Letter

January 11, 2021

 

Dear U.K. journalism colleagues,

 

We are journalists of colour from all over the U.K., as well as White allies committed to equality. We represent a broad spectrum of disciplines—ranging broadcast and print to digital and social media—and job functions, from full-time staff to freelance journalists.

 

In 2020, we watched and reported as the world called for change. In the wake of the senseless death of George Floyd, people all over the world bravely protested police brutality against Black people and sent a clear message that Black Lives Matter. What occurred last year was a flashpoint in global race relations. Ethnic minorities are tired of being marginalised and having their dignity denigrated in society, in the justice system, in healthcare, in education and in the workplace.

 

Many industries, including our media siblings in film and television and publishing, vowed change, committing to greater diversity within the workplace, unconscious bias training and/or schemes to support colleagues of colour. Yet, while we are happy to report on, and steer public opinion of, other industries’ historic lack of diversity, it seems we are reluctant to confront the stark racial disparities that exist in U.K. newsrooms.

 

Journalism is still 94 percent White, according to a survey of 700 news industry workers conducted by City University London in 2016. But according to the last Census in 2011, White people make up 87 percent of the population, which means that White journalists are overrepresented in our industry. In comparison, despite making up over 10 percent of the British population, Black, Asian and minority ethnic journalists are woefully underrepresented in our newsrooms. Damningly, only 0.2 percent of journalists in the U.K. media are Black, according to City University’s data, despite making up 3 percent of the population. Asian journalists are also underrepresented, making up 2.5 percent of our industry, despite representing 7 percent of the country. 

 

Around the country, time and again, journalists of colour have been solitary figures in all-White newsrooms, or among a small handful to the dozens—if not hundreds—of white journalists employed. We have been paid less than our White counterparts for similar or equal work. We have been expected to cover, or been seen as only relevant to covering, issues of race. We have been excluded from entire section teams, for example sport or culture, as if certain beats are intrinsically White. We have been hired in entry-level or junior roles with little opportunity for progression. We have been excluded from senior roles, including editorship and management.

 

These structural inequalities are compounded by entrenched classism in our industry that benefits journalists from privileged—typically White and middle class—backgrounds to  the detriment of journalists from working class backgrounds. In 2016, The Sutton Trust found that over half of the country’s “leading journalists” are privately educated (51 percent) and attended university at Oxbridge (54 percent). Additionally, 80 percent of top editors at U.K. publications are privately educated. This compared to privately educated people making up just 7 percent of the population, and Oxbridge attendees making up 1 percent of the country. Taking into account that members of Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities are more likely to experience lower socioeconomic status than their White counterparts, journalists of colour from working class backgrounds are put at a double disadvantage.

 

These issues are a concern for us all, journalists of colour and our allies, and should be a concern for our entire industry.

 

If we as publications are the mirror through which the world sees itself reflected back, do we not have a responsibility to reflect the necessary systemic changes that are taking place outside our industry?

 

In order to better reflect the diversity of the country our publications represent, we call on all newsrooms in the U.K. to commit to meaningful change now.

 

We ask that U.K. publications:

 

  • Hire more journalists from diverse ethnic and working class backgrounds; national and international newsrooms must strive to proportionately represent the minority population of the U.K. per 2011 Census data
  • Ensure racial and class diversity at all levels of the newsroom—not just in junior or entry-level roles, but top down from executive editors to interns
  • Ensure racial diversity across all beats, from current affairs to sports
  • Ensure racial diversity in all freelance work, ranging from commissions to retainment of casual shift workers

 

A central tenet of journalism is holding the powerful to account. That simply cannot preclude looking inwardly at our own newsroom practices any longer. 

 

Therefore, we also call on U.K. publications to:

 

  • Publish data on the diversity make-up of their newsroom
  • Publish data on race pay gaps

 

Please join us in creating diverse and vibrant newsrooms so our profession can continue to flourish.

 

Sincerely,

 

The undersigned