A new Dorset based media campaign group for Romany Gypsies and Travellers has had a breakthrough in challenging prejudiced local newspaper reporting.
The "Dorset Inter-Agency Concern for Travellers" (DIACT) group met with the Editors of the Bournemouth Echo and the Blackmore Vale Magazine to raise the issue of how some of their recent reporting had offended their local Gypsy and Traveller readers
One of the issues raised was the reporting around unauthorised encampments. Betty Smith-Billington, a Romany Gypsy and DIACT member, asked the Bournemouth Echo Editor this important question: "Who has the final say in what is actually published and do your reporters actually visit the supposed unauthorised sites"
Betty also asked the Echo about how they found out about the unauthorised encampments when they come into the area. The editor told the group that Poole and Bournemouth Council would telephone the Echo offices with the information. Betty warned him that she had visited one of the alleged encampments and found no evidence of any Travellers there, except for a camper van which looked like any other family on holiday.
Jenny Galuschka, also a DIACT member, asked if in the future he could ensure a more balanced reporting of the Gypsy Traveller community, and reminded him that there are many local Romany Gypsies and Travellers who live and work locally and who are well respected within the settled community. She said that inaccurate and negative reporting had an effect on them.
The Echo editor did say that he would be willing to consider including any positive Gypsy Traveller and Roma related stories sent to him, and since this meeting there has already been a positive change in how the Bournemouth Echo has covered unauthorised camps.
Since the meeting, the coverage in the Bournemouth Echo has greatly improved, says Betty.
The DIACT Media group was formed after Betty and Jenny attended several Travellers Aid Trust events, including the first In November 2014 and the last one in Birmingham 2015.The group has received financial backing from the proceeds of the Gypsy Storytellers Book.
The book was inspired by the events at Dale Farm. The profits were originally intended for the Gypsy Council to support the campaign against Dale Farm evictions, which unfortunately took place before the profits were calculated. The majority of contributors still wanted the money to go to help the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller causes and - after lengthy consultation - Ray Arnold Wills, the promotor of the book, decided to donate the £1,000 profits to DIACT so that they could carry on with their important work challenging the Media and telling the “settled community” about “real Traveller ways,” says Betty.
“The DIACT Group would like to thank each and every one of the contributors to Gypsy Story Tellers Book, including David Essex the well-known celebrity of Traveller heritage. We would also like to thank Clive Boutle, who after printing expenses published the book free of charge. I understand that Clive still has a few copies left for sale and he can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org,” says Betty from DIACT.