of the rapidly-developing city centre can be positive, but reporting on the outer areas, which include some of high-derivation, need to be infused with more positive stories to “empower” local people.
People want to see “positive things and things that are going right,” said Sandra Palmer.
HuffPostListens – Birmingham
HuffPost wants to get out of the media bubble and tell the real story of the UK. For one week in July we relocated our newsroom to the heart of Birmingham and invited people to tell us what they care about - we listened, followed their tips, and went out and reported on what we heard. We’re also hiring more reporters out of London, starting in Birmingham. We don’t think the media has listened to people enough, so that’s what we’re doing. Listening to the stories of Birmingham, opening up our newsroom to its people and telling the real story of Britain from the heart of one of its biggest and best cities. You decide the news. We’ll tell your story. Birmingham, be heard. #HuffPostListens
Read more about the project here