Together with so many people around the world, I have been watching and reading about the protests over the death of George Floyd. The outrage and despair continue as the lives of so many black people have been cruelly taken. Lives including Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and so many more, in a long-standing, abhorrent and shameful history of systemic tragedy.
I have struggled with knowing what to write, what to say that can even begin to describe how saddened and heartbroken I am. Because I know and am ashamed that I have experienced white privilege. I have not been discriminated against, attacked or had my life made inexplicably harder because of the colour of my skin.
Systemic racism requires actions from all of us. It is not the sole responsibility of black and minority ethnic communities. Because of this disgusting privilege of white privilege, I am especially responsible for actively shouting about the need to destroy and completely eradicate systemic racism worldwide. We have had, and continue to have, the freedom to live in a world where our race does not make life more difficult. So working together to produce a society that does the same for black and minority ethnic people is impossible to ignore and needs to be the change that we create.
My whole-hearted love and support is with the black and minority ethnic communities. I have been having conversations, reading and listening to what I can do to help end racism. Full stop. And I will continue to listen, to read and to understand how I can support. I know that I can never understand — yet I do stand, in solidarity, united.
It is a priority and responsibility to forge ahead with the change that we want to see by emphasising — as loud as we can — that equality, fairness, diversity, justice, belonging and inclusion are essential. I want to be in a world where equality, understanding, fairness, kindness, diversity, wellbeing and justice are at its core for everybody, not just a part of society.
I’m reading, listening and supporting a world where we can amplify black and minority ethnic people, and champion their voices. And together, creating an allyship that we need to strengthen each and every day.
The Journalism industry:
On introducing a new apprenticeship for senior journalists, The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has been approved by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education. It aims to mirror the broad variety of skills and knowledge required by journalists across all platforms.
More importantly, the new apprenticeship brings the opportunity to create genuine inclusivity and diversity in the journalism industry.
Toby Granville, editorial development director for Newsquest, who chaired the project, said: “As well as supporting graduate entry, this new programme will also take school leavers with no formal journalism training or needing any kind of degree on a journey from trainee to NQJ-qualified senior. I hope this will succeed in removing some of the barriers in bringing more diversity into the industry.”
On the 22nd June, in a statement shining further light on the Windrush scandal, Marc Wadsworth Chair, NUJ Black Members’ Council emphasised: “The Black Members Council and NUJ as a whole stand in solidarity with the Windrush Generation and their families in the ongoing fight for justice.”
Diversity in Newsrooms
In Journalism.co.uk, in 2019, Daniel Green reported on how the failure to address unconscious bias in journalists and lack of diversity in newsrooms by media organisations detrimentally affects reporting standards.
In a podcast with Journalism.co.uk, CEO and co-founder of journalist collaborative network, Hostwriter, Tabea Grzeszyk, who wrote Unbias the News: Why diversity matters for journalism, talks about the impact of the failure to include more diverse voices in reporting and in the workplace. Crucial stories may be missed. A lack of diversity could mean that newsroom staff reach the wrong conclusions all the time, Grzeszyk revealed.
“When you tell a story as a journalist, you are taking out some aspects over others, and there is a certain bias when the newsrooms aren’t as diverse as the societies they serve,” Grzeszyk explains.
The impact of this unconscious bias is that it affects not only the types of stories that they choose to cover but all the sources they contact for the stories that they do.
1. Collaboration is needed
Cross-border collaboration on a story, Grzeszyk suggests, is one way to present opportunities that challenge ‘blind spots’, assumptions and preconceived notions.
“At the moment, we see collaborative journalism more in the investigative journalism sphere, but it should be much more mainstream. It can be small scale with collaborations on a local level,” Grzeszyk adds.
2. Style guides that set out guidance
“Language used by reporters in their stories is also extremely important, especially when dealing with groups like the non-binary community,” explains Daniel Green. “Style guides which set standards for terminology can not only prevent this from happening but also demonstrate a commitment to diversity.”
“Newsrooms could easily make a big difference and address their audience in a way where they feel seen and meant,” Grzeszyk concluded.
Under-serving minority groups through a lack of diversity also has a knock-on effect on the trust in the media and unwillingness to speak to the press.
Urgent call for diversity
On 24th June 2020, fifty ethnic minority journalists put out an urgent call for quicker action on achieving diversity in newsrooms. A total of fifty black, Asian and minority ethnic journalists have raised the UK newsrooms’ repeated failure to improve diversity in the industry.
The journalists said that they were emphasising the lack of diversity and pushing for change now, after the increasing conversations around the lack of equality and diversity, following protests after the killing of George Floyd have taken place.
Positive recruitment, properly paid traineeships, equal promotion and pay
Their letter said: “For those of us of a certain age, we started off as one of the few, if not the only minority journalists and it saddens us to say that over the years, this has not significantly changed.”
“A diverse editorial team helps reflect a wider cross section of opinion and cover stories that are not just race-related in an expansive and balanced way, giving the views of BAME communities on a range of matters that have traditionally not been aired; from Brexit to education to the state of the economy, we too are affected by the same issues that impact our fellow Britons,” it read.
“There is more to our communities than just ‘race matters’ and we believe that by having a greater cross section of journalists from across the UK’s diverse communities will only help to enrich coverage, provide more eclectic views and deliver more insight into those that make up the Britain of today,” the letter continued.
“All my professional success has come because there were white men who saw something in me every step of the way, and I feel that’s what we need – because there were these men who saw the potential, who saw that I was bringing them stories that weren’t being told,” Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, one of the fifty journalists who signed the letter, shared.
The 50 journalists, who come from publications including The Sunday Times, The Guardian, Mail titles, The Voice and Eastern Eye, called on editors to implement positive recruitment campaigns, properly paid traineeships, and to ensure equal promotion and pay for BAME staff already in newsrooms.
The Society of Editors should “urge its members to use this period of reflection to re-evaluate and reform past practices and move forward with a totally skilled workforce with appropriate BAME representation”, they said.
In response, the Society of Editors agreed that the need to create a more diverse news sector has “never been more imperative”. It said that although several actions have been in place for some time to recruit BAME journalists “there is much more to be done”.
“The aim of us all must be to create newsrooms that represent our society as a whole,” The Society of Editors, Executive Director, Ian Murray confirmed.
The PR industry:
Unequal opportunities, a non-inclusive culture and racist experiences have been revealed to exist in PR, a newly-published research report by The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), the professional body for public relations practitioners, found.
In the report, Race in PR: BAME lived experiences in the UK PR industry, people tell of racism, microaggressions and unconscious biases faced in the PR industry, along with an inflexible culture that denies opportunities and fair progression.
Following these findings, the PR industry is urging senior PR business leaders to take these seriously and take action by implementing the required efforts to overhaul practices and cultures to “unleash talent and create a fair and equal workplace for all”.
Looking at the career journey of 17 BAME practitioners, the report shows PR as a profession where BAME practitioners speak of being afraid to make mistakes, of being unable to be their true selves, of having to work harder for fewer opportunities and of the racism they experience. They explain they are judged to a different standard to their white colleagues and that there is a lack of support when they voice their experiences.
CIPR has re-launched its Diversity and Inclusion Network to improve the industry. The Network consists of an existing volunteer team that is focusing on diversity and inclusion to enable members to work together to make a difference. Information on joining is here.
The Blueprint Commitments
The Blueprint Community is a new programme launched by BME PR Pros. It is a practical and targeted scheme, initially for agencies, to offer communications leaders insights and guidance on how to improve their BAME diversity.
Within marketing and PR, the BAME2020’s ‘No Turning Back’ programme is striving for 20% of all marketing and communications professionals to come from a BAME background. Once in the industry, the organisation hopes 20% will stay until they reach the highest jobs.
The Taylor Bennett Foundation is a charity working to encourage and help black, Asian and minority ethnic graduates follow a career in communications by offering traineeships and/or internships.
Creating true equality, not just in journalism and PR, but throughout every industry and area of life, around the globe, needs to be the priority for us all.