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The Stationers' Company
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27 FEBRUARY 2023

Stationers' News Media Group joins with the London Press Club to discuss whether Cancel Culture is a threat to the Freedom of the Press

A formidable panel which was chaired by BBC presenter and London Press Club director Samantha Simmonds  included the editor of Glamour UK Deborah Joseph, media commentator and ex-Sunday Mirror editor Paul Connew, social activist Nimco Ali OBE, Sunday Telegraph columnist Zoe Strimpel, Evening Standard reporter Emma Loffhagen and award-winning broadcaster and commentator Afua Hagan.

This report on the event is written by Jonathan Kanengoni who is an Evening Standard editorial trainee. He is an apprentice journalist in a scheme supported by the Stationers’ Company

The editorial line-up at the event held at Stationers’ Hall delved deep into the origins of cancel culture and its roots, whether it actually exists, its impact on society, media and free speech, and its relationship with “woke-ism”.

The evening was held by the London Press Club in association with the Stationers and Newspaper Makers, the livery company for the media industry. The audience included members of London Press Club, freemen and liverymen from the Stationers’ Company, and student journalists from News Associates and PA Media training schemes.

The panel spoke of different perspectives on the definition of cancel culture, and linked back to examples including social media responses surrounding Prince Harry and Meghan, and Jeremy Clarkson’s controversial Meghan Markle column in The Sun.

Editor of Glamour UK Deborah Joseph noted her experience of generational differences in news rooms, and the implications that had in defining cancel culture and what constitutes being cancelled.

Media commentator Paul Connew spoke about the difficulty there was in defining cancel culture, and illustrated this with a low show of hands from the audience if they had a clear understanding of it. He thought it was an editor’s responsibility to make judgements and take into account the mood of its readers. He also said that social media pressures were blurring the lines between news and opinion in some main stream media titles.

Nimco Ali told how she experienced “cancel culture” after working with members of the Conservative Party on issues surrounding FGM and feeling ostracised by some on the Left.

Emma Loffhagen of the Evening Standard, who is a Stationers’ Freeman, spoke on  how some groups felt under threat due to the growing phenomenon, and how this could distract attention from the underlying layers of the issue in question.

Media commentator Afua Hagan noted that the media could  be said to play a part in stoking outrage, and the notion that division sells papers contributed to the anger people feel around the topic.

Telegraph columnist Zoe Strimpel said she had not been steered away by editors from expressing her opinions or bringing up issues she felt compelled to highlight, which supported the view that the freedom of the Press was not under threat.

London Press Club chair, Court Assistant Doug Wills said the debate was a great success, brilliantly chaired by Samantha Simmonds. “It was a thoughtful and stimulating discussion by a top class panel of journalists. We are very grateful to them for tackling this important and difficult subject.

In the picture you can see from L-R :- Afua Hagan, Zoe Strimpel, Samantha Simmonds, Deborah Joseph, Nimco Ali OBE, Paul Connew and Emma Loffhagen.