I can’t say I was shocked to read that 80% of journalists come from professional and upper class backgrounds in a new report from the NCTJ – more deflated that nothing has changed – in fact worsened since I joined my first news room 20 years ago as a proud working class woman.
The newly-released Diversity in Journalism report has found that working-class people are heavily unrepresented in the news industry and that journalists were almost twice as likely as the general population to come from advantaged backgrounds.
These are disappointing stats to read. I joined the industry as a ‘cub’ reporter in the 2002 and felt like my working class background was both a minority and an asset in the newsroom which gave an extra layer of relatability to both my interview skills and the reporting I carried out.
Working class talent has been shut out of UK newsrooms for too long and these stats show the situation is worsening. We need to showcase and celebrate role models for things to change: ability is nothing without opportunity, so we need to be proactively address the lack of working class representation with working class people who have forged a path in this industry.
We have seen the difference giving working class children from across Greater Manchester a media platform can make to their confidence and communication through our Media Cubs project – two key soft skills that public school-educated students tend to excel at and start working life with these advantages.
This confidence gap has taken a further nosedive for working class kids during the pandemic, home-schooling highlighted those that have and those that don’t – from a lack of technology at home to the right support to keep young people on track educationally and emotionally.
During this time, we set up a Media Cubs online newsroom so we could not only provide young people with fun activities while stuck at home but also to make sure we could prop up that confidence gap. One young person that springs to mind who has grown and grown in confidence since joining our newsroom is a lad from Manchester called Ben. The pandemic was a tough time for him, followed by the transition into secondary school and the online newsroom has provided him with a place to broadcast his confidence, gain new talents, interview role models and make friends from all different backgrounds across the country.
By the age of 7 – children have already made decisions on what they can and cannot do as careers- based on the role models they have met.
This is why it is so important to us to provide children with opportunities to interview role models of all kinds- from scientists, sports people and superintendents – to journalists that look and sound like them. Then they can start to believe they belong in a newsroom or any workplace for that matter. We believe we can raise aspirations and challenge these stats, making future newsrooms much more representative of society.
There is a place for everyone in our Media Cubs newsroom –we are make change from the ground up. But the media industry needs to step up now too – I don’t want to be reading the same stats in the next 20 years of my career!
Without diversity in all of its forms in newsrooms – the media is in danger of becoming an industry just speaking to itself.
Check out more about Media Cubs here: www.mediacubs.co.uk