Oprah’s Harry and Meghan Interview Prompts Another U.K. Media Exit as Society of Editors Director Steps Down

Society of Editors
Society of Editors/CBS/Charlene White

After sparking the departure of Piers Morgan from ITV’s “Good Morning Britain,” the reverberations of Oprah Winfrey’s explosive interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have prompted another British media exit.

Ian Murray, executive director of the U.K. Society of Editors, stepped down on Wednesday over a statement issued earlier in the week by the organization, which said it was “not acceptable” for the couple to make claims of racism in the press “without supporting evidence.” The statement also said that “the U.K. media is not bigoted and will not be swayed from its vital role holding the rich and powerful to account following the attack on the press by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.”

The statement was roundly criticized and led to ITV presenter Charlene White (“Loose Women”) pulling out of hosting the British Press Awards, staged by the Society of Editors. She asked them to find someone else — “Perhaps someone whose views align with yours: that the U.K. press is the one institution in the entire country who has a perfect record on race,” said White.

“Since the Black Lives Matter movement really took hold in the U.K. last year, every single institution in this country has had to finally look at its failings and its position in terms of how they treat ethnic minorities, both inside and outside of its walls,” White said. “But for some unknown reason, you feel as though the U.K. press is exempt in that discussion.”

While stepping down, Murray said: “While I do not agree that the Society’s statement was in any way intended to defend racism, I accept it could have been much clearer in its condemnation of bigotry and has clearly caused upset.

“As executive director, I lead the Society and as such must take the blame and so I have decided it is best for the board and membership that I step aside so that the organization can start to rebuild its reputation,” said Murray.

“The Society of Editors has a proud history of campaigning for freedom of speech and the vital work that journalists do in a democracy to hold power to account,” said the body. “Our statement on Meghan and Harry was made in that spirit but did not reflect what we all know: that there is a lot of work to be done in the media to improve diversity and inclusion. We will reflect on the reaction our statement prompted and work towards being part of the solution.”

“The U.K. is not bigoted, the U.K. press is bigoted, specifically the tabloids,” Prince Harry had said during the interview.

Murray was formerly the editor of the Southern Daily Echo, a regional tabloid in Hampshire.