Look around you...

Black Journalists, White Media by Beulah Ainley (Trenton Books, £13.95 pb)

IT TAKES a stranger's eye, disturbingly often, to see the obvious. Looking round most magazine offices, I see women with good jobs: editors, running sections, directing art, designing web sites. It's a lightyear away from taking a job (and I did) at two-third's of a man's pay. I'd now take that employer to court, and win, instead of swallowing my anger for a chance at an interesting job.

What the newbie from South Africa pointed out was that we are mostly white. Coming from the newsroom at a Cape Town daily, he said it was extraordinary to see such a monochrome bunch of journalists.

Andw, yes, there are black people at work in newspapers and magazines all over Britain. They clean floors, work shifts as security, cart stuff from site to site as messengers. They don't generally, woman or man, get the good jobs in journalism. They don't, as Beulah Ainley points out based on the experiences of 100 Black journalists, get that much of a chance at any kind of job as journalists.

This isn't a comfortable read. She puts the statistics in front of you and shows you discrimination at work. She arouses guilt. What she doesn't do is show you a way out. It's feels like being hectored by a teacher. You know she's right, the practice is wrong: but battered by figures, frozen with guilt, you can't grasp what you can do to change things -- get a job in "human resources", give up journalism?

That may sound glib -- after all, you're a journalist -- but it has a glimmer of sense. Most of us have little control over who gets what job on a magazine or a newspaper. But we could tell staff councils, editors (and human resources) to look at their hiring policies. We could begin by reading Ainley's book.

Jan/Feb 1999
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