An editor from the Evening Standard called Labour MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy to personally apologise after the newspaper used her picture instead of her colleague Marsha de Cordova in a story about the BBC confusing two black politicians.
On Monday, Labour MP Dawn Butler complained that her name had been used by BBC Parliament to caption footage of de Cordova speaking in the House of Commons.
The mix-up was covered by the Evening Standard in a story with the headline: “BBC blunder after Dawn Butler is mistaken for another black MP.”
However, the article again misidentified de Cordova as it was accompanied by a photograph of Ribeiro-Addy.
Ribeiro-Addy, the recently elected MP for Streatham, told BuzzFeed News she had received a phone call from an editor to apologise for the mistake.
She said: “This ultimately signals that we are not worthy of the same distinction and respect as our white counterparts. I fully understand that mistakes happen, but this is not a unique experience, it has been happening to BAME women MPs for some time.”
Ribeiro-Addy continued: “There are vastly more white male MPs, statistically speaking they should be more frequently confused. Despite the embarrassment it clearly causes outlets they don’t seem to have taken steps to correct it.”
The story has since been updated with the right images and a correction note blaming the photo agency Getty as the reason the Standard had included photos of Ribeiro-Addy instead of de Cordova.
It reads: “An earlier version of this story carried a photograph supplied by Getty Images, which it had incorrectly captioned as being Marsha de Cordova when it was Streatham MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy. The Evening Standard apologises unreservedly for the error.”
BuzzFeed News confirmed that Getty had incorrectly captioned Ribeiro-Addy as de Cordova at a recent rally for child refugees in London. The Streatham MP appeared alongside shadow home secretary Diane Abbott and Lord Alf Dubs on Jan. 20.
In a statement to BuzzFeed News, the photo service said that it was correcting the error and would be reviewing its “internal processes”.
“Getty Images sincerely apologises for the mis-caption errors that have incorrectly labelled images of Bell Ribeiro-Addy as Marsha de Cordova. We are correcting these captions now and reviewing internal processes to ensure this does not happen again.
“Getty Images holds itself to a high standard of editorial integrity and has robust measures in place to ensure our content ingestion process upholds these standards. Although these errors are relatively rare, we, like all news agencies, regret when these measures fail to capture inaccuracies.
“We unreservedly apologise to Marsha de Cordova and Bell Ribeiro-Addy for any offence this may have caused.”
Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi, co-founder of The Race Beat, criticised both the BBC and the Evening Standard for the errors and blamed a lack of diversity for what she described as “shoddy reporting.”
“This kind of mistake is thoroughly embarrassing. These things would be less likely with more journalists of colour in newsrooms. The fact that this happened not just once, but twice in 24 hours at two major news organisations shows that this is a systemic issue.”
The Race Beat is an independent network created in response to the lack of working class journalists and racial diversity in British newsrooms.
Omonira-Oyekanmi added: “Stories are missed, the quality of reporting and editing drops. That’s what we have here. Shoddy work from the BBC, shoddy work from the Evening Standard, a London newspaper whose editors can’t even identify the city’s most prominent black women politicians.”
De Cordova retweeted Butler’s message on Monday saying: “This is what happens when the media does not represent the society it reports on. Representation matters. Diversity matters. This cannot continue.”
BBC Parliament responded to de Cordova on Twitter with an apology: “We sincerely apologise for this mistake. Sometimes we incorrectly identify MPs at the moment when they stand to speak. This error was immediately corrected on screen.”
The gaffes come just a week after a news package reporting on the death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant on the BBC News At Ten incorrectly included footage of current Lakers star Lebron James.
The mistake was criticised on air by BBC Radio 1Xtra host Dotty, who named her employers in her weekly “Trash Bag Tuesday” segment.
Dotty, real name Ashley Charles, called the error “unforgivable”.
The 31-year-old said on air: “We do not all look the same, our faces are not interchangeable. There is no excuse for this error, we can’t just write it off as incompetence – not today. I’ll tell you why. You would not confuse Messi with Ronaldo.
“You would not confuse Nadal with Federer. You would not confuse Schumacher with Jensen Button. So why always us, I ask? Even when the name is on the back of the jersey, you make the mistake.”
Despite a general election which welcomed the most diverse parliamentary intake in history, BAME politicians being confused for one another or even for Commons staff has also been taking place.
Newcomer Abena Oppong-Asare tweeted how she was mistaken for a member of Commons staff by a Conservative MP who handed her his bag and Butler has openly shared in the past her experience of being mistaken for cleaning staff by a fellow MP.
In 2017, parliamentary officials confused two of Labour’s female Muslim MPs on a website featuring portraits of Westminster’s 650 MPs. On the page for Birmingham Ladywood MP Shabana Mahmood was a photo of Rushanara Ali.
A House of Commons spokesman said at the time: “As can happen with beta websites which are still in development, a technical error led to an incorrect photo of an MP being uploaded.
“The error was promptly identified and rectified. The information and photos we hold about MPs on our existing website is up to date and correct.”
BuzzFeed News has contacted the Evening Standard for additional comment.
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