I’m a leftie but I don’t want to destroy the Daily Mail – I want it to prosper

Paris Lees writes on why she's protesting outside the Daily Mail's offices today, but why she wants to Mail to prosper, rather than close.

Paris Lees is a writer, broadcaster and campaigner, who works to raise awareness of transgender people. She is both Channel 4 and Radio’s first trans woman presenter and has written for the Guardian, Telegraph, Independent and VICE, and has a monthly column with Gay Times magazine

The following is based on a speech she will give to protesters today.

Today I will, for the second time this year, protest outside the Daily Mail’s London headquarters. I wish to express my feelings about one of Britain’s most well read papers, which also own one of the most popular websites on the planet.

I visit MailOnline.com sometimes, though I’ve never bought the paper. I know family members who do and I’ve read copies handed out for free on trains and planes. It’s the only paper I know that makes the Sun look friendly and many people I know hate it. You might not read it but some people do and it affects the way they perceive the rest of us.

A few weeks ago I lunched with Robin Esser, executive managing editor of the Daily Mail. He agreed to meet me and another trans person and their father as part of a project I work with called All About Trans. I’ve been involved in ‘reactivism’ in the past, complaining and protesting, and there’s definitely a time and place for it – today, for example.

But I prefer, when possible, to focus on positive engagement. Perhaps it’s the optimist in me, or the fool, but I like to believe that if you stick journalists in a room with the people they are prone to mock and tell lies about, they’ll probably stop doing it.

As part of All About Trans, I also met with Tom Peck last summer, who writes for the Independent and used to write for the Mail. During the course of 2013 Tom has gone from making jokes about trans people having broad shoulders to criticizing the BBC for referring to Wikileaks collaborator and transgender woman Chelsea Manning with male pronouns. He attributes his enlightenment to All About Trans, and he’s not the only one.

I want to change the way the media treats vulnerable minorities like transgender people. This frequently puts me in an awkward position as a journalist, because how are you supposed to critique the very media you are trying to become part of? And I thought twice about protesting today because, honestly, I’d love to write for the Mail. I’m a writer and I write to be read. People read the Mail.

I think most journalists, if they were honest, would probably be quite chuffed to get a commission from the Mail, so the only thing that surprised me about Mehdi Hasan this week was his hypocrisy. There’s no shame in wanting to write for a one of Britain’s oldest dailies.

But it’s because I’d like to write for the Mail that I am protesting today. I believe in good journalism. I don’t want to destroy the Mail – to lose any British newspaper would, in my opinion, be a national tragedy. I want to see a press that is fair and open and valued by the public it serves. As Sunder Katwala pointed out in the New Statesman yesterday, it was pressure from the Mail that led to greater closure and justice for the family of Stephen Lawrence. I would like to see more of that and less of the Jan Moir bullshit, personally.

Don’t think that Mail’s top brass can possibly ignore this demonstration and the outpouring of public condemnation this week. Change is possible – and, if the industry and this paper in particular is to survive, and attract younger readers from modern, diverse Britain – it is also necessary.

Finally, though I’m pleased the attack on Ed Milliband’s father has sparked a debate about the Mail’s role in our public life, let’s not forget all the little people it has bullied over the years too. What the Mail has done to the Milliband family it has also done to some of the most vulnerable members of our society.

In March I demonstrated, here, against Richard Littlejohn’s harassment of Lucy Meadows, a schoolteacher who took her own life following months of unwanted press intrusion. Littlejohn questioned whether Meadows was ‘in the right job’, and it’s precisely this threat of being gratuitously monstered by the press that stops many trans people living full and meaningful lives.

Well, enough is enough. The British public should not fear the press. The press, its editors and media barons should fear the public and pushing us too far. We’ve been pushed and pushed and pushed and today we are pushing back! Solidarity!

Please do check out the positive work we’re doing at AllAboutTrans.org.uk.

15 Responses to “I’m a leftie but I don’t want to destroy the Daily Mail – I want it to prosper”

  1. Mr Spock

    As long as the British news papers exist in their current form under their current system of ownership things wont change. They behave they way they do because they are used as a tool to form and shape opinion and they bully people they way they do because it suits those who own everything) to make us jealous and fearful of each other in order to make us blame each other instead of them when they steal from us to line their already bulging pockets. You can talk about enlightening journalist all you want, their ediitors wont let them produce the kind of stoories you want because it doesnt fit the papers agenda.
    The only solution is to have news papers that cannot be controlled or owned by any one interest or person or group of people, by oligarchs or press barons or corporations, but by the journalists and the unions and the readers and be accountable to the public for what they say.

  2. AnnaBanana

    Well thanks for throwing the rest of us under a bus because you want a writing job. Seriously, thanks, It means a lot.

  3. Martin Jennerson

    Excuse me, who is really “bullying” others here? The BBC is by far the biggest broadcaster in this country, with the widest reach, and has consistently supported a system of discourse in which whole swathes of people have their points-of-view delegitimised, on cursory grounds. If you don’t agree with climate change theory, you are a denier and a bad person, for example. How dare the left throw such a deeply pathetic hissy fit at the first sign that their discourse might be similarly limited. Especially after your ridiculous ideas have caused so much upset to the people of this country during the last 14 years. This includes flooding the country with migrants, upsetting millions in the process, and not allowing any criticism of this policy through using the BBC to label any protest as “racist”. This includes multiple witch-hunts, including hounding people and creating international incidents after they had called an Indian woman “poppadum lady” on a boring reality show. Take a long hard look at yourselves, pathetic hypocrites.

  4. majentah

    My thoughts exactly.

  5. Joanne Constable

    Martin Jennerson, if you’d watched the boring reality show you would know that the ‘poppadum’ comment was the least sinister bullying of Shilpa Shetty. Three young women , two of whom should have known better, ganged up on her and made jokes about her accent and ethnicity. If they can’t behave in a civil manner they should stay out of the public eye or take the consequences. Throughout the incident Ms Shetty remained polite and dignified going on to win the boring reality show. It was a valuable lesson for these young women who went on to apologise and consider how they behave toward others. Popular culture is very powerful and public opinion was their behaviour was indefensible. Then you, who I doubt watched the show, came along and decided the aggressors were victims. Pathetic hissy fit indeed!

  6. Kai Weston

    Today’s demonstration is indeed driven by far more than the Ralph Milliband story, it is an accumulation of the hatred and personal attacks which the Daily Mail has published over the years. The vigil for Lucy Meadows is highly relevant, as are the two other media demonstrations which members of the trans community organised earlier in the year, each happened in quick succession after the other, and it could be said that the first created the conditions for the next two. Whilst it may not have been the biggest news, many activists outside of the trans community were aware of these protests, including members of the People’s Assembly, who has called today’s demonstration. Whilst this relates to political events which go beyond identity politics, the story which is in the background of all this is that work of trans activists is being seen, and is having an influence on wider political issues.

  7. Papasmurf

    Britain would be a far better place if the boil on it’s backside that is the Daily Mail was lanced.

  8. Matthew Blott

    Nobody says climate deniers are bad people, they are just wrong. Or idiots. Or in your case both.

  9. Martin Jennerson

    So you think the left have the right to accuse others of “hounding” people, after 20 years of these kind of pathetic witch-hunts, and you think the childish little incident above deserved to be raised to the level of international diplomacy by your mad cretin left-wing mates? You seriously think a fall-out on Big Brother is worthy of that? You total lunatic.

  10. Kai Weston

    It seems my edit on the comment I posted earlier didn’t work. I had posted to say that the idea of reforming the Daily Mail such that it stopped publishing hate speech and engaging in personal attacks would require the paper to completely change its business model, such that it was no longer the Daily Mail. Even if sorting out the problems with transphobic reporting by the paper were to happen, the paper would continue to engage in the same behaviour, and simply redirect itself onto a group which was not as well defended (the reason why trans people were the target of so much of this reporting is because for a long time, we have been that group).

    Newspapers are not empty vessels in which blank pages are filled with ink. They are institutions with their own history, political bias, target audience, and reporting styles, together these shape the brand, and determine what goes on their page. In the case of the Daily Mail, the rot set in well over 70 years ago. The fact is that the paper is in an entrenched position, and it will take far more than sitting around a table for the Daily Mail to make any significant concessions, let alone anything more.

  11. Joanne Constable

    You raised the Big Brother incident. Perhaps you should read back what you wrote.

  12. Ian Doyle

    It’s wrong to accuse Mehdi Hassan of hypocrisy. When he applied to write for the Mail, he declared his position upfront as somebody who disagreed strongly with its editorial position & its typical content. He advanced the possibility that he could write from an opposing, deliberately “contrarian” approach. This was in the letter that he wrote to the Mail.

  13. Cole

    People who deny climate change are morons. I can’t see why the BBC should waste my money and give time to this unscientific rubbish. I fully agree with the idea of balance between left and right, but not between sense and nonsense.

  14. Cole

    People who deny climate change are morons. I can’t see why the BBC should waste my money and give time to this unscientific rubbish. I fully agree with the idea of balance between left and right, but not between sense and nonsense.

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