The editor of the Manchester Evening News and Guardian columnist Owen Jones were both forced to apologise after their publications pictured the wrong black people in articles in the space of two days.
Alongside an article reporting the death of Mancunian singer Denise Johnson, who sang with Primal Scream, the MEN’s Tuesday edition pictured a completely different black woman.
Others who used the same image online, which has been put down to an incorrect caption from a picture agency, appear to have included the Guardian, Mail Online and NME.
Former MEN journalist Collette Walsh, who was a friend of Johnson, wrote to editor Darren Thwaites calling for an apology.
Hi @DarrenThwaites can you do something about this please? @TheDJohnsonR3AL was a proud Mancunian, loved your paper & as a black, female & a true daughter of this city deserves an obituary worthy of her contribution to MCR, talent & global respect @MENnewsdesk #DeniseJohnson pic.twitter.com/NWv3nlDh0M
— Collette Walsh (@ColletteWalsh) July 28, 2020
“The fact this image was used in the print version stings harder as that is not ‘updatable’ like an online article,” she wrote. “Her family and friends read and held that article and were terribly hurt and angry.”
She told Press Gazette: “It is just not good enough for Manchester’s key daily newspaper to get this wrong.
“Too many times incorrect images are used of black celebrities through lazy picture research.
“It stings that this has happened in the Manchester Evening News as Denise was a true daughter of the city and loved the paper, often appearing in its entertainment section, City Life.”
Thwaites has since apologised and pledged to run a full tribute to Johnson in the paper this weekend.
He tweeted: “You’re right to expect better from the Manchester Evening News after we used the wrong photo in the printed version of our tribute following the sad death of Denise Johnson. Our explanation is not an excuse and we’re genuinely and sincerely sorry for the upset caused.
“We have an honest team truly mortified by the mistake. We’re now compiling a lengthy and lasting tribute article which will be published this weekend.
“We sincerely hope it will capture the essence of Denise, an incredible singer, Mancunian role model and great friend to so many, including the Manchester Evening News.”
The Guardian has since added a footnote to its own Johnson tribute saying the main image was updated after a “captioning error in photos supplied by an agency led us to publish a picture that was not of Johnson as claimed”.
A day later, a column by Owen Jones on the Guardian website about racism in news media and on social media featured a photo of the rapper Kano instead of grime artist Wiley (pictured), the latter having been banned from Twitter this week over a series of tweets labelled “anti-Semitic”.
In a video posted on Twitter, Jones said: “To say that I am horrified by this is an understatement”.
He added: “This again emphasises the need for people to be allies in the struggle against racism and bigotry and to listen and to learn.”
The article now notes that it “mistakenly carried a photograph of Kano when it was first published”, adding: “The Guardian apologises unreservedly to Kano and our readers for the error, which has now been corrected.
“We would also like to clarify that Owen Jones was not involved in this error.”
Picture: Ian West/PA Wire