NCTJ highlights journalism’s diversity problem

Stephen Chapman's picture
by Stephen Chapman

A report from the National Council for the Training of Journalists is calling for changes across journalism, in order to increase diversity.

The paper, drawn up by research consultant Mark Spilsbury, examines the reasons for the lack of diversity across the British media - and what can be done about it.

Spilsbury found that just 5% of journalists in the UK are from ethnic groups, compared to 9% in all jobs across the country. Journalists are more than twice as likely to come from “higher social classes” than the overall population (39%, compared to 15%).

While this compares to the make-up of the student population, this doesn’t represent the UK’s overall population. However with media organisations tending to employ only graduates, it has meant those from lower socio-economic groups are under-represented.

The NCTJ said the statistics made “depressing reading”, particularly as diversity became an even bigger issue when moving from higher education to employment.

The research showed that journalism students are more likely to be working as a journalist 6 months after graduation if they are: male; don’t have a disability; they aren’t from a black ethnic group; and went to an independent school.

The conclusion was that this is because many young journalists need financial support early in their careers from parents and less well-off families are unable to provide this.

It added that a “significant number” of people from minority backgrounds fail to enter the industry, possibly as a result of “unconscious bias in recruitment.”

The report concludes that the media industry needs to look at alternative, non-graduate means of entering the profession, such as through apprenticeship schemes.

It recommends that journalism should be promoted as a potential career across all areas of society and that employers needed to work to eliminate bias - “whether unconscious, or otherwise.”

The lack of diversity in the media has been brought into sharp focus over the last few years, particularly following the soul searching after journalists failed to predict Brexit, the animosity at Grenfell Tower and the increase in alternative news sources.