Nov 1996

Breaking into the white boys' club

WHY IS IT that the denizens of newsrooms in some of Britain's most vibrantly mixed cities are all the same colour, and why can we guess what that colour is?

Beulah Ainley told the October London Freelance branch meeting of her stint with the Commission for Racial Equality, researching just how much this is the case. In repeated surveys, out of the 4000 (and falling) staff journalists on national dailies and Sundays, eight to twelve were members of racial minorities. How can they hope to reflect readers' experiences -- or are they so confident about circulations that they can dismiss Black and Asian readers? In broadcasting, and especially the (then-barely-Birtized) BBC, things look better on the books. But the figures hide the fact that the Beeb has a few prominent non-white presenters, and many support staff -- and precious few in between, actually gathering the news and pictures.

Discussion ranged wide: what is it which makes it so much harder for anyone who isn't a white, upper-middle-class, male Oxbridge graduate to get on in journalism? Partly, it's that the WUMMOGs are the ones who feel entitled to rise. Mostly, it's that jobs are so often not advertised, or when they are they're filled from WUMMOG networks. What can be done to help the media reflect the world they're supposed to report? Pressure -- and training opportunities.

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