Lack of newsroom diversity criticised, as report finds “Journalism becoming an increasingly middle class occupation”

An NCTJ report published on May 12th 2021, Diversity in Journalism, found that:

  • 92% of journalists come from white ethnic groups, a higher proportion of than across all UK workers (88%)
  • Journalists are highly qualified;
  • 89% have a degree-level (level 4) or higher-level qualification, compared to 48% of the workforce as a whole. Only 4% have low level, or no, qualifications compared to 34% of all UK workers;
  • Journalists are more likely to come from households where a parent works/worked in a higher-level occupation, one of the key determinants of social class. 75% of journalists had a parent in one of the three highest occupational groups, compared to 45% all UK workers.

Tufayel Ahmed is a journalist, editor and journalism lecturer.

Commenting on the report, he said:

“The slow progress of diversity in British newsrooms, which remain over 90% white, is truly disheartening for anyone from a minority ethnic background working in journalism or trying to break into the industry. So-called affirmative action, like internship schemes, is not enough. This only serves to perpetuate the idea that people of colour are only qualified for the bottom rung of the ladder. Change must start at the top. White, middle class people are disproportionately over-represented in senior roles — management and editor jobs — setting the tone for organisational hiring practices and staff career progression. Too often this leads to unconscious bias, as they are more likely to hire or promote people similar to them. That chain must be broken — we must be represented in roles from the top down and have influence on recruitment, and inclusion must be practiced at every level of the newsroom, not just the most junior roles.

The issue of racial diversity in our newsrooms is also inextricably linked with social class. It’s shocking that 75 percent of journalists come from fairly middle class backgrounds with at least one parent in a high-level occupational group. People of colour are more likely to come from low-income backgrounds and have to overcome financial and social mobility barriers to entering journalism, only to be then met with racism and unconscious bias, too. This again perpetuates the idea that a job in journalism is for the elite few.

All of this has a knock-on effect on the news people see: it means that large swathes of the UK population who are working class or from a minority ethnic community, for example, are vastly under-represented in news coverage because they are being dictated what is newsworthy through a mostly-white perspective. The news must reflect the whole of society, not just the white middle classes.”

Emma Jones, a journalist and Hacked Off Board Director, added,

“These findings are a stark reminder that the print media remains overwhelmingly white and elitist. In order to best serve the public, the press must become more representative of its readership. Quality journalism must be rooted in the many communities that make up the UK, but as these findings show, the industry continues to draw from a small, elite and ultimately unrepresentative pool of people.”

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