UK journalism org unveils ‘defense & security’ award sponsored by killer drone manufacturer Northrop Grumman

Military contractor Northrop Grumman is sponsoring an award for best “aerospace, defense and security” journalism at PressGazette’s British Journalism Awards, a crude act of public relations that doesn’t seem to faze the media.

UK journalism organization Press Gazette has announced a pair of new categories for 2020’s British Journalism Awards: “anti-corruption journalism,” sponsored by human rights NGO Global Witness, and “aerospace, defense and security,” sponsored by Northrop – a company one might charitably call the polar opposite of a human rights NGO.

The description of the new award on Press Gazette’s site is careful to make clear that this isn’t an award for hard-hitting reporting on the horrors of war – it’s meant to reward “the journalism which has done the most to shine a light on the aerospace and defense industry (including the burgeoning field of cybersecurity).”

That a major global producer of military aircraft is paying journalists to sing its industry’s praises has gone unremarked-upon in the press. However, the award announcement triggered shock and disbelief on social media, where some pointed out the irony in debuting an “anti-corruption journalism” category alongside what looked for all the world like “corruption journalism.

The award represents a diversion from Northrop Grumman’s usual journalism-sponsorship route – buying ad space on American cable television. Given that the average American will never be able to afford even one percent of a stealth bomber, the commercials seem to be less about selling death machines than about reassuring Americans that their tax dollars are being well-spent.

While they remained mum on the armsmaker’s foray into journalistic patronage, UK journalists opted to fixate on another new category created for Press Gazette’s 2020 awards, this one specifically for black and minority ethnic (BAME) journalists. The organization is even dangling free entry to December’s award ceremony for minority, women, and disabled journalists whose employers cannot pay their way.

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Sponsoring that woke act, which is supposed to bring at least 100 people to the awards who couldn’t otherwise enter? Google – in its own way, another military contractor. 

A group of over 100 BAME journalists calling themselves the Black Journalists Collective UK excoriated news editors in a December open letter denouncing the industry’s lack of diversity. They argued that the overwhelming whiteness of British newsrooms had led to “a long litany of inadequacies in newsroom coverage of race” and to minority journalists being underpaid and passed over for promotions. 

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