A local newspaper has come under fire after cropping a black marketing consultant out of their coverage of an event at which he was a keynote speaker.
Andi Jarvis was taking part in the third Mid Ulster Digital Seminar in Cookstown, attended by more than 40 local businesses.
The event was aimed at helping businesses grow, with a particular focus on developing a digital strategy and strong online brand.
However, Mr Jarvis has accused a local newspaper of racism after an image taken to promote the event was cropped – cutting him, the only black person in the picture, out.
When he noticed the cropping, Mr Jarvis did initially wonder if there had been a reasonable, perhaps technical, explanation.
And, in a statement, JPI Media which owns the paper claimed that was the case.
Stating that they were very sorry if any offence had been caused, a spokesperson said: “Photo cropping can sometimes be problematic due to technical issues and the framing of images of various sizes and composition.
“In this case, the original image was cropped to centre around the banner the people on the left of the image are holding.
“There was no intention to cause any offence, but we have already updated the photo online.”
However, Mr Jarvis – who says he has had no direct contact from the newspaper or its owners – remains unsatisfied with the response.
“They’ve managed to use the original picture now that it’s been flagged as an issue,” he pointed out.
He feels that he was cropped out and effectively dismissed as unimportant because of the colour of his skin – and that the decision was not editorially justified as he was the keynote speaker and referred to as such in the accompanying article.
“There will be people who will say it isn't racism," Mr Jarvis noted, adding that a lack of awareness of cultural differences is an ongoing issue in Northern Ireland.
“But racism doesn’t have to be about skinheads shouting racial slurs at you in the street.
“It’s almost as if anything less than that is seen as fine, but it’s not – it’s not okay to whitewash black people out of being part of the community.”
Mr Jarvis further said that an opportunity had been missed to present a different narrative.
“Here was a black person coming in to hopefully have a positive influence and help local businesses grow,” he said.
“I was on the panel and talking about building digital strategies – I wasn’t asked there to add diversity to the line-up, but for my expertise in the area and to add weight and gravitas.
“But to then be whitewashed out of the picture … That’s not a good message.”
The issue was first raised with the newspaper on Wednesday.
Mr Jarvis says both the event organiser and Mid Ulster Council, which used the original picture on its website without any cropping, have reached out to him and contacted the paper on his behalf.
He is disappointed not to have had a direct response, adding: “It’s not okay to be ignorant of these issues of representation and newspapers should be taking the lead.”