There’s been much debate around the lack of diversity in journalism and how to resolve the issue. However as Lucrece Grehoua writes, what’s not so much part of the discussion is what happens to BAME journalists once they enter majority white organisations
The world of journalism remains a shocking 94 per cent white according to a report by City University. Consequently, being a Black journalist in the corporate world, coming from an underprivileged area can sometimes seem like scratching at the doors of plush elitist circles that you will never be a part of. It consists of habitual and polite avoidance, exclusion of every day conversations, and continuous dismissal of unique ideas.
The journalism industry even for the average white person is not a walk in the park, it’s a gruelling, exacting world that requires a great deal of skill. Hence, when a Black person does qualify, they often feel a sense of good fortune – even if they have not been assigned specialised roles or given any significant responsibilities.
In an industry where they are stifled, Black journalists today continue to lack a sense of rightful entitlement after having being appointed for a role. Since not many have come before us, we continue to accept being treated as subordinates, however this inferiority complex is a breeding ground for editors to continue taking advantage of naive Black and minority ethnic journalists who aren’t aware that they too are deserving of a voice.
“The means of entering into journalism as a BAME person remains obscure. Whilst the majority of media firms are located in London where the proportion of people from ethnic minorities is much higher – around 40% in the 2011 census – white people somehow still dominate these workplaces”
White journalists benefit from knowing that they are seen as the default race in the U.K., and therefore the most likely candidates to be mentored towards excelling within newsrooms. On the inside, Black employees continue to fall through the cracks due to the ostracism of everyday work life. White employees will be intrinsically integrated in important conversations regarding the present conditions and the future of the country – especially during landmark moments like Brexit and other political or social phenomena.
Either the power of representation is not well understood by the TV industry, or editors are fully aware but are intentionally staying away from a diverse team and innovative thought patterns. Therefore, whilst journalists are currently older than the UK workforce as a whole – only 5% being under the age of 25 compared with 12% of the UK workforce, the experience of a young person trying to get in through alternative means are unequivocally horrendous or practically non-existent.
The means of entering into journalism as a BAME person remains obscure. Whilst the majority of media firms are located in London where the proportion of people from ethnic minorities is much higher – around 40% in the 2011 census – white people somehow still dominate these workplaces. It begs for us as BAME people to question this on a more systematic level. New BAME journalists must realise that being in these corporate spaces should not be a matter of luck; we deserve representation as much as white employees who are constantly rotated, multiplied and developed to influence the country.
Extract from the City University study, 2016
Incentives such as apprenticeships have become more and more popular in introducing younger generations to the media. They aim to allow those who lack the same life chances as more privileged classes in the U.K. to break into industries; thus members of the British population dealing with the intersections of issues such as race, gender or disability discrimination have the chance to also be catered to.
However, not only in the past few years have thousands of apprenticeships failed to adequately train these young, impressionable and vulnerable workers, but in hard-to-reach industries like journalism, apprenticeships still remain unworthy. This can be attributed to the restrictive nature of how the industry has been historically formed in the first place.
Journalists tend to be highly qualified and expensively educated, with 86% of UK journalists holding at least a bachelor’s degree, and with 51 per cent being privately educated. More than a third have a post-graduate qualification. Of this group of journalists, just under 80 per cent of the leading editors are privately educated, thus it can be a hard pill to swallow when a passionate yet ‘under-qualified’ Black kid receives a shortcut to working amongst Eton graduates. This frustration is shown clearly through discriminatory nuances in the newsroom.
“Having BAME people in newsrooms hugely throws off the flow of everyday patterns for editors who already have a cause and an agenda to fill. Simply allowing the voice of a Black person can change the scope of news programmes enormously”
Many of whom have gone through apprenticeships at top news companies will be enticed by the glittering promises of inclusion, opportunity and mentoring. However, these apprenticeships turn out to be highly neglectful, with the students often subject to demeaning treatment and usually being discarded with no job prospects once the course is over.
Once they have completed an apprenticeship, the one or two Black journalists in the room will by negligence often be alienated from general newsroom affairs, let alone be given the opportunity to assert influence over news programmes. Having BAME people in newsrooms hugely throws off the flow of everyday patterns for editors who already have a cause and an agenda to fill. Simply allowing the voice of a Black person can change the scope of news programmes enormously, meaning more time and money would have to be spent by allowing new groups of people to enter the closed off industry.
Not only is this truth reflected within the physical bodies of these establishments, but omission of Black bodies, voices and skills in newsrooms is also reflected in TV programmes which remain abhorrently white-washed, leaving all other demographics to continue to exist as the marginalised and voiceless.
By the reckless handling of BAME bodies in the industry, many young workers have in turn suffered from mental health problems and unexpected financial despondency. The innovative skills of younger BAME workers could and should be seen as a light and even an opening for editors to make new streams of money. But in a time of austerity, these underprivileged yet highly skilled hopefuls who are victims of empty promises, often have to resort to going back to lower skilled jobs such as retail shop assistants, working in coffee shops, or becoming receptionists.
In conclusion, it is more than apparent that due to a very British schema, highly white-plagued newsrooms continue to put themselves first in all aspects from employment processes. When they dare touch on diverse stories, they rarely include BAME people to intervene in them. Top companies also play into racist behaviours by recycling the select few Black people in the industry. Although this common behaviour perhaps makes editors feel as though they’re doing a smashing job, handing out scraps of work to minority contributors to make them faintly satisfied does more of a disservice in creating full social mobility and generating new skills in our society.