Guardian Accused of “Institutional Racism” by Own Anti-Racism Podcasters mdi-fullscreen

It’s not been plain sailing at The Guardian since Guido first brought the paper’s problematic past to light. The newspaper has sought to make amends for its slave trade links and Confederate sympathy – creating an editorial project and a podcast to investigate the issue. Careful what you wish for… 

Short of a self-effacing exoneration for their troubled history, the podcasters realised The Guardian has failed to get with the times. Three producers from the show complained in writing about their treatment, before leaving the project. In a letter obtained by Deadline, the producers criticise a “lack of any serious desire from The Guardian to face and interrogate its own historic role” adding this left room for “microaggressions, colourism” and “bullying”. Their guidance on combatting  microaggressions is clearly due a re-write.

The letter was as the paper looked for other black producers to fill the void of those quitting. In the wake of these new accusations of “institutional racism”, it’s worth asking again – surely The Guardian must fall…

Read the producers’ email in full below:

Dear UKAN,

We – [redacted] – are getting in touch to share our recent experience of working with the Guardian.

We’re doing this because we understand they are reaching out to black producers, editors and sound designers to finish off a project that we worked tirelessly on for most of the last year. We want to give you, our colleagues, clear context so that if you are approached, you know what happened, and therefore you can make informed decisions. We also wanted to share our experience as we know from conversations with many of you that when things like this happen, our experiences are often buried, and production companies are able to continue as though nothing has happened and repeat the same harm whilst using our labour for kudos.

We were hired to work on a multipart series exploring the legacies of slavery, taking the Guardian’s explorations into its own history as a starting point. We were promised a supportive environment where we could have open, generative conversations about race and narrative without the usual defensiveness and backlash we’ve all come to experience from execs of various races. That didn’t happen.

Instead, for months, we worked on a mismanaged project and had a difficult time trying to do our jobs due to the attempts of the institution to whitewash history. We were routinely undermined, unsupported and deeply frustrated by the absence of journalistic rigour and critical attention to history from a global news organisation. A key issue was the lack of any serious desire from the Guardian to face and interrogate its own historic role, what that has meant for its journalism to date, and what accountability might look like in the future.

This left room for microaggressions, colourism, bullying, passive-aggressive and obstructive management styles that have caused frustration and stress for members of the production team. Our concerns were dismissed as ‘trauma’ and ‘baggage’ rather than informed expertise and analysis, whilst they frequently admitted their own ignorance of the subject or responded defensively. We worked with execs who had no oversight of the series or subject matter and frequently had to problem-solve and work around the poor leadership and lazy production of our full-time colleagues whilst working part-time.

We made numerous attempts to have good-faith conversations with our team to no avail. We consequently wrote a formal letter of complaint to the editorial leads, addressing these issues and the impact it was having not only on the editorial but on us as producers. Our letter was ignored for weeks and minimised until we had ineffective mediation sessions (that we could not attend) just before Christmas -when our contracts ended. We heard nothing more until two weeks ago, and though we were given less than 48 hours to hand over, were immediately locked out of our email and shared drive accounts and told to hand our remaining work over.

It’s been incredibly challenging for us, as we all care deeply about this history and were excited to produce something in solidarity with movements in the different parts of the world covered across the series. We had hoped to make a series to contribute towards shifting discourse away from the kinds of reductive conversations about race and capitalism that are usually commissioned in our industry. The institution is now looking for other producers to finish our work and has ignored our concerns. The outcome of this project is a huge indictment of the paper. The irony of dealing with institutional racism, editorial whiteness and ignorance on a project about the legacies of slavery hasn’t been lost on us – and deeply undermines the integrity of the project.

Whilst this is both unsurprising and disappointing, we hope that positive change and education can still emerge from the series.

Best wishes,


See also:



mdi-tag-outline Guardian Racism
mdi-account-multiple-outline Katharine Viner
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