Sunderland hits back to New York Times ‘slur’ article

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City leaders and our readers have slammed one of the world’s most prestigious newspapers for a stinging outdated portayal of Sunderland in a post-Brexit article.

And the Echo is calling for an apology from the New York Times on behalf of our readers.

Reporter Kimiko De Freytas-Tamura visited Sunderland in the wake of the UK-wide vote to leave the EU – and painted a biased, patronising and grossly distorted picture of the city.

It describes the ‘once-proud working-class city’ which ‘never recovered’ from the loss of its shipbuilding industry, with shops which appeared ‘as if out of a time warp’.

The New York Times even brought a photographer, Adam Ferguson – best known for covering warzones – to shoot images of Wearside.

Civic and business leaders united in condemning the newspaper’s vision of the city.

SAFC commercial director Gary Hutchinson, chairman of the North East Chamber of Commerce Sunderland committee and the Sunderland Business Group, said: “This article is certainly not a true or fair reflection of our city.

“Yes, the city’s population voted to leave the EU, but they were far from the only ones to do so – hence the result.

“Everyone in Sunderland is rightly proud of Nissan and its supply chain, with the jobs and positive economic conditions it helps to bring to the city and wider North East region.

“There are also many other things that give us a huge sense of pride in our city – over £1.5 billion pounds of current investment, our great assets such as the beautiful beach, an internationally-renowned university, leading UK theatre, a Premier League football team and world-class stadium to name but a few.

“Businesses in our city are a stand-out example of what working in partnership can achieve.

“Of course, we know that the recent referendum result will bring challenges, as it will for the whole of the UK, but we are ready to face those challenges together and such a negative article, based in inaccuracies and scare-mongering isn’t welcome.”

City businessman Paul Callaghan also condemned the article: “It is disappointing that the international media has chosen to reflect Sunderland in this light,” he said.

“It does not reflect the modern, vibrant city that we all recognise.”

And Sunderland City Council cabinet secretary Mel Speding said many people would not recognise the city as portrayed in the American article.

“As the Echo notes, and as the New York Times and other media too often fail to note, Sunderland has some of the best quality of life and city living in the UK,” he said.

“If the New York Times had stuck around it could have asked more than 50,000 people at the sell-out Beyonce concert or the hundreds of thousands of people who will soon be visiting the Sunderland International Airshow exactly what they think.

“I know many thousands of residents, visitors and businesses here have very different opinions than those expressed by the New York Times.”

As well as an apology, we’re calling on the NYT to return to the city and see all the amazing things on offer.

Sunderland Echo managing editor Gavin Foster said: “We don’t recognise this image of Sunderland.

“Yes, we have our problems, but this article doesn’t reflect the Sunderland of the 21st century and the astonishing progress we have made as a city over the past 30 years.

“We want to set them straight and show them what the people of Sunderland think about their article.”

* The Echo contacted the New York Times to demand an apology and ask the paper to send a reporter back to Sunderland. At the time of going to press, we have received no response.