June 3, 2015

We need more minority journalists, more women, more journalists with disabilities

An interesting article written by Hugh Muir and published on The Guardian: we have to listen to those who have suffered social deprivation.

minorities3The world is change, a wise old head once told me – adapt and get used to it. And I’ve always thought that was valuable advice, especially as the giver was a national newspaper editor who had just been relieved of the job he loved.

One change I have seen has been the tightening middle-class grip on many key professions. Politics, PR, law, medicine: these were never shining examples of egalitarianism, but over the years, points of entry to all but the well connected and the financially buttressed have all but ratcheted shut. I am not naive. Those who can call on favours or pull strings will always do so. But this is pretty much annexation. To the victor the spoils.

I spent a morning last week interviewing applicants for the Journalism Diversity Fund, an industry-funded initiative that helps those who want to train and enter the profession but can’t afford to. If they can secure a place on a National Council for the Training of Journalists training course, convince of the need for assistance and show how the media might be enhanced in terms of diversity by their enlistment as a practitioner, they can receive financial assistance. It’s our way of trying to bring new voices and new experiences into British journalism. I very much commend it.

But one thing strikes. Over the years, the calculation of what is needed to achieve a diverse workforce has changed. We need more minority journalists, more women, more journalists with disabilities; to finally tick all of the long-established boxes. But such is the state of our industry, particularly the London-based national media, that an applicant can very reasonably cite themselves as a bringer of diversity by being a non-graduate or coming from a council estate. Or being someone whose chances are limited by illness in the family, or unemployment, or because they have been working a zero-hours contract.

We lack not just people who fit the diversity critieria of race and sex and gender, but also those whose difference is rooted in circumstance, deprivation and class. The good thing is that the diversity fund sees that deficiency and gives everyone a chance, but there is only so much this initiative and others like it can do about a deep-rooted problem. This matters. Until we open things up, much of the news you read will continue to be much of a muchness.

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